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Grape Expectations: Great wines for when you know nothing about wine
The Handbook / Culture / Our easy, low-key wine picks: April

Our easy, low-key wine picks: April

Grape Expectations: Great wines for when you know nothing about wine

Words— Marc Richardson

There’s a point we all reach where we make what amounts to an irreversible decision—we decide that we actually care about the quality of the alcohol we buy and not just the alcohol content. After years of gulping down ounce after ounce of alcohol for the sake of it, we suddenly realize that, hey, maybe part of the fun can be appreciating what we’re drinking.

 

This is especially true of wine—but, unlike spirits, of which there are relatively fewer brands and varieties, it can be pretty hard to find good wine to try. Not that there isn’t any available, but the sheer breadth of the offering and the fact that most wine reviews are so insanely poetic that they actually offer little help can make finding a bottle of wine to have with dinner a daunting task.

 

But that’s what we’re here for—to offer up some actionable, unpretentious advice about what we’re drinking that we think you might like!

 

 

 

 

Domaine Thymiopoulos, Xinomavro, Naoussa, 2017

 

This is probably the hardest bottle to come by among these suggestions, but that’s a testament to its popularity. I first heard about this from some friends who work in restaurants and was later told by one chef that it was “best $18 bottle at the SAQ”. In other words, it’s highly thought of and sought after.

 

And with good reason!

 

It’s super easy to drink and pretty light, too. As far as taste goes, it packs a pretty interesting punch—kind of like jam. All in all, it ought to make for a great red wine option during the warmer summer months.

 

Most importantly, though, it pairs well with pretty much everything I’ve tried, be it pizza, pasta, beef stew, cheese. Or alone. Because a good wine shouldn’t need to be accompanied to be drinkable!

 

Available at the SAQ or through Oenopole.

 

 

 

 

Fontanafredda, Barolo, 2014

 

Barolo is considered to be the “wine of kings and king of wines” and, apparently, it’s hard to go wrong regardless of the bottle. I say apparently, because I’ve obviously not tasted every single bottle of Barolo—though wouldn’t that be something!

 

But, with being the wine of kings comes price points that can be prohibitive to anybody but kings. At a hair under $30, this bottle is one of the most affordable Barolos that the SAQ or LCBO carries.

 

I don’t find it to be particularly acidic or hard to drink, which I know can be a downside for some of the more traditional reds, especially for those with a sensitive stomach. While it’s great on its own, it’s particularly excellent with Italian food—which is pretty obvious, I guess—be it pizza, pasta, red meat or slices of parmesan.

 

And, last but not least, if you’re thinking about getting into keeping wine to drink in a few years, this isn’t a bad place to start—it can be kept until 2025.

 

Available at the SAQ or LCBO, and other wine merchants across Canada.

 

 

 

 

Domaine Naudin-Ferrand, Bourgogne Aligoté, 2017

 

If you’ve had any Bourgogne Aligoté, it’s possible that you’re just not a fan. They tend to be pretty harsh to drink, especially for white wine. This particular bottle might win some people over, but it’s definitely not a universal hit.

 

There’s a sour kick—the kind of refreshing sour you get when biting into a perfect Granny Smith apple—that’s a bit more pronounced than other bottles of Bourgogne Aligoté and while that might not be for everyone (my girlfriend said it reminded her of apple cider vinegar) I found it to be an interesting drink.

 

I wouldn’t recommend this with a meal, though—it tasted a bit off with salmon. Instead, it’s great to have a glass before dinner with some parmesan. And it makes for a great weeknight wine: It drank well over four days!

 

Available at the SAQ or through Oenopole.

 

 

 

 

Aveleda, Quinta Vale D Maria Rufo, Douro, 2016

 

Do you like caramel? Who am I kidding, that’s a silly question—everybody likes caramel. Which might be why this Portuguese red is sneaky good, because it smells and tastes like there was a dollop of sugary brown caramel dropped into the bottom of every bottle.

 

This drinks really well after a meal or with something light like bread and cheese and can even carry over into dessert, though it is not a dessert wine—which, thank god!

 

I don’t think this is a wine to indulge in alone—it might seem heavy after a few glasses—but it’s a fun wine to share with a bigger group. If only because people seem genuinely surprised by its taste.

 

Available at the SAQ.

 

 

 

 

Château Ksara, Blanc de Blancs, 2017

 

Sometimes, it can be fun to try something other than the classics. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the United States and even Greece may be where we’ve come to expect our wine to come from, so seeing an accessible Lebanese offering is very cool.

 

At first I thought this was kind of bland—there’s nothing really notable when you drink it at first. But, after a few sips there’s a sweet, fruity aftertaste. And, I know this is going to sound both childish and unreasonable, but it’s almost like drinking Fuzzy Peaches.

 

It was okay, but nothing more, with trout and roasted Brussel sprouts. I’d definitely avoid drinking it with anything that has a lot of spices in it. I tried it with couscous and it became almost bitter-tasting. Instead, this seems like the perfect late afternoon summer wine: refreshing, light and not necessarily to be paired with food.

 

Available at the SAQ—though the LCBO carries a Cabernet Sauvignon from the same producer.

 


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