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If you want to get away over the holidays but are hesitant to hop on a plane right now, consider a road trip to Quebec instead. You’ll find fabulous food, the lure of the Laurentians and of course, the SAQ — Quebec’s version of the LCBO. That liquor giant stocks some amazingly good value wines that aren’t regular listings at the LCBO. Here’s your shopping list — starting with a bestseller in Quebec that’s so popular it’s listed in single serve cans, 750mL bottles, 1.5L bottles and 3L bag-in-box format.
It’s the 2020 Le Pive Gris Sable de Carmargue from the Languedoc-Roussillon, France (SAQ 11372766 $16.05/750mL) — an uber-pale rosé that’s the bestselling bottle of wine at the SAQ right now across all categories. And it’s delicious.
The colour is beautiful — the palest shade of coral with rose gold inflections. On the nose, you can almost smell the ocean. The aromas are pure, fresh and allusive, flitting from sea spray to seashell to fruit to flowers. The vines for this wine grow very close to the Mediterranean Sea — and you can tell.
The attack is bright, refreshing yet delicate with wispy flavours of berries and melon, orchard fruit and stones with a cool salinity somewhere. Understated and elegant, this wine tastes glossy thanks to its impeccable balance. No wonder it’s a hit. Score: 94
Another bestselling all-season rosé in Quebec is the 2020 Listel Rosé Grain de Gris, Terres du Midi IGP from France (SAQ 270272 $11.90/bottle), which also comes in a handy 3L bag-in-box at the SAQ.
Slightly deeper in colour than the Le Pive Gris and more aromatic, the 2020 Listel Rosé Grain de Gris calls to mind freshly sliced peaches and apricots on the nose. The entry is juicy and a bit fruit-forward with stone fruit notes giving way to a soft suggestion of orange zest before tapering toward a cool crushed stone finish. Score: 92
The LCBO listed this wine in the spring and summer this year, but it’s completely sold out. However, the wine’s agent says the LCBO plans to stock it again in 2022, which is good news. Till then, there’s the SAQ.
Two, one-litre smart buys to pick up in Quebec are the 2020 Citra Chardonnay Terre di Chieti IGP from Abruzzo, Italy (SAQ 552513 $10.10/1L) and the 2019 Étienne Marceau Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah Pays d’Oc from France (SAQ 11581429 $12.80/1L).
The 2020 Citra Chardonnay draws you in with the fragrance of perfectly ripe pear followed by a brisk, racy attack. Mouth-watering and zealous, this stainless steel fermented wine races across the palate fast and furiously with flavours of tart Granny Smith apple and lemon-lime before leaving behind a slight chalky finish. This dry, mid-weight quencher offers easy and instant refreshment. Good value too. Score: 91
Red wine lovers looking for a bargain will appreciate the 2019 Étienne Marceau Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah, which opens with immediately compelling scents of muddled black cherries and blackcurrant liqueur. Then, a ripe, saturated lick of wild blueberries and cherries slips in and fans out with allusions of black earth, red meat and dried herbs before finishing with a salt and pepper finish. Just a delightfully drinkable red wine that’s affable yet elegant. Score: 93
And a sunlit South African wine worth the money is the 2020 Le Bonheur Chardonnay from Stellenbosch (SAQ 710780 $16.00/750mL).
In the glass, it shines clear and glassy — a pretty shade of straw. Each sip opens with coy scents of white flowers and yellow plum, river stones and a whisper of honeydew melon. Then, it streams in with creamy-crisp flavours that echo the elements found on the nose but with light brush strokes of warm nut from the time spent in barrel. About a third of this wine is fermented French oak. The finish doesn’t linger, but this medium-bodied classic is clean, bright and beautifully balanced. And it offers terrific value for money. Score: 92
Although the 2020 Le Bonheur Chardonnay is not a regular listing at the LCBO, Ontario’s liquor giant did release a small lot of this white wine in Vintages on Sept. 4 for the first time — LCBO Vintages 20970 $15.95/750mL. So it’s worth snapping up. But once it’s gone, it’s gone. To repurchase, you’ll need to hop in the car and head east.
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