Don’t get me wrong, I love dep wine. Wallaroo Trail BIN 212? That’s my shit. Easy to buy and easier to drink, I think it’s pretty safe to say that dep wine is the preferred type of grape juice for students at McGill. That said, if you’ve had enough of litre bottles of wine and the thought of Wallaroo Trail now makes your stomach turn, it might be time to try something new.
Never before has there been a more exciting social scene in which one could learn about wine. Twenty years ago, you would have never been able to find formal education on wine as an everyday enthusiast. Now, nearly every college offers some form of academic opportunity for the aspiring wine snob. People our age are becoming more familiar with what’s out there and what they like. With this growing demand, liquor boards across the country are working hard to bring in larger volumes of better quality imports in every price range. Even within Canada, regions like Niagara, the Okanagan Valley and Prince Edward County are holding their own on the world stage of viniculture and viticulture.
My love of wine has always seemed to be at odds with my “broke-ass” lifestyle… but there’s just something about the chemistry between a solid Bordeaux and my bathrobe that I just can’t shake (see also: Booze Bros). Wine is an expensive hobby and, as a student, one must learn the tricks of the trade in order to drink well on a budget. For the past few weeks, I have been proactively “researching” the best five wines at a price point fit for everyone. After the twenty bottles it took me to get here, I have no doubt my roommates are sick of wading through piles of empty bottles as they walk about the apartment. So, here they are; a list of five wines you can’t refuse. Enjoy. I know I have.
Length: How long the flavours of a wine persist in your mouth after you take a sip.
Body: The intensity or fullness of flavours and of the wine as a whole.
Tannin: Biological matter present in wine (typically only red wines) which causes a tightening sensation in one’s cheeks and a coating of one’s teeth. Tannins break down proteins and thus pair well with meat dishes.
Gazela Vinho Verde, 2011, Portugal, $10.15: Vinho Verde will always be one of my favorite buys, especially for the late summer. Gazela runs about ten bucks a bottle and has everything you’d want in a wine for a hot summer day. Discernible bubbles give a nice spritz on your tongue. On the nose, there’s a balance of melon, peach and citrus with grass, white blossoms and an almost musky straw. Take a sip and you’ll find a nice dry palate, beautiful acidity, medium length and medium body. Serve with grilled shrimp skewers, seafood paella or as an aperitif. Chill well. Drink fast. Repeat.
Genoli Viura, Rioja, 2011, Spain, $12.40: I must admit that I bought this wine because I thought the bottle was pretty. Inside however, I found a nicely balanced white with enough body to stand up to substantial dishes. The first smell reveals golden delicious apples and a hint of peach laced with honey. As the wine warms slightly scents of grass and vanilla emerge. Dry, with crisp citrus acidity on the palate, this wine feels smooth and round in one’s mouth while remaining fresh. Serve with salmon or a hardy white fish. Chill in the fridge then take out and allow it to warm for 10 minutes to bring out all its flavors.
Domaine La Hitaire Les Tours 2011, $9.75: I like to think of this wine as a version of diet soda that doesn’t taste like crap. Its chock full of grapefruit, pineapple and papaya tricking you into thinking its sweet, but when you really break it down, it’s dry. The acidity pairs off well with its flavors to refresh while maintaining a medium body. Drink with goat cheese and a good old-fashioned baguette. Chill well. Despite its low sugar content, consumption of this wine unfortunately proves to be an unsuccessful way to lose weight.
Monasterio de Las Vinas, Crianza, 2008, Spain, $10.90: I have always found that you can always find a few knockout red wines from Spain even when you are sticking to a strict budget. Crianza, a certain class of Spanish wine production, guarantees at least 6 months of oak treatment for a generally affordable price. In comes Monasterio de Las Vinas. Smoke and wood notes are pleasantly soft on the nose and don’t overwhelm the senses as they blend with scents of black cherry, pepper and baking spices. Take a sip and you’ll find a mouthful of blackberry jam notes, some nice acidity, medium body, light tannins and a flavour that lingers well. This wine is delicate, which is uncommon at this price, but very satisfying nonetheless. Serve with mushroom risotto.
Espelt Saulo, 2011, Spain, $13.85: Espelt is a stellar example of everything I love about Spanish wines and the vibrant Grenache grape variety that is a large component of this blend. This wine is filled with aromas of toast and spice contrasted by small berries and a cherry finish. The palate is dry, full bodied and with relatively heavy tannins, all drawn out by this wine’s incredible length. Something like this is perfect as the weather begins to cool down. Grab a big, thick sweater, some wool socks from MEC and pour yourself a nice glass of Espelt with a bowl of hot lamb stew.