The Buying Guide: Quench House Wines

By / Wine + Drinks / March 1st, 2023 / Like

Excerpt from The Buying Guide originally appearing in previous print issues of Quench Magazine. Our tasters are Tony Aspler (TA), Gurvinder Bhatia (GB), Michelle Bouffard (MB), Michaela Morris (MM), Tim Pawsey (TP), Christopher Sealy (CS), Brie Dema, and Donatella Dicca (DD).

All wines listed are recommended by our experienced panel of tasters. Each wine is rated based on its varietal character, representation of style and/or region, balance and price-quality ratio. Readers should assess these, and all wines, using the same criteria. Browse our experts’ tasting notes to find the wines that may appeal to your taste or pique your interest to try something new. After all, one of the best parts about wine is the discovery. The prices listed are approximate retail prices and will likely vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A large number of these wines can be purchased across Canada and the USA, so check with your local private wine store or liquor board for availability.


What the editors and writers of Quench are drinking at home and why.

Henry of Pelham Pinot Grigio Niagara Peninsula VQA, 2021, Ontario Canada ($16)

Light golden in colour with a minerally, white peach nose. Medium-bodied and dry with peach and lemon flavours. This is well-balanced with a good mouthfeel and flavourful for this usually dull grape in Ontario. (TA)

Finca La Mascota Santa Ana Cabernet Franc Maipu, 2019, Mendoza Argentina ($18)

From a vineyard close to the Mendoza River, in the Andes foothills with rocky alluvial and clay loam soils. Up front red and black fruit with spicy hints followed by mulberry and cassis notes and some black pepper. This has approachable tannins and a solid finish. Perfect with pizza or pasta as well as a good pot roast. (TP)

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 Gaspereau Valley, 2021, Nova Scotia Canada ($22)

Nova 7 is always aromatic, owing to the New York Muscat in its composition (the rest of the blend is made up of Ortega and Geishenheim). This vintage was particularly good both in quantity and quality for this grape, and its personality shines through this bottling. Passion fruit, guava, nectarine, lilies and orange grove. At 31g/l sugar, this is actually slightly drier than usual which I quite enjoy… I always love this wine, but it may be my favorite vintage of it to date. (BD)

Tantalus Bear Chardonnay Okanagan Valley BC VQA, 2021, British Columbia Canada ($25)

An attractive, restrained nose of lemon, pear, pastry dough and flint leads to a succulent, juicy palate where the backbone is firm and texture creamy. This lingers appetisingly. I have long said that Chablis is the ultimate house wine. Alas, it is difficult to find the most basic one for under $30 these days. Tantalus is billing its young vines Bear Chardonnay as Chablis-style. It is a bit fruitier that its French reference, but it does have that steely finish – and a huge yum factor (MM)

Fontana Dominio de Fontana Tempranillo-Graciano Uclés DO, 2019, Castilla-La Mancha Spain ($27)

Exuberant and fresh with bright black and red fruit, liquorice, spice, integrated tannins, breadth and deliciously balanced. Really a bargain for the quality and a great match whether for Tuesday night pizza or Saturday rib roast. (DD)

Monte Bernardi Sangió Chianti Classico DOCG, 2019, Tuscany Italy ($32 – 1L)

Juicy and simple but so authentic and highly satisfying. And I love the fact that it comes in a 1L bottle! Notes of red cherries mingling with subtle tomato stalk, dried herbs and a touch of balsamic combined with dusty tannins and crisp acid bring you right to the Chianti Classico region. No special occasion needed. It will make your weekdays brighter, especially if served with take-out pizza Margherita or home-made pasta al pomodoro. (MB)

Gérard Bertrand AN 806 Corbières AOC, 2018, Languedoc-Roussillon France ($18)

A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Opaque purple in colour with a bouquet of blackberries, vanilla and light cedar notes. Full-bodied with richly extracted blackberry flavour and an herbal note. A well-balanced wine and well worth the price. (TA)

Chaberton Gamay Fraser Valley VQA, 2020, British Columbia Canada ($20)

Classic Gamay character of vibrant red berries and earthy notes with a light to medium-bodied palate. Lively and fresh fruited cherry chocolate notes with good structure, nicely balanced acidity and tannins leading to spice through the close. (TP)

Fangareggi Vigna Rosa Lambrusco dell’Emilia IGP, 2020, Emilia-Romagna Italy ($23)

This frizzante is a light, pale red Lambrusco from the Fangareggi family who have resumed winemaking as of 2004 but have a history of the craft dating back to the 19th century. It is primarily Lambrusco di Sobara (85%) which gives delicate floral aromas and a refined mouthfeel, along with bright, wild berry notes. At 11%, this is modest in abv, which is great because every time I’ve opened a bottle, I’ve always wanted a second pour. (BD)

Fabien Jouves Haute Côt(e) de Fruit Malbec Cahors AC, 2020, Cahors France ($25)

Often, Malbec from Cahors is big, dark and brooding, tannic, oaked and extracted. Well, this wine is not that. Made much more in the style of Malbec from the Loire Valley (where it is known as Côt), this is electric and minerally, with no oak to preserve the purity of lively fruit, spice and mouth-watering savouriness. Incredibly delicious and a tremendous value that you won’t get tired of drinking. (GB)

Yohan Lardy Les Michelons Moulin-A-Vent AOC, 2019, Beaujolais France ($28)

Cru Beaujolais has been a staple in my house for years and this wine is a great addition! Bright with charming notes of wild strawberries and raspberries, it is lifted by a pleasant herbal character owing to whole bunch fermentation. Delicate yet firm tannins. Just as suited for roasted chicken as it is for liver, coq au vin or grilled salmon. As they say in French: it is passe-partout (a wine that goes with everything). (MB)

Burlotto Verduno Pelaverga DOC, 2017, Piedmont Italy ($30)

One of Piedmont’s most sublime producers – with a grape they have helped bring back into the spotlight. A luminous ruby colour to the eye, with aromatics of black cherry, candied cherry, strawberry and plum. The bridge to the palate shares clementine and a tea-like character with subtle spice. This Pelaverga is generous in fresh and ripe red berry fruit on the palate. Gentle gripping tannins and just enough texture give the wine individual character above others in its class. This wine clearly sits in the light-to-medium body camp and will satisfy those who want to be transported, any day of the week, to the rolling hills of Piemonte. (CS)

4 Monos GR-10 Sierra de Gredos Vinos de Madrid DOP, 2017, Madrid Spain ($33)

I cracked this bottle after a long-haul, international flight home. Immediately, the stress of traveling in the time of Covid melted away and I was filled with the joy of summer berries that wafted from the glass. Despite an innate fruitiness, it has a serious side as nuances of sweet herbs, lilac and pulverised granite wrap around crunchy cherries and raspberries. Tannins are light with a fine clayey texture. Garnacha-led with some Cariñena and a splash of Syrah, this is beautifully mid-weight. You don’t have to wait for warmer temperatures to enjoy a chillable, chuggable red. 4 Monos is now a staple in my home. (MM)

Rizzi Barbera d’Alba DOC, 2020, Piedmont Italy ($38)

Barbera is one of the most planted grapes in Italy and it grows in almost every region. It is also one of the 20 most planted grape varieties in the world. While Barbera can often be quite easy drinking, that does not mean that the wines should lack character. Rizzi’s offering is deep and perfumed, elegant, well-balanced and persistent with lively, fresh cherry and plum flavours and a soft texture. The perfect Tuesday night pizza wine. (DD)

Segredos de São Miguel Vinho Regional Alentejano, 2019, Alentejo Portugal ($15)

One of my ‘go-to’ house reds, that’s remarkably good value – so much so, that I sometimes pour it from a carafe, so people don’t dismiss it because it’s under screwcap. They’re often happily swayed into thinking it’s worth a few dollars more! An approachable, medium-bodied, dry red blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional with solid fruit and good acidity. It’s perfect for pizza or pasta nights – or for just about anything braised or with a tomato-based sauce. (TP)

Feudo Antico Pecorino Terre di Chieti IGT, 2019, Abruzzo Italy ($16)

Sounds like a cheese but Pecorino is the name of a grape variety! Pale straw in colour with a minerally, peach pit nose. This is medium-bodied and dry with melon, citrus and pear flavours and a light floral note. Good value. (TA)

Szászi Birtok Zenit Balaton-Felvidék PDO, 2019, Lake Balaton Hungary ($20)

The beauty of the wine resides in its simplicity. Delicate aroma of pear and apple, white flowers, with a nice herbal edge. It might just create an image of being beside Lake Balaton at the transition of spring to summer. The palate is rich yet light, with citrus pith, green pear skin and a supple soft mouthfeel. It is the wine to keep you focused while you write your memoirs. (CS)

Carpineta Fontalpino Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG, 2019, Tuscany Italy ($23)

There is nothing more comforting than a good glass of Chianti with a Margherita pizza. This is exactly how I enjoyed this wine. Dry with fresh acidity, bright notes of cherries, a delicate touch of cinnamon and dusty tannins giving good structure. The wine I want to drink every day. (MB)

Tiberio Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC, 2019, Abruzzo Italy ($24)

Bright and transparent cherry red in colour, this is neither a rosé nor a light red. It is its own category – Cerasuolo – truly an all-season, chameleon wine. Besides the vivid hue, tactile tannins further distinguish it from a typical rosé. You can drink this chilled but letting it warm up also works in its favour releasing the blood orange, rhubarb and cranberry flavours. Further nuanced by an herbal twist and thirst-quenching juiciness, this is very easy drinking – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t complex. Best of all, is its compatibility with food. I have enjoyed this with fresh caught salmon, tomatoes and burrata and it is now my go-to with saucy spaghetti. (MM)

Pearce Predhomme Cinsault-Syrah, 2018, Stellenbosch South Africa ($25)

Pearce Predhomme is a collaboration of Canadian industry vets Nicholas Pearce and Will Predhomme founded with a mission to create “crushable” wines from their favorite appellations. This wine has a mouth-water-ing stony minerality, is a great example of light-weight, but full-flavoured with vibrant acidity, grippy but elegant tannins, and loads of fruit and spice. Sleek and definitely crushable with a high affinity for anything on the dinner table. (GB)


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