I understand that $25 isn’t exactly affordable for all households, especially during this time of financial instability, but oenophiles on a budget can still enjoy a selection of wines that are lower in price point, at the same time expressive of varietal and place, and produced by respected Canadian winemakers. Quite often, Canadian wines under $15 can be uninteresting, filled with additives and dyes and even made from fruit that isn’t actually from Canada (these wines typically state “cellared in Canada” somewhere on the label). This does not make them undrinkable, but in my experience, these wines are less likely to resonate with you for their flavour and food pairing abilities, and more likely to leave you with a headache and purple stained lips. To be honest, you’re better off drinking a rum and coke.
The wines listed below are made by respected Canadian producers using quality fruit. They are all incredibly drinkable and they all pair perfectly with warm weather and hard times.
NV Lola Secco, Pelee Island, ON $14.95
It is my very strong opinion that everyone should have a bottle of bubbles on hand at all times. This delightful bottle of fizz from Pelee Island Winery is a blend of chardonnay and muscat and is pure joy. Notes of crisp green apple and ripe Bartlett pear dance across the palate and leave it feeling refreshed. This would pair nicely with a light salad but I think it’s best consumed on its own and in large quantities.
2019 Road 13 Honest John’s Rose, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $16.99
Do you all remember “frosé”, the pink wine slushie that you couldn’t stop drinking last summer? Well, that my friends, was created by the fine folks at Road 13 Vineyards. Its Honest John Rose is bright and juicy with notes of tart cranberry, pink grapefruit and rainier cherry. If you’re so compelled, the 2019 vintage would make a mean adult slurpee, but is just as delicious sipped straight from a glass.
2019 Alive Organic Rosé, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $21
Made from cabernet franc in the saignee method (where they pull or “bleed” juice from a tank intended for red wine production), this wine is off dry with candied orange peel, fresh lime zest and ripe strawberry on the nose and palate. Wines with a bit of sweetness always pair incredibly well with salty foods and this would be perfect with sticky barbecue pork ribs.
2018 Vineland Unoaked Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula, ON $17.99
One of my favourite Canadian wineries, Vineland’s team has been producing quality wine for more than 30 years and winemaker, Brian Schmidt, is often credited as being one of the nicest guys in the industry. Their unoaked chardonnay is bright and sunny with ripe golden apple at the forefront and a refreshing, lemony backbone. Lees stirring has helped to provide the wine with a rich, creamy mouth-feel, a classic characteristic of well-made chardonnay. My go to pairing is roast chicken and panzanella salad.
2018 Fern Walk Sauvignon Blanc, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $18.99
Sauvignon blanc screams springtime to me with its classic notes of fresh cut grass, cantaloupe and citrus. Fern Walk is a project under the Mission Hill family of wineries and it produces fresh, easy drinking wines made from sustainably farmed fruit. Umami heavy foods like sushi or bitter greens like asparagus and kale are often hard to pair with wine, but the vegetal characters of the sauvignon blanc complement those bitter flavours while the faint fruit notes add some levity.
2019 Cedar Creek Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $18.99
This wine punches well above its price point, delivering layered flavours of ripe pear, tart green apple, nutmeg and peach blossom. Made from fruit sourced from both North Okanagan and the southern Okanagan Valley, this wine was aged on lees, providing it with a delicate texture on the palate. This is perfectly paired with trout, salmon or mushroom dishes.
2018 Malivoire Gamay, Niagara Peninsula, ON $19.95
Gamay is such a pleasant wine to sip on and most often, can be poured in place of pinot noir when you’re buying wine on a budget. This wine has notes of juicy cherry, fresh raspberry and a hint of earthy spice on the palate. It pairs perfectly with lighter proteins, vegetable dishes or all on its own. Just make sure to serve it lightly chilled.
2018 Bench 1775 Groove, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $19.05
Made from a blend of sustainably sourced grapes from across the Okanagan Valley, this wine is structured with bold fruit flavours and may easily become your new house wine. Structured but still fruit forward, this is perfect for opening up on the back deck while barbecuing, but has enough depth to captivate developed palates as well.
2017 Sperling Market Red, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $20
Ann Sperling has long pioneered organic viticulture in Canada and her Market Red is an unlikely blend of organically produced marechal foch and pinot noir. The spicy, smoky notes of the foch come through while the pinot noir adds bright, refreshing acidity. It’s perfect with wood-fired pizza or a casual afternoon cheese plate.
2017 Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry Red, Niagara Peninsula, ON $14.95
A classic Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc with just a kiss of oak, this wine has bramley apples, black berry and blueberry notes, a hint of vanilla and notable tannin structure. It’s perfect with burgers and grilled strip loin or, if you prefer sipping full-bodied reds, is just fine all on its own.