When it’s 10:59 p.m. on a Friday night, the SAQ is long closed, the pre-drink just started, and that bottle of vodka you thought was in the freezer is actually in the recycling bin empty, depanneur wine is always there to save you from what otherwise would have been a dry night. While the best you can hope for with a $10 bottle from the corner store is usually a delayed gag reflex, there are still a few ways to minimize the damage.
Unpalatable dep wine is largely the result of Quebec regulations that stipulate that deps can only sell non-vintage wines bottled in Quebec that don’t state the variety of grapes used to make them. Without these regulations, any producer could sell wine, effectively severing the SAQ’s monopoly.
For white wine, a safe bet is Wallaroo, an Australian wine charmingly named after the native Australian wallaby and kangaroo. It has fine lemon and grapefruit aromas, with a crisp acidic taste, and should definitely be served chilled (the aftertaste resulting from warm wine is a bit rough on the throat). The white Yellowtail (also Australian) is similar, also citrusy, but with mild honeydew flavors complemented by a gentle oak scent. The palate is a bit softer and fresher, with a more balanced acidity.
I have yet to find a red wine I like for less than $15 – but if you must, Chapman House Bin 35 is a popular selection. It reeks of alcohol but the taste is surprisingly fruity and sweet, similar to Port. It’s the perfect accent to a night on the couch with some friends, or a BYOB dinner. Plaza Del Rocco, a red Argentinean wine, has berry, plum, and spice flavors and aromas that create a relatively soft, smooth taste that is easy to drink.
Beware of the boxed wine trend, which is prominent at the more avant-garde, posh deps (like Greene’s Superette at the corner of Durocher and Milton). While the boxed wine movement is still somewhat taboo here in Canada, it is institutionalized elsewhere – such as in Australia, where you can buy a four-litre box of wine for $12 AUD. I would advise against boxed and any other non-bottled forms of wine unless you think peculiar ingredients like fish eggs enhance the taste of the already questionable dep wine. Á votre santé!