FOOD & DRINK: Perfect wines for those dark winter days

A COLD January needs big, warm reds to lift the spirits. Some of the best areas for these are the Rhone Valley and South of France, Italy, Australia’s Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, California, and South Africa’s Coastal Region.

Starting with the Rhone and further south try:

Saint-Joseph 2018 Romain Devernay 13pc (Aldi £8.99) Made from Syrah this has lovely black fruit, liquorice, and silky tannins.

Ventoux Lesa Traverses 2020 Paul Jaboulet Ainé (The Wine Society £8.95) Fruity and ripe.

Cru du Cotes du Rhone Vansobres (Sainsbury’s £8.50) Full of summer fruits with a spicy, herby finish.

Lachez-Vous Grenache-Syrah 2020 Languedoc-Roussillon, France 14pc (Majestic £9.99) Means “cut loose” from French wine Laws. It’s full of ripe and juicy dark raspberry, strawberry and sweet spice. Try this with a hearty beef stew.

Chateau Millegrand Cuvée Aurore 2018, Minervois 14pc (Coop £10) A rich, intense, powerful black fruit blend of Syrah and Grenache.

Similar in style to a Cotes du Rhone is this Lebanese red from Aldi:

Aldi Specially Selected Lebanese Red 2019, Bekaa Valley 14.5pc (Aldi £7.99) Would go well with the Waitrose range of Levantine snacks and ready meals.

I don’t usually think of Beaujolais as a winter drink but Moulin a Vent is the most powerful Beaujolais Cru:

Chateau des Jacques, Moulin-à-Vent 2019 Louis Jadot 14pc (Ocado £21) A really well-made powerful Beaujolais. 100pc Gamay succulent and rich which could develop further in bottle and will keep up to 2029.

The Best St Emilion (Morrisons £12) A light perfumed nose, black berries and spice.

From Italy: Piccini ‘Memoro’ Castellina in Chianti 14pc (Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco £8 to £8.50) Made from slightly dried grapes this has a palate of intense ripe plum, spice and rich fruitcake aromas, full bodied with great aftertaste.

Morrisons ‘The Best’ Amarone, Cantina di Soave 2014 14.5pc (Morrisons £13) Rich and intense with flavours of black cherry and vanilla, a velvety texture and a spicy finish.                 

A good Zin is the perfect antidote for a bleak midwinter. Here are a few good ones:

Wente Vineyards Beyer Ranch Zinfandel 2020 14pc (The Wine Society £14.95)

Ghost Pines Zinfandel 2016 14.5pc (Mitchells, Sheffield £17) Juicy dark fruit, some prune, cola and mocha.

Long Barn Zinfandel 2019, Napa Valley, California 13.5pc (Starmore Boss £15.95) A soft nose of red cherries. On the palate, bramble fruit and cherries, subtle sweet spice, soft tannins and fresh fruit flavours that linger on the palate.

Chronic Cellars Space Doubt Zinfandel, Paso Robles 14.5pc (Sainsbury’s £13) Deliciously sweet black cherry and vanilla.

A good value Zinfandel is: The Wanted Zin 2021, Alessandro Michelon, Puglia, Italy 14pc (Morrisons £10 often at £7.50) This is actually Primitivo matured in American oak, full, ripe and plummy.  

From South America try: Santa Julia Malbec 2021 Mendoza Argentina 14pc (Sainsbury’s £9) Cherry, plum and spice flavours. Great with steaks, burgers, hard cheese and pasta.

Errazuriz Estate Series Merlot Reserva 2021, Curico and Aconcagua valleys 13.5pc (Majestic £9.99 mixed six) An exceptional blend of 86.1pc Merlot, 9.4pc Alicante Bouschet, 4.3pc Malbec, 0.2pc Petit Verdot. Soft, smooth with flavours of red fruit, caramel and mocha.

I love the big reds of South Australia’s Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, easy to reach from my brother’s home in the Adelaide Hills.

Try Grant Burge 5th Generation Barossa Shiraz 2018 14.5pc (Morrisons £13) This medium to full bodied red has aromas and flavours of raspberries, blackberries, spice and vanilla that are perfectly balanced by silky tannins on the long finish. A perfect match for slow cooked red meat dishes.

Bethany Gen 6 Old Vine Grenache, Barossa 14.8pc (Coop £11) These old, gnarled vines produce powerful reds. Cherry, strawberry, and dark spices.

Jacobs Creek Double Barrel Matured Shiraz 14.5pc (Sainsbury’s £12) Aged in wine then Scotch whisky barrels, this has blackberry, cedar and a savoury nose, a plum, dark fruit, spice and oak palate.  

A favourite from McLaren Vale is the Wirra Wirra winery: Wirra Wirra Church Block 2019/2020 (The Wine Society 2020 £12.95 14.5pc Waitrose 2019 £9.49) An organic and biodynamic blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot with blackberry and black pepper flavours. The Church Block is named after a small parcel of vines next to the 19th century church at Bethany. Try with a rare steak.

Finally, if you are more of a Cabernet or Merlot fan try these from Journey’s End in South Africa’s Coastal region:

Journey’s End ‘The Bluegum’ Merlot 2020 14.4pc (Sainsbury’s £11) A lovely nose of black cherry and plum, a soft palate of black fruit, sweet liquorice and fine tannins.  

GFV Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 Coastal Region, South Africa, 14.5pc (Majestic £10.99 mixed 6) The Gabb family, originally from Shropshire, have produced a wine with intense, ripe aromas of blackberry, cassis and rich fruitcake, juicy and elegant with a hint of tobacco smoke and structured tannins.

I hope you enjoy some of these warming reds on these cold winter’s days.