June 25, 2024

Warming reds that pair perfectly with rich, winter food

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Parts of Spain, France and Italy produce reasonably priced wines made for autumn and winter drinking

I have a bias towards lighter more refreshing red wines and, for most of the year, drink little else. However, once the leaves begin to fall and the days close in, I turn to more substantial wines and more substantial food too.

Over the past few nights, I have made a mushroom and lentil stew, roast squash and chicken thighs in a spicy tomato sauce, and a deeply satisfying Mediterranean lamb stew. All of the accompanying wines were 14-14.5 per cent in alcohol. I suffer from a form of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), usually held at bay by long walks in the early sun, and carefully judged quantities of warming wine. 

Two of my favourite wines, maturing red Burgundy and Nebbiolo from Piemonte, seem to epitomise autumn, but both tend to be quite expensive, and not the sort of wines you open on a cold Wednesday evening. There are plenty of other options though. Parts of Spain, the south of France and southern Italy all produce reasonably priced wines that are made for autumn and winter drinking. Further afield, Argentina, and some regions in Australia and South Africa do likewise.

It has always seemed unfair to me that the richest, most powerful reds come from the hottest climates, while areas with cold winters, such as Northern Europe, generally produce lighter more elegant wines, or no wine at all. Global warming is changing things, but most high-octane red (and white) wines still come from warmer regions. 

One of my favourite winter varieties is Grenache/Garnacha, a grape that delivers plenty of alcohol, typically with sweet fruit, and a low tannin count, giving the wines a hugely appealing softness. I have featured a number of great examples from Spain already this year. In the Languedoc and the Southern Rhône, Grenache tends to be blended with Syrah and/or Mourvèdre, both of which provide structure and tannins to the mix. Irish wine drinkers have traditionally had a grá for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, one of the great blends, but these days, nearby villages such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Cairanne and Rasteau can offer better value. 

As well as straight Shiraz, which can be very heady, Australia offers GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) their version of Rhône blends. In the past, I have found that inexpensive Grenache blends from the Southern Rhône offered great value for money. In recent years, quality seems to have dropped, so be prepared to pay €10-€15 for wines such as the Réserve Bonpas featured here, and make sure they carry a minimum of 14 per cent alcohol; it really makes a difference. 

While I often recommend serving wines such as Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Loire Cabernet Franc and Ribeira Sacra cool, if not lightly chilled, winter reds do taste better served at room temperature (still around 18-20 degrees).

Réserve de Bonpas 2019, Côtes du Rhône

Réserve de Bonpas 2019, Côtes du Rhône
14%, €10.95 down from €14.95
Medium to full-bodied with soft sweet red cherry and strawberry fruits and a tannin-free finish. Perfect with a hearty mid-week casserole.

From: O’Briens, obrienswine.ie

Malbec Pequenas Parcelas 2017 Enrique Foster, Uco Valley

Malbec Pequenas Parcelas 2017 Enrique Foster, Uco Valley
14%, €14.47
A very seductive smooth spicy fruit-filled Malbec with loganberries and plums. Enjoy alongside some beef ribs or a burger. 

From: Wine Spark, winespark.com

Acón Joven 2019, Ribera del Duero

Acón Joven 2019, Ribera del Duero
14.5%, €15.50-16.50
Scented and seductive with masses of ripe sweet dark plum fruits and a soft finish. Perfect with roast or stewed lamb, or a herby bean casserole. Terrific value for money. 

From: Thenudewineco.ie; Stationtostationwine.ie; Sweeneys D3, sweeneysd3.ie; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Clontarf Wines, D3,Clontarfwines.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Green Man Wines, D6, greenmanwines.ie; Listons, D2, listonsfoodstore.ie; D-Six Wines, D6; peggykellys.ie; The Wicklow Wine Co., Wicklow, wicklowwineco.ie

Kaiken Disobedience Red Blend 2019, Mendoza, Argentina

Kaiken Disobedience Red Blend 2019, Mendoza, Argentina
14.5%, €26.99
Made in collaboration with Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, this Malbec/Cabernet blend is full-bodied and smooth with intense ripe red fruits overlaid with spicy oak and a long finish with well-integrated tannins. It deserves your finest rare steak – ribeye or sirloin, with mushrooms.

From J.J. O’Driscoll, Ballinlough, jjodriscoll.ie; Pinto Wines, D9, pintowines.ie; Redmonds, D6; Redmonds.ie; Mannings Emporium, Bantry, Manningsemporium.ie; The Granary Foodstore, Midleton, granary-foodstore.com; Wineonline.ie; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie  

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