Terry Kirby picks the warming red wines that are capable of working with your post-Christmas bank balance
It can be a bit dark and grim out there, about now. The post-Christmas glow has faded, the roads are littered with discarded trees, all that spending is hitting home and the gyms are full of the unfamiliar and bloodshot faces of people desperately trying some kind of crazed New Year, New You routine and/or doing their veganuary or dry January thing... And there is a bitingly cold wind.
Which is why – assuming we are not doing the dry thing – we need good value, won’t-break-the bank red wines, that reassure us about sunnier climes, work best with robust, even vegan, winter proofing foods and will warm us against whatever torments January can bring.
So, here are some excellent, warming wines, all burnished by sunny climates and all under £10 a bottle... The Finca Los Principes La Canada Rioja 2016 (£9.34; normally £10.99 Virginwines.co.uk) is a young Rioja, but packed with rich blackberry and damson flavours, soft and velvety on the palate and slips down amazingly easily... It’s a perfect partner to chorizo, butter bean and potato stew, which should really keep the cold out, or Middle-Eastern dishes of pulses and vegetables.
Staying in Iberia, but moving westwards, the Aliança Bairrada Reserva Tinto (£7.50 Winetrust100.co.uk; £8.50 Henningswine.co.uk) is a fabulous rustic bargain from the little known Bairrada region in the north west of Portugal, close to the Atlantic coast: rich and spicy with great tannic structure and really forward black fruit flavours. Made from some of the grapes used in port, like tinta roriz and touriga nacional, it also has the less common, local, juicy baga grape in the mix. Try it with traditional Portuguese dishes like pork and clams or beef casserole.
Swinging back east to south-west France, where some of the densest, blackest, most mouth-filling wines are made from the tannat grape which can require many years of bottle age before the rigid tannins relax and soften. Fortunately, the addition of some cabernet sauvignon and some careful wine making results in the Terres De Moraines Madiran 2013 (£9.50 Marks and Spencers) which can be drunk relatively young; the dark, silky, blackberry, bitter chocolate and tar flavours work brilliantly with confit duck or a rare steak.
Heading east towards the glorious walled city of Carcassonne, the Cabardes appellation is small and relatively new, but the red wines are worth seeking out – they share the same robust qualities of the neighbouring more well-known areas of Corbieres and Minervois with perhaps keener pricing. Try the excellent Domaine Maurel, Cabardes, 2015 (£9.50 Corneyandbarrow.com) a ripe and satisfying blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and grenache, with any kind of winter casserole dish, particularly those involving the French Puy lentils.
Packing our suitcase and heading to South Africa for some winter sun is a great idea, but if we can’t quite get that organized, try popping into Sainsbury’s to grab a bottle of Azana Fairtrade Red Blend 2015 (£9.00 Sainsbury’s) a pretty rubbish name for a really punchy little wine, a blend of those southern French varietals like syrah, grenache and mourvedre, together, interestingly, with a little Italian primitivo: robust and easy drinking with flavours of coffee, chocolate and red berries. So, that’s January sorted then, onwards and upwards to February, which is always a warmer, nicer month….Yes?