Red Velvet – Cosy Wines to Wrap your Palate this Autumn
One part of me wants to go rosé-rogue, grab a megaphone to start a little riot: “there is no such thing as a summer wine”, “the same bottle that works by the pool can be a hit by the fire” and “don’t tell me what to drink in October” could be some of the slogans.
But then again, the other 99 per cent of me knows that it’s hard to #RoseAllDay when nightfall arrives at tea time and that a crisp Picpoul de Pinet is hard to crave when the temperature reaches single-digit territory.
As your friendly neighbourhood Game of Thrones character will tell you, winter is coming, and, borrowing from one of the most meme-friendly lines from the cult show, the night is dark and full of tannins. So, let’s make the most out of jumper season and find something to cosy up to.
So, what are “Cosy Wines”?
Choosing an autumnal wine is a task that can be approached in a similar manner to choosing a new coat. Even if it’s thicker and heavier, it shouldn’t feel harsh if it’s well crafted. You can go for something bold and flashy or for something comfortable and cosy. Think of velvety textures, rich layers and pleasant warmth…the type of wine (or coat!) that feels like a big hug.
Many factors contribute to a wine’s “cosiness”: think of a triangle with tannins, alcohol and acidity on each vertex. If any of the angles are too sharp, one feature would stand out and eventually take over your palate.
For example, if the alcohol level is high but the wine has low acidity and soft tannins, it will feel unbalanced and in the worst cases, you’ll even get a burning sensation. If the alcohol and the acidity are moderate but the tannins are abnormally big (perhaps due to excessive use of oak) then you’re likely to find it severe and astringent.
Said this, a “cosy” wine’s shape would be close to that of a big equilateral triangle with slightly round edges. I say “big” because even though the alcohol level might be on the high side of normal (think of well ripe grapes with plenty of sugars for the yeast to turn into ABV), the acidity will keep the pace and the tannins will feel well-integrated (often thanks to a mindful oak ageing programme).
Porta 6 Reserva
€15.95 – Available at O’Briens Wine
This Portuguese treat combines Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional into an indulgent blanket of ripe blackberry preserve, plums, vanilla and cinnamon. Lovers of black forest gateau, take note.
It’s the evolution of the delightfully fruity Porta 6, with a gentle use of oak that contributes to it’s fuller body and a slightly higher alcohol content.
Les Brulieres de Beychevelle Haut-Medoc 2014
€37.99 – Available at Mitchell & Son, McHughs, Martin’s Off Licence, Bradley’s (Cork)
This vibrant Bordeaux blend let’s organically managed Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes share the stage (with the spotlight on Cab Sauv).
A juicy, red-berry start that gains complexity as notes of cocoa, licorice and plum appear on the palate. With moderate tannins and a smooth texture, it’s a rich red that never feels overly heavy.
Reserve Cabernet 40th Anniversary
€50 – Available at O’Briens Wine
The unique label of this wine offers a hint as to what you’ll encounter once its contents reach your palate. Red velvet and elegance in a bottle. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s prestigious Napa Valley ages for 19 months in a combination of used and new French oak.
Ripe blackcurrants and cherries stand out to show a great varietal character, accompanied by layers of cedar and toast, with a sprinkle of sweet spices and licorice. Full bodied, with powerful tannins that grab your palate firmly and a long, complex finish.
Andean Vineyards Reserve Malbec 2015
€14.99 – Available at Martin’s Off Licence, The Corkscrew, wineonline.ie, Jus the Vine
Fun fact, this wine won Best Under €15 New World Red at the Irish Wine Awards 2018. It’s a fine example of why Mendoza Malbec is so popular: intense, vibrant, balanced and with lots of fruit on the palate.
It’s a rich red, but not a highly tanninc one, youthful and medium bodied, smooth and with pronounced aromas and intense, well defined flavours starring ripe blackberries, cranberries and a hint of pepper.
Casa Gran del Siurana GR-174 Priorat 2016
€16 – Avaialble at Baggot Street Wines, Drink Store Manor Street, Nolan’s Clontarf, Wine Online
This Spanish blend of Garnacha, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect companion for a chilly night in. A short stay in French oak rounds its up and helps tame its tannins. It’s acidity and intensity of flavours are ideal to cut through the fat in a meat and cheese board.
Expect ripe cherries, cranberries and red plums, followed by a pleasant floral and herbacious character. It’s gentler than many of its peers, with a moderate body. A happy mix of freshness and boldness.
Alpha Zeta – R Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2016
€19.99 – Available at Baggot Street Wines, Bradleys, Clontarf Wines, Egans Off Licence, Fallon & Byrne, Mitchell & Son, McHughs Off Licence, 64 Wine, The Vintry, Wine Well Off-Licence, World Wide Wines, wineonline.ie
Just as autumn sits between summer and winter, Ripasso rests between the fruity and youthful Valpolicella and the highly complex Amarone wines. This one blends the regional varieties Corvina and Rondinella into a red of gentle power.
Aromas and flavours of ripe cherries and dried cranberries are accompanied by a combination of sweet spices, think cinnamon and vanilla. A year in oak adds some depth, with toast and a hint of cedar complementing the character. It has moderate tannins and a pleasant, velvety texture.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.
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