There’s no escaping it: it’s definitely winter now. After a few glorious months of atypically good weather the chill has now settled in, the clocks have gone back and there are already Christmas ads on the radio. The darkening evenings have turned our minds (and stomachs) to heartier fare, from meaty stews to roast dinners, and of course our wine preferences change too. Long gone are the days of rosé and Pinot Grigio in the sun and out come the chunkier reds to match those rich warming dishes. Below are wines perfect for this time of year to suit many tastes and budgets, or why not ask your local independent wine shop for their own favourite recommendation?
RSP €16.99 from NOFFLA Off-Licences nationwide
I can hear what many of you are saying: you can’t start a “warming winter wine” article with a white wine, surely? But by keeping white wines exclusively to the summer months means missing out on a whole range of richer styles that are enjoyed best at this time of year.
The Louis Jadot ‘Couvent des Jacobins’ Bourgogne Blanc is a great wintery white which was voted White Wine of the Year 2014/15 in the NOFFLA Irish Wine Awards recently, so it’s reassuring to know it comes with some considerable kudos too.
It hails from Burgundy, that famous wine region that, by using oak barrels to ferment and age their wines, invented the buttery rich style of Chardonnay that’s ideal to enjoy in this colder weather. The Couvent des Jacobins has some great toasty brioche notes livened by fresh tropical fruit flavours, ideal with roast chicken or turkey.
RSP €10.99 in supermarkets and wine shops nationwide
Chilean Cabernet is a House Wine stalwart on wine lists across Ireland, but oftentimes what’s offered can be cheap, nasty and disappointing.
Cono Sur, however, are noted for producing wines that punch well above their price point, so experience what a good value Cab can taste like by trying their Bicicleta Cabernet Sauvignon, so named as their vineyard workers cycle around the vineyards to keep their carbon footprint low.
Expect loads of ripe blackcurrant and blackberry and a smooth palate. It would be great with roast beef and other meaty dishes.
RSP €14.99 from Sheridans’ Cheesemongers
This is 100% Nero d’Avola, one of Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties, but the style we usually get here in Ireland is by and large a jammy confection made using a recipe aimed to please a bland international style.
This though is different, much different. Judeka don’t use any oak barrels to age their wines, meaning this is deliciously fresh and light with bright juicy red fruits. Some nice integrated acidity means that it would be excellent with food with similar acidity – think ragout-based dishes like lasagne and Bolognese, but it would be amazing as well with some roast lamb.
RSP €17.99 from all good independent wine shops
This year Masi Agricola celebrated 25 years in Ireland, a great achievement for any foreign brand, let alone for an Italian wine family. When launched first in 1964 the now-legendary Campofiorin effectively created a whole new Italian wine category, though the company have fine-tuned it even further since.
Originally, the grape skins used for making another wine style called Amarone were added into regular Valpolicella, kick-starting a second fermentation which transformed the wine into a beefier, more complex version of itself. This was called ‘ripasso,’ or “re-passed,” a style now offered by many Venetian wine producers. But today Campofiorin is made with wine from semi-dried grapes instead of the used skins, meaning a significant increase in quality and finesse over other regular ripassos.
As you would guess it’s rich, smooth and velvety with ripe cherry and sweet spice flavours. It has quite gentle tannin and subtle acidity which makes it very approachable and versatile with food, so try it with anything from meaty pasta dishes to bangers & mash or roast pork.
RSP €18.49 from Supervalu, O’Brien’s and good independent wine shops
If you’re afraid that I’m getting a bit soft with my recommendations of a fresh Nero d’Avola or the soft and silky Campofiorin then fear not, here’s a wine with much more meat on its bones.
Torres is Ireland’s favourite wine brand and was also this year voted the Most Admired Wine Brand in the World. This is the “baby brother” of their iconic Mas La Plana (RSP €60) which in the 70’s beat a bunch of Bordeaux wines including Chateau Latour (RSP €500-€1000) in a blind tasting, so its pedigree is impeccable.
The Torres Gran Coronas has a rich cherry-and-blackcurrant character with some liquorice, vanilla and leather notes too. You know what to do with this: roast beef, steak, stews … if it’s big and meaty you can’t go wrong.
NEXT MONTH: CHRISTMAS DINNER WINES
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