Wine expert Tristan Darby hand-picks some favourite winter warmers
I adore the frosty-white nights of winter. They offer a perfect excuse to don a woolly jumper, pop some logs on the fire and crack open a bottle of wine. So I’ve chosen some fireside quaffers with enough warmth, depth and palate-hugging satisfaction to help you relax and recover from a hard day’s grind.
Oak-aged whites are ideal for the chillier months, with their extra texture and spice. The problem is when the oak dominates, rather than supports the wine. Enter, Vasse Felix ‘Filius’ Chardonnay 2016 (£12.99 at Majestic and Waitrose) with just the right balance of oak character to give a subtle, toasty depth, perfect for cosy sipping. An inviting citrus and caramel character on the nose is followed by a rich baked apple and cashew nut flavour in the mouth, which is nicely countered with refreshing lemony acidity to balance the wine and refresh. It’ll be a great partner for fish pies and wintry chicken stews, too.
If oaked whites aren’t your bag, or you’re looking for something more unusual, then Coto de Gomariz, The Flower & The Bee 2016 (£13.99 at Corks of Cotham and Grape & Grind) is just the ticket – a complex, full-flavoured organic wine from north-west Spain made from the local Treixadura grape. It’s a quirky slurp that forgoes the bracing acidity of ‘summer sippers’ in exchange for more fruit intensity, depth and presence, but without ever being too heavy. Packed with spicy peach and pear fruit, a touch of honey and a delicious savoury herbal finish. Unique, delicious, and well worth seeking out.
Some of France’s best value wines come from the Languedoc region in the south, and Cave de Roquebrun, Les Hauts de Saint Martin (£6.99 at Co-Op) is a keenly-priced winter staple to have in. It’s quite rich, but splendidly smooth, slightly spicy, subtly smoky and finishes with a refreshing herbal edge. The wine undergoes no oak-ageing, so the blueberry and dark cherry fruit flavours shine through. Another Languedoc red worth trying is Jeff Carrel’s excellent Puydeval 2015 (£12.99 at Avery’s). A buxom and seductive blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot full of brooding dark fruits, liquorice and spice. Great with hearty stews, bangers and mash or a hunk of mature cheese, but also gloriously quaffable on its own. The perfect wine for a cosy night of nesting on the sofa. Pop another log on, grab a glass and hunker down.
If you prefer new-world reds I urge you to try Montes Alpha, Syrah 2013 (£9.99 at Co-Op). It’s a deeper, thicker and more intense wine with rich blackberry jam, spicy pepper, and chocolate flavours kept in balance by a juicy, mouth-watering acidity. A brilliant Chilean take on the Syrah (aka Shiraz) based wines of the northern Rhone in France, which delivers loads of flavour and power for the money, and never fails to impress. This is drinking well now, but it’s also worth stocking up on a few extra bottles to sit on and enjoy over the next few years as it mellows and matures.
Tristan is owner and tutor of Bristol Wine School. You can learn more about wine with him at a fun, hands-on wine tasting course in Bristol or Bath.