Warming red wines to take the pain out of a tumble

warming red wines

I’ve been a bit under the weather past couple of weeks. I’ve been gearing up for Crimbo and sharing wine with friends –  and with you – and blow me if I don’t end up taking painkillers. A woozy head without even opening a bottle.

I had a little fall – no alcohol involved  – and the experts say I’m suffering from a bit of whiplash.  So I’ve avoided crunching over a laptop and bobbing onto One Foot in the Grapes to share any updates.

I’m almost back on track now though … fingers crossed.

Four warming red wines I enjoyed before my knees crumbled from under me.

Montes Alpha Merlot review

Montes Alpha Merlot 2012 (Majestic, £12.99, or £9.99 on the Mix Six Price) is produced in Chile using a dry farming method, where the vines aren’t watered at all unless absolutely necessary.

Vines which have struggled to find water produce really flavoursome wines.  Their roots have to stretch, tease and wriggle into the ground to seek the refreshment they need. The grapes will have more minerally character. They’re not sitting flabby, tasteless and bloated from too much water soaked up by greedy vine roots. 

The result is an interesting wine with waves of menthol, liquorice, a touch of chocolate, jammy blackcurrants and plums. Then to taste, sweet spice with lots more dark harvest fruits.

The Duke wine reviewThe Duke (Morrisons, RRP £7.99) does exactly what it says on the tin – except it comes in a bottle.

The label proclaims this Spanish blend of tempranillo, shiraz, merlot and garnacha to be a ‘Big. Big, Big Red Wine’ .

You might think that’s overdoing it a bit on the marketing front and, in fact, The Duke doesn’t need to be ‘bigged’ up at all.

This is an easy-drinking, full-bodied wine, packed full of fruit and easily one of the best reds under a tenner I’ve tried this year.


Les Jamelles Réserve Mourvèdre review

Les Jamelles Reserve Mourvedre 2013 ( £7.49 at the Co-op) is a great price for this tasty wine from Pays d’Oc.

It is ruby red but not too deep a red, so you can still see your fingers through it. There’s juicy black and red fruits on the nose, with a fleck of vanilla, a hint of pepper too.

There are soft tannins to taste, and a compote of black fruits. It’s a good buy to stock up ahead of Christmas.

ucumen Malbec 2014 Mendoza reviewMalbec is now associated with Argentina, but the grape’s origins are the south west of France and Bordeaux. Tucumen Malbec 2014 (£11.99 a bottle, Mix Six price £7.99 at Majestic) is a bronze winner at the 2015 International Wine Challenge.

It is rich and robust with red and black fruits, prunes too. It’s much better a day after opening, when, with a flash-fried steak and scrunchy fried onions, the wine’s peppery bite said “hey, look at me, I’m a nice weekday glass of something”.

Happy days.

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Pays d’Oc – where 56 grape varieties are the spice of life

Pays d'Oc Domaine Gayda wine review

THERE’S a part of France which almost thinks its the New World when it comes to wine-making. I’m talking Pays d’Oc.

Traditionally France – and other “old world” countries such as Spain and Italy – have historically developed wines based on local grape varieties, the local marketplace and as a match to local foods.

But in the Pays d’Oc IGP emphasis is also on the marketplace beyond its borders alongside the Mediterranean, with 200km of beaches and vineyards on inland sunny slopes.

We’re talking a huge amount of winemaking – in 2011 Pays d’Oc was the biggest exporter of French wine – and the fifth biggest world exporter of varietal wine.

But don’t for one minute think that the winemakers are jumping on one big export wagon and creating a wine industry to ring those cash tills. They’ve been making wines since the Greeks planted the vines and the Romans developed them.

Yes – the emphasis on quantity can override quality, but in Pays d’Oc there’s an undercurrent of improving standards and being proud of the many premium wines they now produce.

The region may be at the economic heart of the wine export market but wine-maker Jean-Claude Mas also stresses that “the Pays d’Oc IGP really is one of the most dynamic wine denominations, full of very talented young winemakers crafting unconventional and creative varietal and blended as well as organic, biodynamic and natural wines”.

Winemakers have championed wine from international grape varieties. There’s a huge number of varietal wines and blends, as 56 grape varieties are allowed under IGP regulations. Here’s a few:

  • Tourmanet Malbec Syrah 2010 (£5.75 The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com) is beautifully smooth with fresh raspberry flavours and a subtle liquorice taste on the finish to give it depth. Its freshness makes it very drinkable on its own. However, with all that southern sun stored up in the grapes, it goes well with Mediterranean tomato dishes – but it’s also robust enough to hold its own against a fiery chilli pasta sauce.
  • Vignobles Foncalieu, Le Versant Grenache Rosé Pays d’Oc IGP 2011, (£8.99, thesecretcellar.co.uk) is produced by the co-operative Foncalieu, which has been voted France’s Best Co-operative Winery 2012. It is an understated pink with strawberries, cherries, and cranberries to taste and on the nose. For a rosé it has quite a bit of depth coming from sun-loving grenache grapes.
  • Domaine Saint Hilaire, Advocate, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2008, (£12.25 Slurp, www.slurp.co.uk) has an abv of 14% and isn’t backward in coming forward. The blend is traditionally from Bordeaux but this wine is packed with sun-soaked black fruits with layers of dark chocolate and autumn woodland.
  • Pays d'Oc, Domaine GaydaDomaine Gayda, Fugure Libre Cabernet Franc 2010 (£14.95, Leon Stolarski Fine Wines, www.lsfinewines.co.uk) – intense label, intense wine. Cherries, white pepper and mocha on the nose from this grape variety again typically seen in Bordeaux. Another with a warming alcohol effect of 14% and a peppery, savoury edge.
  • Domaine Les Yeuses, Syrah Les Epices 2010, (£7.49, Majestic, www.majestic.co.uk) is deep red with herbs, freshly cut green peppers and spice on the nose with cherries and black pepper to taste. More savoury than fruity but it goes to another level the day after opening – if you can save any that is.

First published in the Liverpool Post on March 17 2013