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 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 (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 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.
Malbec 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”.