Luke Richardson is the sommelier at wine bar Le Di-Vin in Edinburgh. In his column for SLTN he shares his thoughts on all things wine-related and answers your questions about wine. If you have a question for Luke email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Seeing as we have entered the winter months in proper fashion now, I thought it would be good to talk about some full-bodied and heart-warming red wines that help to keep out the cold and keep up the defences.
Whilst a decent Cabernet Sauvignon will always be a go-to on a wine list, nowadays it will cost a small fortune in comparison to the comparable quality found in some other wines available. Currently, blends of Rhône varietals such as Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre (GSM) are in vogue – essentially the majority of the blend that goes into Châteauneuf-du-Pape for example – and I find that my favourite, especially in terms of value, are from South Africa.
You can expect some red fruit from the Grenache, like hints of cherries or redcurrants and some fine tannins, some richer blackcurrant fruit and a velvety texture from the Syrah and some dark fruit and liquorice-style flavours from the Mourvedre – which also gives these wines their slightly chewy structure.
A young, simpler version should start around £6.50 plus VAT, whilst £10 plus VAT buys you an absolute gem – look for at least three years in bottle, ideally four.
In terms of regional differences, Stellenbosch tends to produce a slightly more polished (and more expensive) style, but my preference is for Swartland just to the north – somehow the wines there are a little more rugged and interesting, and the prices a bit keener.
For a more fruit-oriented style, Australia has a wealth of examples available, similarly priced.
My favourite regions would be Victoria in the east and Margaret River in the west, although there are not many great examples under the £9 plus VAT mark.
If these really rich and fruity wines are not for you, but you still like the chewy, savoury finish, then look for Grenache/Syrah blends from the Languedoc-Roussillon in Southern France.
You can find good examples from around £7 plus VAT, and they offer that warming feeling to hold winter at bay just as well, but without that huge hit of fruit you get from these much hotter countries of production.
One last alternative, along the same theme, would be a 100% Mourvedre from Spain, known there as Monastrell.
These wines tend to be a little raisin-ish at the entry level point, but if you can spend £8 plus VAT and up, you’ll get a dark, brooding, chewy, rich and long flavoured wine that will blow away the winter blues.
Once again, look for ideally four years from vintage.
And all these wines above will definitely benefit from being carafed or decanted – ideally 20 to 30 minutes before serving.