AS the nights draw in, we need hearty warming reds to match with our richer wintery dishes. Here is my pick of the top ten best buys on the market at £20 and under.
WARMING REDS UNDER £12
ROUSSILLON, FRANCE: TRAMONTANE GRENACHE 2013
(£7.99, Luvians, Cupar, St Andrews; Inverarity One to One, Glasgow)
Made by Brit Andy Cook who moved to the Côte Catalanes in south-west France, not far from the Spanish border, to make wine. Cook has just built his very own new winery near Collioure to make his Tramontane range, which offers brilliant value for money. He sources old vine grenache from old terraced vineyards. Rich intense red fruits, warming rich palate, good length for the price. Serve this with a hearty stew.
FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA: RICKETY BRIDGE THE FOUNDATION STONE RED
(£9.99, Luvians, Cupar, St Andrews, www.luvians.com)
The Rickety Bridge winery is an old Franschhoek estate recently transformed by its new owner Brit Duncan Spence, who made his money with web sensation moonpig.com. This six-grape blend (syrah, grenache, cinsault, tannat, mourvèdre and viognier) is like an over-ripened Côtes du Rhone. Deliciously juicy, savoury notes with herby undertones.
ROUSSILLON, FRANCE: CALMEL & JOSEPH CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES 2012
(£10.99, Ellies Cellar stores, Dollar, Auchterarder, www.elliescellar.com; Daniel Lambert Wines, www.daniellambertwines.co.uk)
One of the best southern French blends of old vine grenache, syrah and carignan I have tasted at this price. Deep dark cherry fruits, figgy, aniseed and dried pruney notes with a hint of earthiness – and a lovely silky finish. I loved this wine – and the label too. Check out the full Calmel & Joseph range as it makes superb wines. I was surprised to see that it has been in business since 1955: but perhaps the French have been saving them all for themselves. The new labels are now getting them noticed here.
LIMARI, CHILE: TABALI RESERVA ESPECIAL SYRAH 2011
(£10.50, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com)
I remember visiting Limari in northern Chile in the days when it was better known for its vineyards and Pisco brandy. Now Rhône grapes have been planted instead and seem suited to this northern enclave. I am a big fan of Tabali’s wines – one of Chile’s best brands – all its wines deliver on succulent fruit and super-ripe tannins. Nothing jammy about this, just beautifully judged peppery ripe syrah.
£20 & UNDER
MENDOZA, ARGENTINA: VINALBA GRAN RESERVADO MALBEC 2011
(£13.99, currently on offer in Majestic Wine)
Every time I serve this at a tasting, it comes out a winner. Herve Fabre makes Argentine wine with a French feel; it has all the plummy damson ripeness you expect from malbec made in Mendoza’s premium Luján de Cuyo area, but with a fabulous structure and elegance. Really hard to beat this on price for an autumn red. STAR BUY
STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA: WARWICK OLD BUSH VINES PINOTAGE 2008
(£13.49, Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh)
It’s quite hard to find a mature pinotage on the shelves these days. With time in bottle, this has developed into a rather interesting meaty wine. I love its savouriness mingled with minty chocolate flavours. It does have a tannic dryness, so it’s best served with food. Pinotage is at its best from old bush vines.
BORDEAUX, FRANCE: CHATEAU BEL AIR, GRAVES DE VAYRES 2009
(£13.99, Corney & Barrow, www.corneyandbarrow.com; Luvians, Cupar, St Andrews, www.luvians.com)
This was my star find at the recent Luvians wine fair. A brilliant petit château from little-known Graves de Vayres, south of Bordeaux. Cabernet sauvignon dominant, it does have tannins – but I loved its hints of pepperiness, silky opulence and lush ripe fruits (from a ripe vintage) which will please any claret lover looking for a well-made bargain.
BEAUJOLAIS, FRANCE: FLEURIE VIEILLES VIGNES 2012 Domaine Jean-Marc Despres
(£14.99, OW Loeb, www.owloeb.com; Luvians, Cupar, St Andrews)
When offered this at a tasting, I was told it was a “winter Fleurie” which is exactly what it is. Not a shy soft silky number as you would normally expect from Fleurie, the lightest of the Beaujolais cru, this is much more robust with firm but ripe tannins and richer intensity from the “old vine” fruit. Very well made – an enchanting wine with lots of character and complexity which should appeal to burgundy lovers.
CLARE VALLEY, AUSTRALIA: THE BARRY BROS SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012
Tom and Sam are the Barry Brothers – grandsons of the famous Jim Barry based in Clare Valley. They are the new generation at this iconic winery; young, enthusiastic and full of ideas for improving Australian wines. This is a new wine to Scotland – and a great example of the famous shiraz/cabernet grape duo with shiraz the dominant ingredient in this blend at 70 per cent. Juicy, rich, well balanced, well-judged oak with elegance and savoury length. I look forward to seeing more offerings from this dynamic team.
RIOJA, SPAIN: MUGA RESERVA SELECION ESPECIAL 2009
(£20 currently on offer in Majestic Wine; Ocado)
From one of my favourite Rioja bodegas which has been making beautifully aromatic styles of Rioja since Isaac Muga Martinez set up his winery in the old station area of Haro back in the 1930s. Thirty months in oak have given this reserva a wonderful combination of vanilla and cherry flavours. With its exotic spicy undertones it tastes more like the traditional style of rioja. 2009 was a great vintage in rioja with gorgeous, densely rich fruits.
• Join Rose’s South African wine tasting next Saturday at Scores Hotel, St Andrews, 01334 870731, www.rosemurraybrown.com