It’s something of a paradox that the best winter reds often come from warm climates that produce throaty, full-bodied wines. This old-vine cuvée from the Portuguese Alentejo region is a case in point. Made with Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Castelão and Syrah, it’s spicy, intense and textured, unfurling bramble, fig and blackberry flavours in the glass, with a patina of sweet cinnamon oak.
Margaret River isn’t usually listed among Australia’s best sources of Shiraz – it’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay country – but this is a very tasty, well-priced example of the grape from the talented Virginia Willcock. Showing some cool climate white pepper notes as well as flavours of bramble and blackberry, it has a touch of oak spice, fresh acidity and subtle, savoury tannins.
As well as being a beautiful place to visit, Saint-Chinian is one of the most exciting appellations in the south of France. This is an unoaked SGCM blend of Syrah with 35% Grenache, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre that shows the freshness and grip of the local schist and limestone soils, classic “garrigue” aromas of rosemary, thyme and lavender, supple tannins and layers of blackberry and black olive.
Any wine that I could drink listening to a Johnny Clegg song gets my vote, but this wine is doubly welcome – and worth buying – because it’s a staff empowerment project from Mullineux & Leeu, one of the Cape’s best producers. Syrah based with 34% Tinta Barocca and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, Great Heart is fresh, spicy and stony, with appealing minerality and grip, pomegranate, raspberry and red cherry fruit and fine-grained tannins.
Faugères is one of the Languedoc’s great secrets, a small appellation that deserves to be much better known. Julien Seydoux makes this superb organic red from a blend of Syrah with 35% Grenache, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre, ageing the result in large wooden foudres and stainless steel tanks. Named after a local stream, it’s appeallingly subtle, floral and refined, with notes of pine and lavender, sweet bramble and red berry fruit, sinewy tannins and a long, mineral-edged finish. Perfect winter drinking.
This very stylish pale rosé is great value at £8.99, but at the offer price of £6.74 until July 7th (as long as you buy six bottles from the overall Waitrose range), it’s the kind of thing that would have people queuing up on the Côte d’Azur if it were available there. Racy, refreshing and delicate, it’s less than half the price of many more famous names but over-delivers in the glass. Textured and well balanced, with raspberry and redcurrant flavours and a satisfying dry finish.
GR-10 is named after a hiking trail that connects the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and runs through the Sierra de Gredos. It’s the entry-point red from 4 Monos (their whole range is worth buying) and is a pale, tangy, refreshing cuvée of Garnacha with 10% Cariñena and 5% Syrah. Mostly aged in foudres, with a touch of new, 500-litre oak, it’s a wonderfully refreshing, high-altitude red from vineyards in Cadalso de los Vidrios, San Martín de Valdeiglesias and Cenicientos showing bramble, red cherry and raspberry flavours and refreshing granitic grip.
This impressive wine is sometimes described as a ‘mini Châteauneuf-du-Pape” but it’s much better than that. In fact, it’s superior to many supermarket CNDPs and cheaper, too. Made by the Perrin family who own Château de Beaucastel, it’s a poised, scented, integrated cuvée of mostly Grenache with 15% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, with fine red berry fruit, a dusting of Mediterranean herbs, understated wood and a refreshing, medium-bodied finish.
Beaumes de Venise is still more famous for its fortified Muscats, but canny buyers have always known that if you pick the right wine, the appellation can offer red wines that rival top Châteauneuf-du-Pape at half the price or less. This cuvée of Grenache with 30% Syrah and 10% each of Carignan and Viognier comes from a 50-year-old parcel at 500 metres above the village of Suzette and is wonderfully dense, rich and savoury, showing considerable concentration and weight, flavours of garrigue, black plum and violet and a full-bodied finish. It’s certainly drinkable now, but will reward further cellaring.