As I write this week’s column the weather has definitely turned colder. To add insult to injury my central heating decided to pack up, so it was time to raid the cellar and think about some warming, big flavoured red wines to keep the chill away.
I actually love autumn, the chance for some hearty slow-cooked casseroles and of course the game season is now in full swing so it’s a chance to match some wines with these cold climate flavours.
The Rhône Valley is a good place to start with its warmer climate more suited to grape varieties such as syrah and grenache.
Côtes du Rhône is always one of my go-to autumnal wines but trade up a little and Côtes du Rhône Villages can offer some great wines for very little extra.
Côtes du Rhône Villages Sainte Cécile 2016, Domaine de la Berthete (Hermitage Cellars £9.95 on offer from £12.25) is, without question, great value for what is in many ways a mini châteauneuf-du-pape.
Made by husband-and-wife team Pascal and Marie-Pierre Maillet, who bought the domaine in 1993, this is a blend of 50 per cent grenache and 50 per cent syrah and made in a very traditional style with no new oak ageing.
Instantly appealing, with a perfumed nose which offers black fruits, dried herbs, some savoury notes, liquorice and some spice, followed by medium to a full-bodied palate, with generous fruit and some spice before a long finish.
What I really like about this wine is its freshness and purity of fruit and it is proof, if it was needed, that the 2016 vintage in the southern Rhône really was exceptional.
Pair this with a slow-cooked lamb casserole.
Tasmania is about as far from the Rhône Valley, both geographically and climate-wise, as you could get but one of my surprise finds of the year so far has been Artisan Pinot Noir 2016, Tasmania (Aldi £16.99).
It has such an aromatic nose with bright dark cherry fruit, spice, and almost a touch of tea. The palate is fresh, with fine tannins, dark fruit and almost crunchy acidity.
Like the Côtes du Rhône Villages above, what I really love about this wine is its purity of fruit and freshness. This is lovely, elegant pinot noir and bravo to Aldi for listing it.
Not a blockbuster in any shape or form but it would be lovely with roast duck or pheasant.
Ramón Bilbao,’Edicion Limitada’ 2015, Rioja (greatwesternwine.co.uk £14.95) is a very modern-style rioja.
This is polished red wine, made from 100 per cent tempranillo and aged in American oak barrels.
The nose shows black cherries and damsons with a little background clove spice and chocolate, the palate is medium to full-bodied with more dark fruits and spice and some well-rounded tannins before a nice elegant, long finish. A perfect match with some slow-cooked lamb or a Sunday lunch of sirloin of beef after a long walk on a crisp morning.