Winter Warmers - The Sunday Edition.
Winter Warmers - The Sunday Edition.
Winter Warmers? I think these would be best drunk on a Sunday.
Winter Warmers? I think these would be best on a Sunday.
Well, that’s it. Clocks have gone back, Halloween is done and I woke up this morning distinctly colder then the day before. It isn’t all bad, though. Despite January 2021 feeling like it was approximately 3 weeks ago, we find ourselves in Autumn, which is one of my favourite wine drinking seasons. I always feel like there’s more choice - I don’t follow the mantra of only drinking red in the cooler months and white in the warmer months, but lets face it, if it’s warm, your go-to isn’t going to be a bottle of Bordeaux. That being said, I also don’t particularly want to drink some big ol' Rhone Valley white in the sun. But Autumn? EVERYTHING is game, and it is a jolly good time to start sorting out your wine game for the festive month, and maybe trying something new!
So onto what I want to drink, and what I think you should be as well, and immediately you will notice I haven’t punted in with a load of reds.
There are no two ways about it, this is outstanding, especially at this price. I have always loved South African wine, I really think you get value for money, and they have some world class producers that would make some old world producers feel ashamed of their pricing - this is no exception.
When I first tried this wine a few months ago, it really stood out. It comes from the Lanzerac Estate, which is one of the oldest estates in Stellenbosch and also the first winery to bottle Pinotage. It’s almost Burgundian in style, it isn’t like some of those unashamedly oaky and monstrous Chardonnay’s that SA can produce (I love those as well), but it’s softer, more delicate and refined. Yes, oak is used in the production, but it is oh-so masterfully done.
Crystalised fruits, ginger and vanilla showcase this in the flavours, but this is just one dimension of it and there is a real complexity of flavour, if you want it. I say if you want it because it is just delicious to quaff without thinking about. But, if you want it to, there are layers and layers of flavours, ranging from citrus, to clove, vanilla, and tropical fruits. Its rich enough to work very well with food, but it is also soft, delicate, and well balanced. It is so good that it has posed a problem at CHHQ and this is the benchmark Chardonnay against ALL Chardonnays. Sure, they are good (we don’t sell bad wine), but is it as good as the Lanzerac for the price? Nothing has beaten it yet.
If you follow us on socials, you will have seen us bang on about Xavier Gerard, both Rob and I have a lot of love for this world class producer. He’s a rising star, with some of the most acclaimed parcels of land in the Rhone, but this is the wine that deserves special mention today.
This is 100% Viognier, governed under the IGP Collines Rhodaniennes (by classification, a country wine, but also the classification that offers the best value in France). This is a region that encompasses the Northern Rhone valley, wines like this are usually run alongside Appelation control, and it is precisely this reason they are ones to watch. Gerard is know for his Condrieu’s - arguably the Rhone Valleys most famous white wine, which, like this, is also 100% Viognier. The grapes for this comes from a little village called Verin, which is just above the famed appellation. Has the penny dropped yet? We like to call this wine a ‘baby’ Condrieu, because, not only is it made by the rock star of the rhone valley in the same way he makes his big and boisterous Condrieu, but it also has a much, much smaller price tag.
It’s still big, though, but the balance is great, meaning we can drink it by itself. This is a stern and serious Viognier, with stone, citrus rind and hints of aniseed, all providing a balancing nutty bitterness to savoury apricot fruits and spears of ginger. Rich in texture and powerful on the palate with a mouthwatering acidity, its a really warming, savoury wine. Thankfully, this is a wine that’s a world away from the Lanzerac, so no comparisons against that.
Adi Badenhorst was never going to be anything but a world class winemaker. He was born at South Africa’s oldest winery, Groot Constantia, where his father was farm manager for 46 years. He made his first wine at the age of 13, and continued to do so until he completed his studies and travelled the world, making wine at different wineries, including Chateau Angelus and Allain Graillot. On his return to SA, he held head winemaker at Rustenberg for 9 years, before setting up his own winery, with cousin, Hein.
AA Badenhorst call themselves a natural wine producer, though don’t get confused with cloudy juice and bits, these guys are maestros and make outstanding wines using low intervention, biodynamics, and the only piece of machinery used on the vines is the humble Secateurs, hence the name. The blend in this wine is a Northern Rhone set of grapes, Cinsault, Grenache, and Shiraz, with Cinsault being the dominant varietal (82%). What you get is a happy-go-lucky wine that cartwheels around aromas of ripe, red fruits, spicy pepper, leathery smoke and a glorious perfume. On the palate, the texture and finesse of the tannins and fruit are immediately evident and while the weight of it is medium at best, it really does know its way around the palate with supple grip and a smooth, long finish. It is perfect for enjoying watching whatever series you are bingeing on Netflix, but better still with this wine. The kind of food it loves is roast dinners, cottage pie, and bangers and mash. Need we say more?
Bardos, Romantica Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Spain - £13.50
This is the first Ribera del Duero to hit the list, and for the life of us, we can’t understand why we didn’t pick it up sooner.
Ribera del Duero is south-west of Rioja and North of Madrid and they follow a similar classification system to that of Rioja - this wine is a Crianza, meaning it must be aged for a minimum of 2 years, with at least 1 year of that in oak. Vines here tend to be very hardy as the summers are very hot and dry, while the winters are cold enough to make your bones shrink.
The Romantica is 100% Tempranillo from some of the oldest vineyards in the Ribera del Duero. It spends 14 months in used French and Eastern European oak resulting in a wine which is full bodied and beautifully balanced with ripe, jammy, dark fruit flavours and leathery, tobacco spice. Smooth, elegant, and complex with a notable freshness to it. Picture this setting; It’s Sunday, you’ve just finished your roast dinner and move into the lounge where a fire is roaring, there is a film on the TV, most likely there is rain just tapping the window as the sky starts to darken and its suddenly winter. This would (or, should) be the wine in your hand.
This is a personal favourite of mine which I try to sell to everyone I meet. I want to see it everywhere and I want everyone to have the opportunity to drink it. It’s bloody lovely, and I will even take the mockery in the office from Rob that I have included it in this list because he likes to joke that I don’t recommend anything else, well, jokes on him, because look - there are 5 other wines on here. But seriously, this is an absolute worldie, that I fondly refer to as Babs.
Ricossa were the first people to be allowed to appassimento the Barbera grape under the DOC of Piemonte. Appassimento means that upon harvest of the grapes, they are left in drying racks or straw mats to dry, for a few weeks, or up to several months. In this case, they are left for about 5-6 weeks to dry, losing about 30% of the grapes water content. This intensifies and concentrates the sugars and in turn, the flavours. When Barbera has no oak treatment and is drunk young it is often very fresh with low tannins, tart red fruits and an almost tomato-like acidity. What this process does is balance that acidity and freshness with sweetness, I don’t mean jam-like sweetness, its not clawing, but it does add body, depth and a wonderful mouthfeel. It also manages to pull flavours out of the grape that normally you don’t get unless it is aged in oak and costs about £10 more a bottle.
Glorious cherry red with violet highlights in colour, the nose is rich with blackberries, jam, violet, vanilla, figs and almonds. On the palate there is an almost electric mouthfeel which is zippy, fresh, and yet still full bodied. All the flavours from the nose are prevalent on the palate with the addition of eucalyptus freshness and a delightful balance of sweetness and acidity. It’s flipping great, is what it is.
Hailing from one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world, this Pinot noir deserves its kudos, not only by the way it tastes, but by the way it’s made.
There is a lot of winemaking skill in this wine. 75% of grapes were treated as normal and fermented in stainless steel, then transferred to used oak for two months. The remaining 25% underwent a process called carbonic maceration. With Carbonic Maceration, the initial fermentation is not caused by yeast but instead intracellularly, or, from the inside out. Whole bunches and grapes are sealed from oxygen in a tank which is filled with carbon dioxide - the lack of oxygen and presence of CO2 makes the grapes ferment from this inside out by using the CO2 to break down sugars and acid and create alcohol, once that alcohol gets to about 2%, the grapes burst, and then yeast is added to finish the job. That is a really long way of saying that the 25% of grapes end up being incredibly fruity with prominent flavours of strawberries while also being very low in tannins and acidity. But you may not have known, or heard about this, so there you have it.
The two parts of the wine are then blended back together again and it is easily one of the best Pinot Noirs you can find at this price point, in fact, its just one of the nicest reds you will find at this price point. It’s cheap, but best of all it is packed full of flavours like cherries, strawberries, raspberries and autumn fruits like damson. It has spices a plenty with cloves and cinnamon alongside the classic earthiness of a Pinot. Its like a gamey fruit cake, which is perfect for this time of year and it works really well with food, because it’s got great weight and finesse about it while still having that classic pinot noir lightness. Its a winner, and it’s cheap.
Do we need a conclusion?
No, but to conclude this set of recommendations, it is worth mentioning that while Sunday popped into my head while thinking of a set of wines, that day is in no way exclusive to the drinking of them, and you can drink them whenever you like. You are an adult after all (hopefully). Another benefit of doing this day by day, is that I get to write a few more of these blogs and I am already penning your getting-home-from-work-on-a-Friday-and-cracking-a-bottle recommendations, but the title of that needs more work.
Ben Thompson 2/11/21