This week, we hop over to France with wine columnist John Kelman to find our what makes their reds so endearing and perfect for the cooler seasons.
A trip over the Channel is well overdue. However, with restrictions in place and the other half of the “Auld Alliance” in lockdown, what better way to support their wine houses than by purchasing a few bottles of their finest.
This virtual journey across the water will see us explore a whole new world of reds having already conquering French Champagne during our affordable fizz journey earlier this year.
Today we look at reds and the outstanding food pairings that will help to take the chill off as we get used to the clocks changing and those darker mornings and evenings.
Turning to the style of Côtes du Rhône, this embodies wines from either side of the Rhône river, with the reds in this case being led by Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
In Bordeaux, reds you will usually find will be the likes of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec (Cot) and Carménère. These arethe grape varieties used within this region.
Saint-Émilion is also a classified wine growing region within Bordeaux and Haut-Médoc is an Appellation d’Origine Controlee (a classification for wines) within the Bordeaux region, with the permitted Bordeaux grape varieties featuring.
When exploring Burgundy the the reds are primarily made from Pinot Noir and Gigondas is the baby brother of the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is most common in southern Rhone and features grapes from Grenache, Syrah, Mouvèdre and Cinsault.
French wines ruled the UK market until the discovery of New World wines and with so much quality out there, there’s an entire county packed full of outstanding houses and styles to try.
For this week’s pickings we but we have looked to Sainsbury’s, Wine Raks and Rutabaga who represent some of the best national supermarket, online and local independent retailers.
With decades of experience with food and drink in and around Aberdeen and Scotland, I’ve also suggested some perfect pairings for you to try out, too.
Côtes du Rhone, Cuvée Réservée, Grenache/ Syrah, Rhone, France, 2019, Vegan – 13.5% alc./vol. (red)
This well-priced entry level wine is to be enjoyed young. A little spice from the Syrah, try this easy drinking wine as your mid-week, meat-free pairing. Think seasonal beetroot whipped through butterbeans, garlic and tahini for a vibrant humous served with roasted seasonal vegetables – delicious!
£5.50 from Sainsbury’s, 75cl.reallRe
Bordeaux, Grande Reserve, Merlot/ Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, France, 2019, Vegan – 13.5% alc./vol. (red)
Bursting with cherry flavour, this pocket-friendly and cheerful wine ticks all of the boxes. Soft and rounded on the palate, pair it with a dark chocolate torte featuring some pickled cherries and sweet Chantilly cream.
£5.50 from Sainsbury’s, 75cl
Lussac Saint-Émilion, Roc de Lussac, Merlot/ Cabernet Franc/ Cabernet Sauvignon, Gironde, France, 2018, Vegan – 13% alc./vol. (red)
A familiar wine label plucked from the shelves, pop the cork and allow the Cabernet Franc element an opportunity to develop and mellow while you wait for your stew pot to simmer. Pick lamb or beef, but make sure it has a little fat for flavour, and allow this young wine to cut past.
£7.75 Sainsbury’s, 75cl.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Château d’Agassac Haut-Médoc, Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot, Médoc, France, 2013 – 12.5% alc./vol. (red)
This wine is rich and long on the palate. Vanilla from the oak ageing is prominent in this silky smooth wine. Try it with côte de boeuf (rib on the bone) for your weekend roast with plenty of seasonal vegetables at the bottom of the roasting tray once you have pan seared your beef to lock in those juices.
£18.00 from Sainsbury’s, 75cl
Château Tour St Bonnet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Medoc, Bordeaux, France, 2012 – 13% alc./vol. (red)
Boasting a heavy taste of cherry and blackcurrant, it has some oak notes and is a delicious savoury wine. Sit back and savour a glass or two with some rustic venison pate.
£16.95 from Wine Raks, 75cl.
Domaine des Violettes, Côtes du Rhône, Grenache/ Mourvedre/ Syrah/ Carignan, Northern Rhone, France 2016, – 14% alc./vol. (red)
An easy sipping wine with plenty of dark berry fruits and a slight spice, this should be enjoyed with charcuterie. And with plenty of small artisanal producers around Scotland, there’s a whole host of meats you can get your hands on easily. Add some warm fresh bread, making it yourself at home if you feel up to the challenge.
£8.95 from Wine Raks, 75cl.
Bourgogne, Vallet Fiéres, Pinot Noir, Gevry-Chambertin, France, 2015, – 13% alc./vol. (red)
This well-established Burgundy has hints of pepperiness. Well aged but not over oaked, it features a sweet, dry tannins. A wonderful example of this wine style why not confit some lamb shoulder for several hours in a low oven, and serve it with braised vegetables to complement and some stock juices – marvellous!
£21.95 from Wine Raks, 75cl.
Gigondas, Domaine du Gour de Chaulé, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Southern Rhone, France, 2015 – 14% alc./vol. (red)
A great big red fruit-filled wine with plenty of spice to it. It has a wonderful fruity nose and a rich ruby colour, with a hint of oaky vanilla in there, too. Serve with a cheeseboard but ensure to have some Selle Sur Cher (ash aged goats cheese) and pickled walnuts as well.
£25.95 from Wine Raks, 75cl.
Méo-Camuzet, Fixin, Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France, 2017 – 13% alc./vol. (red)
A sophisticated Pinot Noir it has a slight earthy quality with hints of cherry. A wine that ideally you would wait for it to develop for a few more years, it it hard to resist not opening it.
Serve with some pan roasted venison loin with a berry jus with Lyonnaise potatoes – the perfect autumnal pairing when recreated bringing that restaurant feel to your home on those special occasions.
£45 from Rutabaga, 75cl
Le Brave, Guillaume Gonnet, Cairanne, Grenache/ Syrah, Southern Rhone, France, 2016, – 14% alc./vol. (red)
A fantastic wine with rich dark fruit and a background spice, it is a warming rounded wine, well suited to pair with some lamb gigot chops (lamb leg steaks), loose polenta, seasonal greens and pan juices. A mouth-watering pairing indeed.
£15 from Rutabaga, 75cl
Château les Platanes, Merlot/ Cabernet Franc, Bordeaux, France, 2016 – 14% alc./vol. (red)
The smooth tannins in this wine and showing very well in this Bordeaux. Smooth on the palate, what’s not to love with this blend? A midweek steak night treat perhaps why not try Onglet (hanger) steak with some oven roasted beetroot and potato wedges and a little Dijon mustard. Simple and delicious.
£16 from Rutabaga, 75cl
Château Vessière, Syrah/ Grenache Noir, Rhône Vallée, France, 2015, – 13% alc./vol. (red)
This organic estate has produced a fantastic Rhone style, with soft tannins and no time in oak. Plenty of roundness on the palate, allow this wine to breathe and the nose to soften. Pair with braised ox cheek (use the same wine you will be drinking when cooking) and serve with silky mash potato (50/50 potato to butter ratio). With the cold weather closing in, you deserve this perfect pair.
£16 from Rutabaga, 75cl.
When not scribbling down wine-tasting notes, John Kelman can be found hosting virtual tastings and more at www.rutabaga.co.uk. You will also find a full list of wines and spirits on the site.