32. WINTER WARMERS
Here are some ideas for wines to drink during the cold months that lie ahead of us before spring appears.
First of all, something to drink before a meal. I have two suggestions, both rich and warming:
1. Dry Oloroso â€“ this is an old-fashioned style of sherry, not often seen in this country, where most Oloroso is sweetened and of low quality, a drink I am not fond of. Good quality dry Oloroso (the Spanish drink dry Oloroso) is a truly superb drink, fascinating, with flavours of burnt caramel, fine as an aperitif.
2. Dry Madeira â€“ not as dry as the Oloroso â€“ traditionally Madeira is never completely dry. This is made in the style of Sercial, so it is light (for Madeira) with wonderful fruitcake flavours.
Both these wines would also go very well with a first course, in particular with soup.
White wines to drink with winter food should have some weight to them, so that you donâ€™t have to drink them too cold â€“ more cellar temperature than fridge temperature. I am aware that Chardonnay is out of fashion, but that is because most cheap Chardonnay (and nearly all wine drunk in this country is less than Â£5 a bottle) is really not nice. White burgundy is made from Chardonnay, and something like a Pouilly-FuissÃ© would be a good bet; or a New Zealand Chardonnay, if you choose carefully. Another option would be a traditional well oaked white Rioja (emphatically not a modern style unoaked one) because the rich oak flavours fatten up the wine. Try the example from Lopez de Heredia, Riojaâ€™s most traditional bodega â€“ this is a truly spectacular wine, with great individuality and character, though not cheap, but worth every penny.
Now for reds: the RhÃ´ne is a good starting place, since it produces rich, warming reds. Good CÃ´tes du RhÃ´nes represent brilliant value. Cheap CÃ´tes du RhÃ´nes are either merchantsâ€™ blends where they buy in wines from all over the region and mix them together to produce some rather disappointing wines, or from co-operatives which may not put quality at the top of their list. They can be thin and uninteresting. Choose a CÃ´tes du RhÃ´ne from an individual estate â€“ it will cost you a bit more, though it wonâ€™t be expensive â€“ and you are likely to discover a really excellent wine. You could also range further round the south of France to the Roussillon â€“ try, for instance, Fingal-Rockâ€™s CÃ´tes du Roussillon Villages, which tastes much more expensive than it is, a bargain at Â£9.95 â€“ it is chocolatey and spicy, perfect for cold winter evenings. Or another possibility would be a Valpolicella Ripasso â€“ an enriched Valpolicella, nothing like ordinary mass-market Valpolicella, because it is put on the pressed grapes that make Amarone. It is, if you like, a mini-Amarone.
Finally, at the end of the meal, I recommend a brown sherry, Walnut Brown â€“ sweet, but not too sweet, with a tase of walnuts â€“ delicious!