(Photo taken from Conti di San Bonifacio under the CCL)
Welcome to 2016, dear readers!
If, like me, your Christmas and New Year fun seems like a rather distant memory and you're looking for something to brighten those long, cold Winter nights then you'll know that the answer is...WINE!
Some of you may well be doing "dry January", but I believe that in the dreariest month of the year we should be looking to reward ourselves for making our way through another tough week with a glass or two of something delicious. That is why I was really pleased to be contacted by Virgin Wines regarding their collection of much-loved winter reds. After all, what could be more tempting at the end of another day when you haven't seen any sunlight than a glass of a big, bold, full-bodied red whilst reclining in front of your log fire (not that I have a fireplace in my flat...!)?
Scanning through their list I was pleased to see all of the classics that fall into this category: Chilean Cabernet (always good value in my opinion), GSM blends from the Languedoc, as examples. I was sent a few bottles to sample and have spent the last couple of weeks tasting my through them - it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it...!
I started with a 2013 "Retromarcia" Chianti Classico from Monte Bernardi (Chianti, Italy), which Virgin Wines sell for £17.99/bottle. In the glass it sat a moody-looking medium/deep purple, with a slightly inky quality to it. On the nose it had strong primary aromas of juicy strawberries, which were complimented by some sweet red cherry notes. On tasting however, the sweetness evaporated and the dominant profile was of a bright and acidic cranberry, with little secondary presence. I had this wine without food and think that it was crying out for a plump steak or a mighty Bolognese to let the wines acidity be counter-balanced. I have a slightly mixed relationship with Chianti, in that I love it when I am in Italy, but find that the experience does not quite translate when you're in cold, dank England. This wine hasn't changed my opinion about that. Quality: 6.0; Value: 4.5
£11.99/bottle (2005 vintage). Spain is one of the few countries where you can get quality aged wine for less than £20 a bottle. Most of you will be very familiar with this in the form of Rioja, but its often-overlooked neighbour Navarra also makes very approachable, surprisingly inexpensive wine too. It doesn't belie its age when you look at it in the glass - it is a very deep and full-bodied purple. On the nose it has a fragrant and heady aroma of black cherry and strawberry compote with that tell-tale oak-aged profile of cinnamon. On tasting the wine starts with a juicy black cherry flavour, before a sour cherry note takes over for the finish - which tells of the wine's decent level of acidity. The finish wasn't quite as long as I was hoping for and the complexity wasn't really there, however for an £11.99/bottle of wine, I thought this was pretty decent. Quality: 6.5; Value: 7.0
Lastly I tasted one of their more "premium" wines, the 2012 "The Prize" Black Pig Shiraz (Clare Valley, Australia), on sale with Virgin Wines for £19.99/bottle. In the glass this wine sat resplendent with a regal purple shimmer to it. On the nose it was full of ripe black fruit, blackberries and blueberries; followed by secondary notes of an herbaceous element (aniseed and menthol) and a sweet spice aroma with cinnamon and star anise. When tasted it was big and bold with blackcurrants and ripe red cherries. It was a little one dimensional and lacked a secondary profile on tasting, which may come with further ageing (but I doubt it), however this was a very good wine - a perfect winter warmer. Quality: 7.5; Value: 7.0
I recommend checking out Virgin Wines for their winter reds collection. They do some pre-selected mixed cases for the indecisive amongst you, or alternatively they have a choice of over 500 different bottles to choose from.
So, what are you reaching for to warm the cockles of your heart on these long, cold winter nights??
Disclaimer: I was sent these wines as samples by Virgin Wines and did not pay for them. All opinions contained within this post are my own.