Whether it’s enjoyed with a perfectly cooked steak, a wildly tangy hunk of cheese, or simply on its own, there aren’t many drinks to rival the heady embrace an intensely characterful and full bodied red wine can give – an embrace that becomes particularly welcome on a dark and wet January evening.
There are a number of regions that over the last few years, having been victims of their own success, have gained a reputation for big buxom wines that reek of mass production and the oversight of real love and craft, wines that negate any character and flavour profile but instead provide a smack around the face (perhaps a strategic choice at the end of a long week?), but moving away from the brands and taking the lead of the land you’ll find wine makers and producers who have managed to keep the integrity and care needed to turn these big bold reds into something magnificent.
From the Old world – specifically Rioja and much of Italy – esteemed wine makers are revisiting their heritage and the innate quality their terroirs impart upon the wines, while the reinvention of California and more recently, Australia, where a small number of innovative young producers are producing wines that take a step back to the artisanal and away from the industrial domination they have seen, you’ll find a whole host of multi layered wines with infinitely more finesse and depth – wines that can stand alone and tantalise any taste bud, and we’re lucky enough to live in a city where if you seek them out you will surely find:
Remelluri Reserva, 2010, Rioja
Founded by monks in the 14th century, and housing some of the oldest wine making remains in the region, Remelluri is one of only a few family owned estates in Rioja and is headed up by Telmo Rodriguez – a renowned Spanish winemaker whose mission to reclaim the area’s viticultural history with diverse terroir led wines showcase exactly how outstanding Rioja wines can be. Complex and layered yet smooth and quaffable with well-balanced tannins and hints of oak, you can enjoy this at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels from magnum – because big bottles really do taste better – for £13 by the glass. The 2009 vintage is also available by the bottle at The Marksman at £54.
Cuvée Maurin, La Berangeraie, Cahors, 2011
100% Malbec from SW France, this wine is a wonderful example of the effects of terriors – taking their native grape which has now found much bigger fame in Argentina, to produce a very different wine from its South American counterpart, it is also the only appellation in SW France you’ll find to use neither Cabernet Sauvignon or Franc. A big fruity wine with hints of spice, it is much lighter and less jammy than the opulent heavier style of Malbec produced in Argentina, and invariably more purse friendly than wines of similar quality to its neighbour Bordeaux.
Best indulged in at Petit Pois Bistro alongside their Steak Frites at £45, although generally available by the glass for just £8.
Principiano, Ferdinando 2012 Barolo Serralunga
With a small production of just 150 cases a year from a prized estate in Monforte, this low intervention classic method Barolo from the family run estate is a step away from big heavy Piedmont wines of the 90s and shows a beautiful expression of what these wines can be at their best. Ferdinando Principiano took a complete change of tact in the early 00’s taking the production fully organic and the result is a harmonious and aromatic wine with great character, and as a relatively young vintage is already mellow and approachable. Hop on a stool at the bar at newly opened Luca and enjoy by the glass for £13.50, ideally with a portion of parmesan fries.
Holus Bolus, Santa Rita Hills, Syrah, 2012
Having set up a shop in a modest warehouse in the Santa Rita Hills near the turn of the century, this family outfit have been turning heads with their small production range of Pinot Noir, Roussanne and Syrah wines, and it’s easy to understand why. The stunning label alone is enough to make you swoon, and then the wine steps in and seals the deal. Sweet and silky with vibrant red fruits and a brilliant depth of character – the result is a big yet equally very quaffable wine. By the glass at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, £13.