Angela Mount, wine and food critic, takes us on a vinous voyage of discovery
Welcome to 2017, and, hopefully, to many new delicious and unusual vinous discoveries. January is the time for new starts, new challenges, new experiences, so why not do the same with wine? Beat the gloom and doom of cold days and nights with some new revelations to add to your wine repertoire – wines to warm the evenings, without breaking the bank, as belts are tightened in the post Christmas slump.
Let’s kick off January with Lambrusco – yes, Lambrusco, but not as most of you know it, and it’s red to boot. Forget the sweet, insipid muck of the eighties, this is the genuine stuff that the Italians have been drinking for years. The authentic version of this deliciously fruity froth is making a welcome comeback.
Lambrusco di Sorbara Vecchia Modena, Chiarli NV (£13.95 down to £ 9.95 for January at Great Western Wine) is a delightfully dry, fizzy red, with a glorious ruby hue, bursting with effervescent scents and flavours of ripe cherries and raspberries. It’s bright, zippy, with a refreshingly dry finish. Soft and fruity, try this one with platters of charcuterie.
Winter calls for warming, softer whites, which will match well with hearty bowls of stew, and spicy, oriental dishes, which liven up jaded tastebuds. At a recent wine dinner with Vietnamese cookery teacher Noya Pawlyn, top votes went to a fragrant, peaches and cream white from southern Italy.
Malvasia del Salento 2015 (GWW £10.75), may not be that well known, but well worth a try. It’s a gentle and elegant delight, with scents of nectarines and honeysuckle, and smooth flavours of tropical fruit with a citrus twist. Lively and fresh, with a crisp finish, it’s the touch of acacia honey softness that gives the wine the extra edge needed to cope with spicy food.
White Burgundy is often another comforting and smile-inducing winter white, but not particularly January-friendly, with its generally high price tags. Keep all the style, all the flavour, but at a fraction of the price by exploring Les Mougeottes Chardonnay IGP Pays d’Oc 2015 (GWW (£9.95).
It’s not Burgundy, but it certainly tastes like one, and would fool many people in a blind tasting. Rich and buttery, with creamy baked apple and pear frangipane character, it’s smooth and delightful, with a kick of fresh lemon on the finish.
Perfect for chilly evenings with chicken casserole, ideal by the fire with an oozingly rich, ripe camembert, or for a lighter food option, spot on with salmon.
Finally, to something and somewhere totally different; Lebanon has a long and noble history of winemaking, strongly influenced by Bordeaux. Ixsir Altitudes Red 2011 (GWW £16.95 down to £12.95 for January) is produced in the mountains of the Bekaa valley, at 1,100m above sea level.
Up this high, the grapes stay fresh, and the resulting wine has richness and intensity, but also a delicious liveliness. Produced with the influence of the winemaker from Chateau Angelus, it’s a perfumed, seductive, stylish red from a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, caladoc and tempranillo. It’s a jewel of a wine, with ripe cassis and wild herb flavours, combined with scents of violets and spicy black pepper.
I could wax lyrical about this one; suffice to say, it’s a bargain in January, so stock up now – be bold, be different, and indulge in this delight with roasts, tagines, or slow-braised, herb-infused lamb shanks.