Thirsty's Elodie Cameron on reds that will see you through January on a shoestring
January is a long month. After the bloating and enjoyment of Christmas, many of us enjoyed the flush feeling the early Christmas payday brings, yet most of us are counting our pennies by the time we get to New Year’s Day. To add to that, it is cold, dark and grey – the post-Christmas glow has definitely dimmed and the sight of discarded Christmas trees is a reminder that it is time to tighten our belts in more ways than one. It is also the last time of the year when you want to be thinking about a month of no drinking – dry January, who thought that was a good idea? I always feel that is best left for the spring when energy levels return and the days start getting longer.
So for now we need good value, something that allows us to curl up in the warmth with winter-proof food and hold out until spring arrives. We want good value reds. We want to bring a little sunshine into our homes with bold reds from warmer climes to get us through the depths of winter.
Wines around the £10 mark can offer great value. The costs of bringing you that bottle are the same as a bottle half the price, but the value of the contents is several times more, so this really is a sweet spot, and this is where my attention is focused. When I think about hearty wines that are great with food or curled up in front of a roaring fire my mind instantly travels to Southern Europe: all that sunshine in a bottle is sure to perk us up until we can top up our vitamin D levels with real sun.
Convento da Vila Tontoi, Alentejo (£10)
Wines from the Alentejo region of Portugal are warm, generous and easygoing, offering rustic style with substance at a great price. These wines are soft and intense and this is no exception. A herbal, almost minty note, with plenty of delicate red fruit and fine tannins. This will pair well with most meats (even chicken) and vegetable dishes.
Cotes du Rhone, Domaine de la Berthete (£9.40)
This great value Cotes du Rhone is just what you’d expect: full-bodied, rounded and nicely balanced tannins coupled with soft black fruits, hints of cinnamon, black pepper and a touch of smoky bacon. Grilled red meats, lamb curry, stir-fried pork and medium cheeses work well with this.
Il Faggio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (£9.20)
This selection would not be complete without something Italian, and the Montepulciano grape offers the intense colour and concentration we yearn for in the depths of winter when we want something that is going to rock our tastebuds. Black fruit and coffee followed by a chocolate and cherry character and spicy notes with robust but supple tannins. This wine is great with pasta with tomato sauces, lamb and game.
All in all, January might turn out to be not so bad after all!