Lockdown has seen Brits unable to enjoy a night out at their local pub and instead many of us have become content to stay in with a bottle of wine and a good film on Netflix. This has led to more of us taking an interest in trying new wines or spending a little extra on their favourite tipple.
During the successive lockdowns, we’ve discovered that enjoying a glass of red wine, while curled up on the sofa on a cold winter’s evening is what a cosy night at home is all about.
If you’d like to try something new – or want to understand the difference between Merlot and Malbec, then read on as we take you on a tour of some of the very best red wines to enjoy this winter.
Choosing a winter wine:
We tend to opt for red wine in the winter months as it is best served at room temperature. Unlike its crisp white cousin, which is traditionally served icy cold, reds have a warming effect on the body – and most varieties pair extremely well with traditional hearty winter dinners of stews and Sunday roasts.
If you’d rather be dreaming of summer days then cheer up a grey evening with a glass of light and fruity Pinot Noir. Made from thin-skinned red grapes which excel in colder climates, the best Pinot Noir is produced in Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany.
The wine is one of the few reds that is best served chilled to bring out the crisp flavours of tangy cherry and tart raspberry. Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with earthy vegetables, such as mushrooms, making it a good accompaniment to a vegetarian meal or a risotto.
It’s often said that if you don’t know which wine to choose in a restaurant, you won’t go wrong if you pick a hearty Malbec. One of the most famous regions where Malbec is produced is Mendoza in Argentina, where the wine is soft and rich which hints of plum and blackberry.
Recognisable by its deep purple hue, Malbec deserves a place in your wine rack as it goes with most foods. Try a glass paired with rich, crumbly blue cheese for a real foodie treat, or as an accompaniment to a Sunday lunch of roast pork and crackling or turkey.
Malbec wine is a true crowd-pleaser, so if you are invited to a dinner party it’s always a wise choice to take as a gift for your host and will go well with almost any dish served.
Merlot offers something for everyone, which is why it is one of the most popular red wines in the world. It’s easy-drinking, with a rich-ruby hue and soft tannins – everything you want from a winter wine.
The medium-bodied wine exudes a range of flavours, from fruity black cherries and ripe plums to vanilla and spicy cloves – especially if it has been aged in oak casks.
Merlot can range in alcohol volume depending on where the grapes are grown. In warmer climates, such as Chile and California, the alcohol levels can reach 14.5%, while in cooler regions such as France, Merlot tends to have a lower Alcohol By Volume (ABV) of 13%.
Our pick of the best Merlot is Casillero del Diablo, a smoky wine from Chile with notes of dark chocolate and coffee. Enjoy a glass served with beef dishes – particularly steak or Beef Wellington – or tomato-based pasta dishes.
Syrah is an extremely popular red wine that originates from the Rhone Valley in France. However, the red grape is now grown successfully throughout the world, especially in warm climates such as Australia and California.
If you like your red wine to be bold, smoky and spicy, Syrah is an excellent choice for a winter evening and is perfect when paired with roast lamb, a warming beef stew, or wild game.
Try this Guigal Cotes du Rhone from one of France’s top wineries for a traditional Syrah that’s packed with dark fruits and bold flavours.
Developed in France in the 1600s, Cabernet Sauvignon is now grown in almost every major wine-making country, particularly the United States, Australia and across South America.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are thick-skinned, which means there is a high level of tannins, making this wine age particularly well.
One of the most famous areas outside of France for producing Cabernet Sauvignon is the Napa Valley in the United States. The region produces a full-bodied wine with flavours of blackcurrant, blackberry and notes of liquorice.
To experience a Napa Valley wine at its best, pair it with red meat, any dishes containing rosemary, or with a simple snack of salted crisps.
Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best-known Californian wines and is full-bodied, ruby red and delightfully drinkable.
All the wines we’ve featured so far are immensely popular, but if you’d like to sip a red wine that is not as widely known, then say hello to the very versatile Grenache.
Originating in Northern Spain, Grenache vines produce dark-skinned red grapes – and tend to be a little on the boozy side as the alcohol content by volume can be as high as 16%, which gives it distinctive and intense spicy cinnamon and black pepper flavours.
Often consumed as a dessert wine, it’s the perfect treat on a cold winter’s evening when paired with chocolate brownies. Wine and chocolate? You can’t get a better combination than that!