Wine & Food

    Cartoon: Guy Venables

    The best wines to enjoy this winter

    23 November 2020

    The Emissary Prosecco NV, 11%vol, £13.49

    Don’t be put off by the gaudy front label and annoying guff on the back about the hunt for ‘a truly unforgettable elixir’, because what’s inside the bottle is really very tasty indeed. A blend of 85 per cent Glera and 15 per cent Pinot Grigio, it’s fresh, floral, crisp and lively with vibrant, juicy fruit and, with just 4 grams of sugar per litre, a bracingly, thirst-quenchingly dry finish. There’s a lot of crap prosecco out there these days and this is anything but, and it’s nigh on impossible not to drain the bottle and ponder a second.

    2012 Les Pionniers Vintage Champagne, 12%vol,£27; Co-op

    I’m not a fan of supermarket champagne. Although cheap, they’re all too often a false economy, trading on the magical name that is champagne, bitterly acidic and made from the umpteenth pressing of the least good grapes from the least good parts of the least good vineyards. This, however, is a glorious exception, a first-rate vintage champers made expressly for the Co-op by Piper-Heidsieck. It’s toasty, nutty and creamy with a kick of citrus and a teasingly fine mousse. It’s fantastic value, as is the sibling Les Pionniers NV for just £19.

    2019 Chemin de la Serre Blanc, 12.5%vol, (£8.50 by the dozen, otherwise £8.95; Davy’s)

    A little gem, this, made exclusively for Davy’s by Alain Grignon and his team at LGI Wines, specialists in sourcing, producing and supplying first-rate, well-priced vino from the Languedoc. A typical southern French blend of Marsanne and Viognier, it’s rounded and soft with plenty of peaches and apricots and even a whisper of tropical lychee. It’s cleverly kept in check though by a fine acidity and whilst I would hardly say it was complex, it makes for an extremely gratifying, easy-going, everyday house white.

    2017 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris ‘Roche Roulée’, 13.5%vol, (£20; Wine Society)

    From Alsace, this was my runaway favourite at a recent tasting of around 80 first-rate highlights from the sainted Wine Society’s list. My tasting note simply said: ‘Gorgeous!’. Produced by the great Olivier Humbrecht MW, pioneer of biodynamic winemaking and host of a memorable Spectator Winemaker’s Lunch a while back, it’s nothing if not seductive. Velvety soft, with creamy peaches, quinces and ripe pears on nose and palate, a hint of honey, and a long, long, ample finish that closes slightly off-dry, I couldn’t get enough of it.

    2018 Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico, 13.5%vol, (£16.75; VINVM)

    If you know and love Chianti Classico then you will know and love la famiglia Ricasoli, custodians of Castello di Brolio for almost 900 years. This latest incarnation of Ricasoli’s entry level wine has just been released and is a complete delight. A blend of 80 per cent Sangiovese, 15 per cent Merlot and 5 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, drawn over 200 vineyard plots, each parcel was fermented separately. The result is beautifully balanced, full of rich red and dark berry fruit, a touch of spicy herbs and noticeable but far from aggressive tannins. Already wonderfully drinkable, it’ll get even better.

    2017 Tesco Finest* Dessert Semillon, 11.5%vol, (£6 per 37.5cl; Tesco)

    I’m a complete sucker for tasty sweet wines and this is astoundingly, jaw-droppingly, stop-you-in-your-tracks tasty and daftly cheap too. Produced by the fabled de Bortoli family in Riverina, New South Wales, Oz, from late-picked, botrytised Semillon grapes, it’s lusciously, lip-smackingly sweet. But thanks to a keen acidity it’s splendidly fresh too and far from cloying. I just wish they wouldn’t call it a dessert wine for it’s just as scrumptious with rich starters and stinky cheeses as it is with pudding. Indeed, I prefer it at the end of a meal on its own, so satisfying is it.