First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 12th October, 2019
I’m cold. Yesterday was balmy and sunny, and although you could feel a slight autumnal edge, it was still almost summery. Today is wet – very wet – and, for the first time, cold. The central heating is back on after a quiet few months.
Straight away, I search for a ripe and gently soothing bottle of wine to ease me into autumn. It is not quite Amarone weather yet (we shall visit there soon), but a substantial red is required, something with body and warmth and possibly a nice rustic edge.
I also begin thinking about buying some beef shin to make the first casserole of the season, to be served with creamy mashed potatoes. Or maybe some lamb, for a rich rogan josh. Or that sweet potato curry recipe I saw recently. Already all of those leafy salads look less appetising, and those crisp, light white wines less attractive.
The Spanish do a great line in stews and casseroles, usually simply called cocido. A Monastrell from Yecla or Jumilla would do nicely, but Spain produces a fantastic range of wines made from Garnacha, often at bargain prices. Most of them have a generous dollop of alcohol, too. I include one this week. Spanish-wine lovers know that the Calatayud region produces some fantastic Garnacha. The one on this page is made by David Seijas, formerly head sommelier at the famous El Bulli restaurant, and a former colleague, Ferran Centelles.
I like plenty of spice and a bit of heat in curries, but both can play havoc with wine. With a rich lamb curry or a tagine, I would go for a red wine with some ripeness, a decent amount of alcohol and little or no oak. A Shiraz or Merlot from Australia should work well, as would the Garnacha.
My sweet potato curry would probably go better with a white wine, but I don’t want white, and, with plenty of spice and some toasted nuts, I reckon it would go nicely with most substantial red wines, including the Barossa Merlot or Norton Malbec here. Around this time of year, vegetarian dishes with mushrooms, including porcini and chestnuts all go well with fuller-bodied reds.
I often also look to the southern Rhône for a bit of autumn sustenance. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the best-known name but not a cheap option. Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Cairanne can be a better bet, and the villages of Côtes du Rhône can offer excellent value. Three of this week’s wines cost less than €12, the other less than €20. All four should help ward off those winter blues.
Aldi Côtes du Rhône Villages Signargues 2018
Smooth and powerful, with supple, dark fruits and a nicely rounded finish. Try with boeuf bourguignon, a Provençal daube or a bowl of Irish stew.
From Aldi, aldi.ie
Norton DOC Malbec 2016
14%, €12.95 (down from €18.95 for October)
A very well-made modern Malbec with good, clean, pure loganberries and dark forest fruits, plus a light spiciness. Plenty of oomph but never overpowering. Perfect with beef stew, or mushroom casseroles.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
Barossa Merlot 2017, Australia
Soft, ripe plums and cassis in a rounded winter warmer. Great with curries and tagines.
From Marks & Spencer, marksandspencer.com
Mimetic 2018, Gallinas de Piel, Calatayud
A rich and powerful wine with masses of smooth, ripe dark fruits, offset perfectly by a subtle acidity and light tannins; gentle yet concentrated, this is a lovely wine. Pair with cocido and other stews.
From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Bradley’s, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Cinnamon Cottage, Rochestown, Co Cork, cinnamoncottage.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth, Co Kildare, elywinebar.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin, jusdevine.ie; Martin’s Off-Licence, Fairview, martinsofflicence.ie; Redmonds of Ranelagh, Dublin 6, redmonds.ie; stationtostationwine.ie