Red Wines by the Fire

Despite spring being little more than a month away, the winter weather seems to be a permanent fixture at the moment. What better way to forget the rain at night than by closing the curtains, cosying up to a roaring fire and enjoying a rather nice glass of red wine – very hygge and perfect for Valentine’s too!


Our friends Saxtys, a jolly good wine merchant’s in Hereford, have put together a list of four of the best red wines to enjoy on these cold February evenings. All that’s left to say is ‘cheers’.

Rioja

Rioja is a place rather than a grape variety and is found in Northern Spain. Known not only for wine, but also its rich history and culture its wines are the unquestionable star of the show.

Rioja is made from the delicately-skinned Tempranillo grape offering winemakers the ability to put their own stamp on their variety and giving the consumer a wealth of diverse options. When you head to the Rioja section in your local wine shop, you may come across names such as Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva, so what do these mean?

They’re simply an indication of the wine’s age. Crianza means the wine must have spent at least one year in an oak barrel and another in the bottle before going on sale. They tend to be a fruitier wine and are perfect to drink regularly. The oak imparts subtle hints to the wine, but it’s certainly not over-powering so ideal to drink on its own or to accompany lighter meals.

Reserva means the wine must have also had at a year in oak barrels, but a further two years in bottle before heading out to customers, resulting in a slightly spicier, vanilla flavour.

Then there’s the grandfather of the group – the Gran Reserva. This wine must have spent at least two years in oak barrels and three more in the bottle before you can get your hands on it. This tends to make it more expensive, but worth it as a special treat! They can have all sorts of flavours, from tobacco to leather and even a hint of farmyard (yes you read that correctly). The winemakers tend to hang on to them a little longer than necessary to allow these flavours to develop before they hit the shelves, so most Gran Reserva’s tend to be around the 10 year old mark. Saxty’s believe the perfect match for Rioja is roast lamb. The fruitiness compliments the meat perfectly whilst the structure and tannins stand up to the powerful flavours of the meat.


Argentinian Malbec

This new kid on the block is bang on trend at the moment. It’s usually affordable, has all the right flavours and an easy drinking style either on its own or with food.

Malbec is actually one of the oldest grape varieties and originally came from France. It is still the backbone of the Cahors region in southern France, which produce incredible wines to this day. It was once one of the most popular grapes grown in the Loire Valley too. However, it has very much found its home in Argentina where they have just over 89,265 acres, making it the most popular variety in the country by far. The fruit are one of the biggest grape varieties out there and have thick skins, meaning they are resistant to frost and disease. The Argentinian wine tends to be much more velvety and ripe than their French counterparts and due to the plentiful sunshine, enough alcohol to benefit from oak ageing.

Although they’re wonderful drunk on their own, they match brilliantly with steak. So if you fancy a hearty meal, opt for a great Herefordshire steak with chips and a glass of Terrazas de los Andes Malbec.


Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a variety that can take a little while to get to grips with but it’s worth it in the end! Ninety nine percent of red wine from Burgundy is made using this grape, which found fame and fashion after the 2004 film Sideways. If you head to the Burgundy section in most wine shops, you might be a little taken aback by the prices as they can be a little on the costlier side. However, there are many new world regions producing this wine and their prices can be a little easier on the pocket.

There are several reasons why it is more expensive. It is very difficult to grow and therefore demands a lot of the viticulturist and the winemaker. Its thin skin make it susceptible to disease and frost can also be a major issue in the Burgundy region. Nevertheless, the compelling flavour combinations, balanced acidity and delicate red fruit flavour all make this wine one of the best in the world. But it’s not all about Burgundy. New World Pinot Noirs are taking the wine world by storm and the Americans have well and truly cemented their place in the Pinot Noir league table too. Well-made Californian Pinot Noir from cooler, coastal regions such as Sonoma County or Carneros can emulate the acidic, minerally wines of France, but have a richer fruit undertone to them. They often have a more prominent fruit forward style as opposed to the earthier, spicier French character.

We are currently loving Californian Pinot Noir and the La Crema Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, in particular. Great with roast chicken or a mushroom risotto.


Australian Shiraz

Shiraz is the Australian name for this particular grape variety, but it’s also known as ‘Syrah’ in its native France.

Syrah is one of the most noble grape varieties in the wine world. Shiraz is a heavy, bossy, powerful wine with an assertive, unmistakable style. No other region named their ‘Syrahs’ as ‘Shiraz’ until the export boom in the 1980s. During this time, producers realised that they could create two wines from the same grape variety with a little winemaker magic. Nowadays, you will see Shiraz and Syrah from all over the globe. Shiraz tends to be more robust with a high alcohol content whilst Syrah is likely to be more elegant and restrained. We are currently enjoying French Syrah and Cote-Rôtie is hard to beat.

Cote-Rotie translates as ‘roasted slope’ so this gives you an idea of the style of the wine. It’s full and fleshy on the palate with an unmistakeable depth and richness; perfect as an accompaniment to game.


Saxtys Wines are an independent wine merchant based in the heart of Herefordshire. You might know Saxtys Bar and Restaurant on Widemarsh Street where it’s been for the past 40 years. Saxtys Wines online was set up six years ago and just before Christmas 2016, they opened their first high street shop stocking a huge range of wines and a fantastic collection of vintage ports, artisan gins, prestige champagnes and rare whiskeys.