For me, winter means mostly red wine drinking. And it's a great time to broaden my horizons by trying interesting wines from all over the world.
These selections will deliver enjoyment through the remaining winter months and beyond.
I recently came across these four excellent Aussies that will provide ideal accompaniment for hearty winter meals.
- 2011 Yangarra Grenache McLaren Vale Old Vine ($32). Grenache is the main grape in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and even though the terroir is different, the varietal red cherry and raspberry fruit laden with black pepper spice come through nicely, as do intriguing earthy notes delivered with a lush texture.
- 2010 Yangarra Shiraz McLaren Vale ($25). Australian Shiraz has been so successful in recent years that a lot of average stuff has flooded the markets. Thankfully, there still are many great Shiraz. This one is quite aromatic with dark berry fruit seasoned with meaty and cocoa accents. In the mouth, it is flavorful, rich and lively, with a balance of tannin and fruit to age gracefully.
- 2010 Two Hands "Gnarly Dudes" Shiraz Barossa Valley ($35). This is nearly as good as the Yangarra, with floral aromas, dark berries and sort of a smoky note. It is another big, rich wine but with sleek tannins and a fresh finish. Earthy, spicy notes provide additional interest throughout.
- 2009 Torbreck "The Steading" Barossa Valley ($38). A classic "GSM" - grenache syrah and mourvedre (also called mataro) - this one is heavy on the grenache to great effect. Red fruit and brown spices excite the opening, then join with a rich, flavorful and firm palate finishing with plenty of friendly tannins.
Blended wines can be an enlightening alternative for any occasion. Instead of the character of one variety, you get to experience different aromas and flavors as they come together to make a whole that is better than the sum of its parts.
- 2010 Craggy Range "Te Kahu" Gimblett Gravels Vineyard ($22). This merlot-dominated, Bordeaux-style blend from the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand is surprisingly good, given the price and its origins. Deeply fruited with plum, cherry and berry aromas and flavors merged with mineral and spice qualities, its solid structure and smooth tannins liven the engaging finish.
- Troublemaker Blend 7 ($20). This is a fun, "big fruit" blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre, zinfandel and petite sirah from Austin Hope, one of Paso Robles' leading producers. Notes of tobacco, vanilla and meat add further interest to this versatile wine, good for quaffing and comfortable at the table.
- 2011 Ventisquero "Grey" Carmenere Single Block ($24). Ventisquero's "Grey" line features all individual blocks from specific vineyards. This Carmenere hails from Block 5 of the Trinidad Vineyard in the Maipo Valley. Loads of black fruits, an earthy note and a touch of creamy oak flow through its aromas and flavors.
- 2009 Pertinace Nebbiolo ($18). Often wine critics treat wine co-ops with disdain. The conceit is that a collective of growers inevitably succumbs to the lowest common denominator, while individual producers are the only ones truly dedicated to excellence. Well, Cantina Pertinace, a cooperative of 12 wine growers in Barbaresco, proves this wrong. They produce an enviable line of Barolo, Barbaresco, Babera, Arneis and this enjoyable Nebbiolo.
- 2011 J. Lohr Estates Valdigui?Monterey ($10). This is a fun wine from a grape primarily grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon. It's cultivated sparsely in California, but J. Lohr has fashioned a grapey, interesting wine using partial carbonic maceration that simulates the drinking experience of Beaujolais or maybe a light Pinot Noir.
- 2012 Monte Velho Red ($10). While Portugal is most famous for its great Porto, its table wine is a go-to choice for good value with authentic character. Heredade do Esporao has fashioned this one from equal amounts of the indigenous grapes trincadeira, aragonez and castelao. It's pretty straightforward but is solid and firm, with tasty fruit.