Heartwarming reds for winter sipping

While we’re shivering through what feels like the coldest winter ever here in British Columbia, we finally have the encouragement we need to try some heartwarming reds that can help take the chill out of our evenings.

Higher levels of alcohol, ripe rich red and black berry fruit flavours, brisk and peppery spiced tannins are the characteristics that give red wines the kind of weight and body that warms the soul.

Affordable red wines can sometimes be medium or even light bodied.  And they are often lacking the concentration of fruit and tannins to really be heartwarming. However, there are a few exceptions.

The Artisan Wine Co puts together quite a variety of wines that are ‘Cellared in Canada’ from a blend of domestic and imported wines.  Spicy blueberry, plum and blackberry aromas and flavours make their very affordable Tangled Vines Malbec Merlot (402131) $8.99 a bargain buy in the rich and heartwarming red wine category.

South American reds are amongst the least expensive wines to really deliver ripe, rich fruit and firm tannins.  Argentina is a good place to start looking and Chile is not far behind.

Out of Argentina, Finca Los Primos Malbec (441261) $13.85 (…for a full litre sized bottle!) is a rich and full-bodied Malbec. This red sports lots of ripe cherries and plums together with fresh-cut tobacco leaf aromas and flavours. It has a rounded, supple and fat feel about that makes it a deeply warming and satisfying wine.

From Chile’s Colchagua Valley, Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah (139253) $14.69 is a blend of 60 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 per cent Syrah. Intense blueberry and black fruit aromas with a hint of cedar and nuances of white pepper precede seriously ripe flavours that echo the aromas. The fine dark red deposit at the bottom of the last couple of glasses reflects how rich the wine was when bottled.

The Toro region is in the northwest corner of Spain. Since the mid 1990’s, many top winemakers from other regions have gone to Toro and used modern winemaking techniques to capture the distinct qualities of the Tinta de Toro varietal.

Made from ‘Old Vines’ with an average of 75 years Monte Hiniesta (879007) $16.30 is 100 per cent Tinta de Toro (aka: Tempranillo) Aged 12 months in new French Allier and Troncais oak barrels. Black fruit aromas mingle with subtle spicy notes of cumin and coriander. This is old fashioned Spanish winemaking at its best!

Renowned for their Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs, we don’t often think of New Zealand’s twin islands as a source of rich, ripe reds

A blend of 88 per cent Merlot and 12 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, New Zealand’s Sacred Hills Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet (847996) $17.99 has oodles of dusky ripe plum and red berry flavours with spicy hints of pepper and nuances of nuttiness.

From the Alto Adige in northwestern Italy’s Sud Tyrol the Schiava grape is known as Vernatsch or Trollinger in Germany. Relatively light for a rich red, Schiava has sweet strawberry aromas tweaked with spicy notes of liquorice and pepper.  Tasted blind, it is remarkably reminiscent of some ripe Spanish Garnachas.

From vines over 100 years old Galea Schiava (43356) $27.55 is as light coloured as some much more delicate Pinot Noirs. Despite that, it offers aromas and flavours of jammy over-ripe strawberries and plums with a sprinkling of ‘forest floor’ earthiness and a peppery minerality in the finish.

Wakefields’s Jaraman wines blend fruit from two iconic wine regions in Australia. The individual regional characteristics shine through, while creating an enticing and intriguing wine that is – like so many blends – so much more than merely the sum of its parts.

Overwhelmingly rich but still perfectly balanced, Wakefield Jaraman Shiraz (695122) $33.99 from grapes grown in the Clare Valley and McLaren Vale.  Aromas of black and blue berry fruit lead into fleshy flavours of ripe plums and blackberries. Complex undernotes of cloves and cinnamon add interest to the sturdy finish of this heartwarming and ‘chewy’ red wine.

Tickets for the Vancouver International Wine Festival running from February 11th through February 19th went on sale Tuesday January 10th.  Interested local wine lovers should visit their website at Vanwinefest.ca for details.  Hope to see you there!


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