Few wines caused as much controversy and aroused passion in The Wine Show as Amarone. The semi-dried grapes don’t just concentrate cherry-fruit, spice and alcohol. They also concentrate emotion and devotion to the style. It’s a big wine, with a big heart and needs big flavours (think long, slow-cooked beef with a sticky gravy) that’s believed to be almost medicinal among many Italians. When the nights draw in, this is what you want in your cupboard.
One of those Chilean wines that the world fell in love with in the 80’s. A fruity, curranty, mid-weight Cabernet that was all about the fruit, not a Quixotic journey to find a way of expressing the soil or the winemaker’s heritage in liquid form. It needs food to really flourish – I like pork dishes or my favourite Chorizo and Butter Bean stew. That hint of paprika spice has a complement in the wine’s finish.
Amarone is made with the ‘appassimento’ technique – grapes laid out on bamboo beds over the winter to dry out and concentrate. When they ferment there’s more of everything. Cherry fruit, spice, fig, plum and… alcohol too. It’s a big, grand wine perfect with big, grand dishes like beef and game. But don’t serve too warm. That alcohol prefers a cool room or cellar temperature. If you’ve not had it yet, try this at least once.
If you think winemaking is easy this name will correct you. Calvarino means ‘little Calvary’, a hint at the crucifying work of growing grapes on this steep hill with its winding path. But it produces a complex, restrained wine that surprises you with its almond blossom scents, and persistent fruit. Go for grilled fish drizzled with olive oil and fresh vegetables.
A big grand wine for a great occasion. Complexity is the mark of a great wine, and this has it in spades. A concentrated cherry fruit from dried, concentrated grapes that make this wine. And then waves of balsamic, cake, meat, herbs and spice. It’s a heady mix in a deftly crafted beast. Big meaty dishes and cheeses are the order of the day here.
One of the great summer wines, this is everything Soave should be. Lightly aromatic, fresh and youthful. Its gentle citrus and almond blossom aromas complement rather than compete to make for a wonderful food matching wine. Baked fish with a squeeze of lemon, summer salads, grilled vegetables and seafood. All delicious.
Imagine a limoncello but with a deeper, more beguiling citrus character and a texture less sticky and more velvety. You’re getting close to a Yuzushu, a Japanese liqueur made from sake and a yuzu. Yuzu is a citrus fruit with flavours somewhere between a grapefruit and mandarin orange and that comes through this delicious drink.
For so long the poor ‘blending’ cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux; here we get to see Cabernet Franc show off. It’s all raspberry and violet and warm pepper over a vibrant heart of currant. This is a firm, well-built wine. Match up with lamb dishes or even steak. Recently we served this with a delicious moussaka too.
Vibrant with lime-citrus aromas and the unmistakeable character of passionfruit, this wine’s refreshing zing lets you know that its grapes have been cooled by the bracing Humboldt current in the nearby pacific. Summer salads, lightly spiced seafood and grilled chicken are the best food matches.
What better way to discover Chile than taste your way through its styles and regions. Montes’ heartland is the warm Colchagua Valley with Cabernet and Malbec, but then see how cool Casablanca brings out the vibrancy of Sauvignon and elegance of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Then in the bowl-like Apalta vineyard, Montes embrace the future of Chile with a Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre blend. Is the next chapter of Chile an homage to the Rhone?
I love this wine. It’s exactly what a Chilean Merlot should be, soft and rounded with a touch of capsicum (from the Merlot) and redcurrant (from being Chilean). There’s also the heritage of Bernardo O’Higgins and the ‘120’ in the wine’s cellar. Chill this slightly, and serve with light, informal dishes like a mid-week paella.
Here is one of the world’s great ‘icon’ wines, that deserves the title and is still within reach of mere mortals. A wine that changed our perceptions of Chilean wine forever. It remains true to its origins with a deftly crafted masterclass in pure Cabernet Sauvignon. Cassis, spice, cedar, toast and the capacity to age. Serve with something devastatingly simple like a roast Cote de Boeuf. Let the wine sing.
This flavoured sake will change your life. It’s infused with Ume plums, and balances a sweet fruit (like a bullace if you’ve ever had one) with a sour tang. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like it. And you can make fabulous cocktails and refreshing aperitifs with it too. An Umeshu Tonic is once tasted, never forgotten.
If you like sherry or Madeira you’ll love this aged sake. Three years age gives it a warm aroma of dried fruit and nut and a gentle sweetness. It’s fascinating to match dishes with too – from things like pate and umami-rich meat courses to nuts and even some puddings. A Daruma is a doll modelled on Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism and brings good luck.
Wine fans who have not discovered Sake yet are missing a trick. But it’s understandably intimidating with a whole new language and names. This sake is a great place to start. It’s mellow and full-bodied and will match dishes like oven-baked salmon and hearty meat dishes. Other styles may be more refined but this is richly satisfying.
I’m a bit proud of this sake, as over lunch a few years ago I convinced brewer Iwao Niizawa to sell his sake in the UK. This is one for lovers of Sauvignon Blanc and New World Chardonnay with fruitiness and aromatic lift. Don’t match with Sashimi. Think of herb-dotted salads and grilled vegetable and fish. Match the elegant texture as much as the aromas and flavours.
In the late 17th Century, ¾ of all wine sold in England was Portuguese – fortified Ports and unfortified wines like this. Well, perhaps not with the delicious, wild-berry fruit and clean spice. Churchill’s have been working hard to create a modern, rich, hearty style that’s perfect with game dishes, barbecues and roasted vegetables.
This is the Port that got a lot of us into Port. Vau Vintage was controversial when it was launched (in the 80’s) as it’s a ‘real’ Vintage Port but made in a fruitier, earlier drinking style. There’s the classic sweet opening, followed by raspberry and cherry and aromas of Dundee cake and spice. It’s also staggeringly good value. You can match it with puds too – one of the few wines to go with chocolate.
I stand by the assertion that you will find no better value ‘fine wine’ than vintage Port. Luscious, aromatic, complex and endlessly rewarding. It’s not ‘declared’ every year – only the good ones. And each is different. This is good to go now but will live on. 1985 was a fragrant year rather than a blockbuster with supple structure. Enjoy it on its own or with a world-class cheese board.
Pronounced ‘Ramoosh Tint’ with just a hinted aspiration at the end, here another great Port house makes a glorious dry, unfortified red. This has the herbal quality to the dark cherry and damson fruit that evokes memories of the brush covered hill sides in the beautiful Douro Valley. Have this with grilled vegetables and cheese (like Halloumi) for a great night in.