Raising our glasses to fine wines in terrible times

It’s almost the first Saturday of 2022 and yet you’re reading the wine column!

Saturday, 8th January 2022, 6:00 am

Have you no shame? Or do your resolutions not start until next week? Well, dear tipplers, you’re not alone. I am waiting until Monday coming myself to officially bid adieu to the indulgences of the festive season and say a fond farewell to 2021, a year which was described to me by one friend as bizarre and by another as unprecedented. And so I wondered, is ordinary the opposite of bizarre and, if so, what is ordinary? Not much more ordinary than love, life or death, is there? And isn’t every year unprecedented? Just me?

To assist (or perhaps insist?) that I observe my own New Year resolutions my darling wife, the redoubtable Madame G., has helpfully locked the wine cellar at our lovely home, Rose Cottage, and hidden the key in a very private place. Nonetheless, my livelihood dictates that I continue to direct any wine-gleugging reprobates out there who can still cobble together the price of a wee swallie towards some dacent bottles. And not just any old wine- today I dish out the gongs for the best wines I tasted in the nothing-bizarre-or-unprecedented-about-it-at-all year of 2021. Sure, didn’t they call 2020 unprecedented too? Drum roll, maestro!

Best red wine (under £10): the elegant, superbly balanced and delightfully tangy 2019 Chateau Les Rambauds (£9, M&S). Lots of ripe raspberry and damson flavours on its rich, intriguing palate before a smooth, lingering finish. A Malbec to sip slowly and savour. Smoky, supple and delicately spiced, this medium-bodied, sophisticated claret teems with densely focussed flavours of dark berries, black cherries and blackcurrants which jostle for attention alongside subtle earthy pungent spices before a deeply satisfying finish with hints of black pepper. An exceptionally versatile drop which will go very well wth mildly spiced meat dishes.

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Best white wine (under £10): the ferociously crisp, fabulously fresh and unctuously heady 2020 Saleta Moscatel Sauvignon Blanc (£7.25, the Wine Society, visit www.thewinesociety.com or telephone 01438-741177). An extravagantly floral bouquet leads to a lively palate, full of citrus and orchard fruit flavours before a brisk, refreshing finish. One for simple trout or salmon and some wintry sunshine to brighten these straitened and challenging days.

Best sparkling wine (under £10): the lipsmackingly crisp, reassuringly complex and satisfyingly savoury Valdobbiadene Allini Conegliano Superiore Prosecco (£7.99, Lidl). This effervescent Italian fizz greets you with captivating floral aromas before a richly textured palate that teems with tangy berry and slightly sharper citrus flavours. I know it probably doesn’t mean as much to the makers as this award but it’s worth noting in passing that it was also named Best Prosecco in the World at this year’s World Sparkling Wine Awards. Enjoy with canapes.

You’ll notice that all today’s recommendations cost less than £10 (don’t worry, rich people, it’s our turn next week). That’s because I’m mindful of the fact that so many of the little people out there may well be hopelessly skint after weathering the ravaging expenses of Christmas on what for so many has been a significantly reduced income. Perhaps the only reason you’re still drinking is to distract yourselves from the awful misery of your dire financial situation. And the fact that there’s nowhere to go and not much else to do- the shops, bars, restaurants and even the doors to friends’ and family’s houses all carrying warning signs- enter at your own risk etc. Sorry for reminding you but these are indeed bizarre times. Unprecedented, some say. Now, I wonder if I was to don a cravat and a fine shirt and strides might I persuade my Madame to reveal the whereabouts of that key to the cellar. Till next week, tipplers, sante!