What more pleasant sight could there be on a cold winter’s evening than an open bottle of wine standing near a crackling log fire, gently absorbing a little of the warmth?
For many years I’ve kept two fires going throughout the chilly months, and they are currently fuelled by some well-seasoned beech, split at the end of the garden, which burns with clear, bright flames.
Some red wines, notably pinot noir, are better slightly cool, but there are others whose flavours blossom when they have been open for an hour or two and reached room temperature.
One of these is St Julien 2008 (13 per cent, £17.95), from the four-year-old online wine merchants www.fromvineyardsdirect.com, who have just announced sales growth of 95 per cent on the previous 12 months.
This is a lovely, rich, dark red claret, a blend of 85 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 15 per cent merlot, and excellent value for money.
It follows the same outfit’s Margaux and Pauillac, which were lauded a while ago by a lot of people, including myself.
Interestingly, the wine writer Hugh Johnson once declared in a standard reference work that if Pauillac makes the most brilliant wine of the Medoc, and Margaux the most refined and exquisite, St Julien forms the transition between the two.’
It’s certainly a notably impressive bottle, and one reckoned to have ten years’ life ahead of it. Recommended. Minimum order from this firm is a case of a mixed dozen.
Another Bordeaux recently added to its portfolio is Ronan 2006 (13 per cent, £9.95), from Chateau Clinet, described as a ‘Pomerol in all but name’.
Another very dark ruby red wine, with soft, velvety tastes, and a deep, fruity, cedary aroma. Again, recommended.
Still looking at wines for the fireside, but in the case of the two below, also to be transferred to the table when the meal being served is red meat-orientated – anything from roasts to ragouts and steaks to sausages.
Both are from a leading Chilean producer, and both feature the carmenere grape variety.
Errazuriz Carmenere Single Vineyard 2008 (14.5 per cent, £14.99, Hailsham Cellars, Real Wine Co and www.everywine.co.uk) is laden with black fruit, complemented by hints of vanilla, from a year of oak ageing, and dark chocolate.
A very smooth texture, an d blackberries and cloves in the aroma.
Errazuriz Carmenere Estate 2009 (13.5 per cent, £7.99, Majestic, Wine Rack and www.everywine.co.uk) has both red and black fruit flies, with touches of spice, coffee, chocolate and caramel.
A deep, almost impenetrable, red in colour, the wine is soft and easy drinking.
This is 100 per cent carmenere, while the single-state wine has six per cent syrah and five per cent sauvignon included.
Both wines are from the Errazuriz vineyards in Chile’s Aconcagua Valley, which has a Mediterranean climate and general absence of the diseases which plague vineyards in some countries.
Finally, to Spain for the fifth of the fireside wines – although again one for meat dishes as well as sipping on its own.
Cune Rioja Reserva 2006 (13.5 per cent, £13.99, Majestic) is a full-blooded red, made from the classic Spanish tempranillo grape.
Fulsome oaky blackcurrant is the order of the day. Reservas are required to have undergone bottle and oak ageing of three years, at least one of them in barrels, adding to the complexity and that distinctive Rioja hallmark of oak.