It’s October, the days are getting shorter and the temperature dropping. Real signs that the season is changing. For us, that means it’s time to think about some of those more robust, warming winter dishes. Like the delicious shin beef casserole full of chunky root vegetables such as celeriac and carrot we enjoyed last night. Of course, with the food reflecting the time of year, you also need to look to an altogether different style of wine – one that won’t be over-powered by all the strong flavours of the dish. It would have to be red to go with the beef and the rich, savoury gravy but, more specifically, I was looking at something from one of the warmer parts of the world which would have the weight to balance the food. A number of possibilities came to mind: an Australian Shiraz or Californian Zinfandel would work perfectly or, perhaps, something from southern Europe or around the Mediterranean basin.
I finally settled on a wine from the Côtes du Roussillon, a much under-rated area near Perpignan in the very far south of France – indeed the vineyards for Domaine Gardiés Clos de Vignes (Wine Society, £17) are barely 30 miles from the Spanish border. I decanted the wine a couple of hours before we were going to drink it and found it opened up beautifully to reveal a lovely, savoury, satisfying red (made from a blend of mainly 70 year old Carignan and Grenache vines with small additions of Syrah and Mourvèdre). The wine was perfectly dry with attractive black fruits on the palate and a clear hint of cedar or cigar box flavours from the ageing in older, large wooden barrels. It’s certainly a big wine – it needed to be to complement the dish – but not so overwhelming that one glass was enough and the 14% alcohol is perfectly integrated so you’re not left with a burn on the finish. All in all, a proper winter wine.
I’m continuing the theme I began last time in my Bristol Wine Blog: that, with a thoughtful choice of food and wine, you can bring back wonderful memories of places you’ve been, even when the present situation means that you can’t stray far from home. Today, my virtual trip brings us back from Greece to somewhere a little closer to the UK.
Temperatures in Bristol a couple of weeks ago rose above 30°C (close to 90°F for those more comfortable with that scale), so it wasn’t difficult to imagine ourselves somewhere overlooking the Mediterranean – the south of France, perhaps. The fish markets there always have the most amazing choice of fresh fish and we particularly enjoy tuna. So, when our local travelling fishmonger arrived this week with some tempting looking steaks in the back of his van, what else could I open to accompany them but a bottle of Côte de Provence Rosé?
M de Minuty (Majestic, £12.99) is that beautiful, delicate shade of pale orangey pink you find in so many southern French rosés and, although the flavours are quite subtle, matching the colour, the wine is in no way bland. It opens with an appealing, fragrant, floral nose and a real herby richness on the palate follows through – this is from a relatively warm climate and boasts 13% alcohol after all. Made with a typical blend of local grapes including Grenache, Cinsault and the much less well-known Tibouren, this is fresh and clean with lovely crushed strawberry flavours and a long savoury finish. Ideal for drinking on its own, well chilled, as an aperitif but with the body and fullness to accompany our tuna or other similarly flavoursome dishes.
Enjoying the combination outdoors on our terrace on a bright, warm sunny evening, we could easily imagine we were somewhere exotic. Sadly, even though there is a move to allow travel to certain destinations soon, our own caution means that foreign trips are still on hold for the present.
But we have our memories and tasty pan-fried tuna accompanied by a delicious Rosé from Provence help keep them alive.