And so it is that now, as the Christmas runway lights are appearing through the rain, that I hanker after SPICE. I’m not here to talk about my yearly mincepie competition and I really should talk about mulled wine (I refuse, although I do have a great recipe: mail me!) Nope it’s that craving for the snuggly, spicy pleasure from a glass of red wine: hopeful anticipation; deep swig; pause; long sigh; world back on axis.
But what to buy? As always it’s a lottery; read the back label of all too many commercial reds and yes they’re ‘great with whatever you’re cooking and equally lovely on their own’. It would have been useful if my last bottle of supermarket Fitou had actually been tasted by its marketing whizz. I had to translate ‘flavours of plum and dark hedgerow fruits’ (or blackberries as we know them) as ‘Tart, bitter and yet not entirely undrinkable, especially if it’s the only bottle you’ve got. And at eight quid, you’ve been robbed, mate.’
All the same, I must encourage adventure and the practice of learning as you choose. I do buy wine from supermarkets, but only rarely given such horrors above. To generalise, I’d look on their shelves for more expensive (£10+) red Rhône wines (names like Gigondas,St.Joseph) and Malbec fromArgentina. At that price, these wines tend to come with a little balance and warm spicy fruit as standard. And from my own cellar, I’d drink the following spicy little numbers:-
* Baby Spice: Bobal de Sanjuan 2011,Utiel Requena,Spain £8.50: light, smoky
**Scary Spice: Massaya Classic Red 2009,Bekaa Valley,Lebanon £12: Christmas in a glass
*** Old Spice: Rasteau 2009,Soumade,France £14: Full, dry, peppery Syrah
**** Deep Spice: Catena Malbec 2010,Argentina £13.50: inky, velvety, intense
*****Posh Spice: Barbera d’Asti d’Annona 2007,Italy £16: big, dark, grown-up red wine