FEvery now and then I realize that I have overlooked the red wine lovers among you. Those who frankly don’t care if it’s midsummer and prefer to drink big, huge reds than slightly chilled wines (which they consider weed). And who like a good dense, rich chocolate cake, and therefore sweeter wines than I do. So this week’s column is to make amends.
What gives body to a wine? Hot sun. Low yielding vineyards. Late harvest, that is to say, leave the grapes hanging in the vineyard. Concentrate the juice, leaving it in contact with the skin. Strengthening the wine with oak – especially new oak. Okay, there are some grape varieties and wine regions that you will rarely get a full bodied wine from – Alsace and England, to name just two – but even they can deliver in a good vintage like 2018. The global warming is on your side.
There are obvious suspects – Australian shiraz. Argentinian Malbec, most Chilean reds, Spanish Grenache (but not, for the most part, Rioja) and general exceptions. The inexpensive Bordeaux red is usually medium bodied rather than full bodied, but Saint-Emilion consistently tops 14% these days. Normally you wouldn’t expect Pinot Noir to be a bigger one either, but just try those from the Central Otago region of New Zealand. (Aldi recently had an impressive one called Pinot Vigilant, which I would repurchase if it ever comes back in stock.)
In general, you can count on anything over 14.5% in the full bodied category, although, that said, I tasted the elegant wine from the Wine Society. Langhe Nebbiolo exhibition 2018 the other day, which is 15%, and you never would have known. (Even so, it’s a great buy if you’re looking for an affordable Barolo.)
There are other clues. Wines that are made to appeal to the American or Chinese market, and typically from Argentina, Chile, Washington State, and of course California, tend to be rich and ripe, just like wines. which bear manly names and macho labels such as Beefsteak Club. . Spot a heavy bottle with a deep punt? It is almost certainly a heavy wine.
Supermarket reds, especially those under £ 10, typically offer a big dollop of fruit, while more expensive artisan wines from independents are likely to be more subdued; natural wines and wines with offbeat and arty labels also rarely reach 14%. We wine writers can identify low-alcohol wines as a trend, but the point is, most red wine aficionados love them to pack a punch. Here are five to check just this box.
Five lush reds for red wine lovers
Tesco Finest Stellenbosch Pinotage 2019 £ 7.50, 14%. A big, loud red that is made to accompany a braai (AKA South African barbecue). Spends 12 months in oak barrels, which is surprising for a wine at this modest price.
Calabria Orford Durif 2018 £ 8.99 Waitrose Cave, 14%. This lesser-known Australian grape (also known as petite sirah) produces gorgeous dark damsony reds. Another great barbecue wine.
Fitou 2019 £ 7 Marks & Spencer, 14%. Do you remember fitou? It’s still out there, and still great value. Perfect for a hearty stew or steak pie.
Emiliana Coyam 2018 ND John £ 18.95, or £ 104.94 per case (£ 17.49 per bottle) allaboutwine.co.uk, 14%. There’s a veritable cornucopia of grapes – all eight – in this gloriously ripe organic Chilean red that would be perfect with any type of red meat. Pure pleasure.
Susana Balbo Tradicion Malbec 2019 £ 12 Marks & Spencer (in store only and on sale in August at £ 10), 14%. You might not spend that much on a Malbec, but this sweet and elegant example from the high altitude vineyards of Argentina’s highest Uco Valley is well worth it. An obvious match for the steak.