By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 11 December 2021
A selection of red wines to serve at Christmas from lighter juicier styles to big powerful reds.
Szekszard, Hungary: KEKFRANKOS 2019 Sebestyen (13%)
£9.95 The Wine Society
Loved this plump modern version of Kekfrankos with its sour cherry and sweet black plum fruits, white pepper, liquorice, fresh acidity and hint of sweet oak. Made by Csilla Sebestyen, once sommelier at Andrew Fairlie in Scotland, and brother Csaba in up-and-coming Szekszard, south of Budapest. Kekfrankos is tricky, needs to be handled like a Pinot Noir, which is what they do here. A succulent juicy red for Boxing Day chilling with turkey leftovers and cranberry sauce.
Patagonia, Argentina: VINALBA RESERVA MALBEC 2019 (14.5%)
£10.99 : 20% off until 29 Dec Waitrose
Clear winner in a line-up of Argentine Malbecs from major retailers. I have often found Patagonia’s Malbec to have a cool edginess to its damson fruit compote. Now these vines in Argentina’s far south have matured to make something memorable, pure and dense crafted by talented Frenchman Herve Fabre.
Rioja, Spain: CASTELLO DE EPIFANIA RIOJA ALTA 2020 (14.5%) ***GOOD VALUE***
Laithwaites’ Spanish wine buyer Jean-Marc Sauboua is top notch. Not only does he run his own winery (where he makes Altos R Pigeage in Rioja Alavesa), he manages to source incredible bargains like this 100% Tempranillo from Rioja Alta. Tempranillo is tricky to grow, this shows a cool higher altitude bushvine edge to the grape which tastes like a cool climate northern Rhone Syrah; dense, silky, fresh, elegant with oak kiss.
Barossa, S Australia: GET IN MY BELLY GRENACHE 2020 Whistler (13%) ***STAR BUY***
£19.50 The Wine Society
Very popular with tasters – this superb old vine foot-stomped Grenache from down-under shows what potential this grape has as a varietal. If you normally drink it in southern Rhone blends, you might be surprised at its Pinot Noir-like qualities even in warm Barossa. Crushed cranberry, really complex palate with sweet fruits, soft tannins and succulent long finish.
Yecla, Spain: SOLANERA VINAS VIEJAS 2015 Bodegas Castano (14.5%)
£13.99 Aitken Wines, Dundee; Luvians, St Andrews; Fine Wine Musselburgh
Fabulous value Monastrell blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha Tintorera from unirrigated bushvines grown on limestone at 750m altitude. Aged in a mix of American and French oak for 10 months by Eric Solomon and Jean Marc Lafage – big buster red with blackberry fruits, very ripe tannins and a soft sweet finish.
Central Otago, New Zealand: PARCEL SERIES PINOT NOIR 2020 (13.5%)
£13.99 / £21.99 Majestic Wine
On the hunt for a good value Pinot Noir, this Kiwi parcel stood out in a line-up from across the world. Apparently from a ‘top shelf’ winery needing to make space in their barrels discreetly – at £13.99 it is knockout good with its fruit-bomb dark cherry fruit flavour, herby spicy notes, quite oaky, but juicy and smooth.
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon: CHATEAU MUSAR AANA 2018 (14%)
£14 : 20% off until 29 Dec at Waitrose
Musar fans might be interested to see this festive discount from the high altitude 1000m village of Aana in Bekaa Valley. A clever Cinsault, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon blend from limestone gravel soils with a nose which reminds me of brewing black Georgian tea, sweet vanilla, liquorice sticks and lively fresh acid – Musar is always original in its flavours.
Priorat, Spain: LA GARNATXA FOSCA 2019 Raul Acha ***GOOD VALUE***
£13.99 / £16.99 Majestic Wine
Remarkable price for such a good Priorat made by cult star Raul Acha from 60+ year old vines grown on slatey soils at 400 metres. The name Fosca indicates how ‘dark’ the slate is. Aged 10 months in French oak, this is deep dark and brooding, but very refined and complex, soft cherry fruits, earthy and minerally – very elegant Garnacha.
Tuscany, Italy: ROSSO DI MONTALCINO 2018 Gorelli (14%) ***STAR BUY***
£32.99 Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh
Clear winner in our Christmas tasting. Rosso is the baby brother of big Brunello – but this is a seriously complex Sangiovese made by a small family winery in Montalcino, south of Siena. Aged 9 months in 50 hl casks, this is beautifully subtle with rich cherry fruits, dried tea notes, freshness, layers of spice and soft smooth silky tannins. Buy it! [pictured above]
Bierzo, Spain: PARAJES DE BIERZO 2018 Cesar Marquez (13%)
£22 Swig Wine
The Biercianos coax more depth and fruit from Mencia grape than other coastal Galicians. From slate soils near Valtuille de Abajo, blended with 15% Alicante Bouschet matured in barrique and larger oak for one year. Cesar Marquez is nephew to cult winemaker Raul Perez. Suit those who like juicy crunchy Loire reds – loved its rich red fruits, floral notes, so elegant. Favourite wine at our recent North West Spain tasting.
Margaret River, Western Australia: ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 Vasse Felix
£29.99 Harvey Nichols; Selfridges; Laithwaites; Australian Wines Online; Secret Cellar
From Wilyabrup’s pioneering winery, 4 km from the Indian ocean south of Perth. Winemaker Virginia Wilcox makes superb Cabernet, with Petit Verdot to bring bright nuances and extend the tannins and Malbec to enhance Cabernet’s fruit. Serious barrique oaking for 18 months (44% new); rich sumptuous and elegant. Clear winner in recent Margaret River tasting.
Piedmont, Italy: BARBARESCO ROMBONE 2016 Figli Luigi Oddero (14.5%)
£34 Justerini & Brooks
New Nebbiolo discovery from little-known Oddero estate, run by Luigi’s sons – an estate to watch. Grapes from 300m in Rombone, Treiso commune. Gentle oaking in large oak for 18 months followed by long bottle age has crafted a mellow floral cuvee with beautiful pure fruit, sweet spice and silky tannins.
Join Rose’s Grenache/Garnacha Masterclass on 10 February 2022 in Edinburgh www.rosemurraybrown.com