Now that it’s properly cold and the days seem to be over in a blink, it’s time for some fuller reds to keep us warm. Wrapping up in layers and filling our dinner plates with cosy dishes calls for darker, more developed wines to keep up with all the flavour from our food. Whether it’s something delectable you’ve made yourself, or a cheeky takeaway, we’ve got you covered when it comes to winter warmers without additives.
Here are some of our favourite natural reds, Winter Edition:
The Budget Bottle - El Risco, Calatayud
This Spanish red often flies under the radar, as the region isn’t a household name and the blend isn’t the most typical. But it really is quite the hidden gem. Dry tannins and spice open up as you let it breathe, to a much softer, rounder red packed with fruit and structure.
This region in Aragon has a wealth of old vineyards at high altitude, that are able to take a more hands-off approach because of the dry heat and strong winds. Rarely do winemakers there run into diseases or other common problems found elsewhere, making it a great go-to for reliable wines that don’t have much added to them.
The Foodie - Valli Unite, Marmote
This indigenous variety from Piedmont has densely packed fruit, lots of body and sturdy tannin. Perfect for some earthy, meaty or fatty dishes. Rustic and intriguing, this is a fun one to really enjoy over food. It doesn’t last long though, so be sure to finish it within a day of opening, lest it go mousey.
Valli Unite is a co-operative in northern Italy, with a big focus on biodiversity. They raise livestock and grow lots of produce, including of course - grapevines! The estate is as self-sustaining as possible, in an effort to minimise its negative impact on their local ecosystems.
The Digestif - Monte Rio Primitivo
A Californian Primitivo (yes, Primitivo - not Zinfandel) made from Italian clones the maker has co-planted with their old vines of Zinfandel. This Primitivo has all the ripe fruit and spice we want from this grape variety, but without the hefty alcohol content you’d normally expect. Much more easy-drinking and fruit-led, but not lacking in power. This would be a lovely option to sip after dinner.
Producers like this are putting Lodi on the map as a strong contender for exciting and delicious wines in California. Long gone are the days when you could only get overbearing, overly alcoholic wines from the Golden State. And more producers than ever are growing vines without the use of harsh chemicals, making the west coast of the USA an area to watch for innovative producers, particularly as many aren’t tied to any family history or tradition, as we see so often in Europe.
The Splash-Out - Olga Raffault, Les Picasses Chinon
Elegant and mature, this Chinon red is precise and layered. It’s a classically Cabernet Franc expression, but without the bell pepper notes from its younger counterparts. Mulling spices and black pepper sit under the pure red fruit, making this a warming option that’s not a bruiser.
Olga Raffault as a domaine has been running for five generations, now headed by Olga’s granddaughter Sylvie, her husband Eric and their son Arnaud. Harvesting everything by hand and using tried and true methods, the Raffault label has now got its own cult following as a staple for the region. Their wines are consistent and sophisticated, and all have ageing potential.
The All-Rounder - Le Pech Abuse, Domaine du Pech
This wine has been on our shelves for years, for good reason. Rustic, earthy and full-on, this Bordeaux-style blend is anything but ordinary. There’s dark, inky fruit and plenty of body to go around, plus lovely tertiary notes from time spent ageing. This is rich and generous on the palate once it’s been decanted (give it 30 mins to an hour if possible), and will continue to improve if you set it aside to age. But it’s drinking beautifully now, and is a lovely, accessible natural red.
Domaine du Pech has been practicing biodynamic since 2000, working in the extreme southeast of the appellation of Southwest France. The label features artwork by the winemaker’s daughter from when she was young, and he’s reduced yields massively in favour of working more naturally.
Author: Sophia Tupy