Friday, 7 January 2011

Winter a glass

We did consider at the start of this New Year kow-towing to expectations and suggesting non-alcoholic beverages as ways in which you can flush your overloaded liver and whittle your expanded post Christmas waistline. But sorry, we won't be doing that.

But don't turn over - or whatever the online equivalent is. Yes, we know this time of year is one long round of detox, abstention and belt-tightening in fearful expectation of the Christmas credit card bill. So even more important is a sense of wellbeing in these dark times and, based on the premise that “a bit of what you fancy does you good “ we have come up with some ideas to brighten up your spirits in cold January.

Sunshine makes everyone smile, but if you can't spare the time or money to jet off to sunnier climes, then you can always pore over some holiday brochures (or more likely some internet pages), glass in hand, for a taste of the good life.

Recently we and intrepid tasters pitted ourselves against the snowy elements to sample some wines, which brought a smile and a transfusion of bonhomie to the throng. We've selected a few highlights to tempt you here. Whether in a party or tucked up warm at home, transport yourself to the sun and dream of the not-too-distant shores of sunny Spain and Portugal with our winter sun wine recommendations:

Soalheiro Alvarinho 2009 (£13.95 from The Wine Society)
Soalheiro means “sunny”, so where better to start? This is technically a Vinho Verde, from northern Portugal – but it's a million miles away from the bog standard stuff. This 100% alvarinho (aka albariño) is seriously delicious, with a hint of spring blossom, peach – and a whiff of the Atlantic. Picture the scene: surf’s up on Guincho beach – favorite Atlantic hangout for surfers and wind riders - chill out, drink in the tang of the ozone and imbibe with delicious piri piri prawns or scallops.

Quinta de Lagoalva 2009 (£6.50, The Wine Society)
This 50/50 blend of touriga nacional and castelão, with its violet-scented, soft, spicy fruit is a perfect mid-winter, mid-week treat. The floral bouquet insinuates itself into your imagination and suggests wild flower be-decked hillsides, views for miles, castles on the horizon and the romance of Moorish southern Portugal in its springtime glory.

Legaris Crianza 2007 (£12.99, Taurus Wines, Bramley)
A 100% tempranillo from Spain's highly-regarded (and highly-priced) Ribera del Duero region, this relative bargain is a smooth, supple and sophisticated wine that would infinitely improve any winter warmer casserole. Imagine the exhilaration of swishing through the snow of the sunlit Spanish Sierra Nevada ski resorts and enjoying melting in the afterglow with this crimson stunner.

Quinta do Côa 2007 (£14.99, The Guildford Wine Company, Shalford)
Back across the border to Portugal's Douro valley – famous for Port, but increasingly making waves with its table wines. The Douro's beguiling cocktail of native varieties, including touriga nacional, touriga franca and tinta roriz (in fact tempranillo again) make for a satisfyingly complete wine with many nuances of aroma and flavour to enjoy. A big wine, but with grace and elegance too. The Côa Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a wild and remote area known for its Paleolithic rock art. A ride up the river on a slow boat from Porto sampling wines from the vineyards en route is a trip worth contemplating as you soporifically sip and savour. Fine but simple dining is called for to complement this vintage. Red meat, either beef, venison or wild boar would be good – not scorched on the barbeque but lightly seared by a talented chef and served with élan, white tablecloth and silver cutlery please.

...Are you drooling yet?

Thinking of food, nearer to home and back in time to a pre-Christmas carol concert party: Heather A was delighted to meet some of the students from the facing page to us, from Tante Marie Cookery School. They were a charming and talented bunch of young men and women and made some amazing canapés, a few of which disappeared down the throat of yours truly before being hoovered by the ravening hordes. In the spirit of neighborliness and an excuse for a good party we think it would be a great tasting experience to combine in a wine and food matching evening with you Surrey Advertiser aficionados and the Guildford glitterati. Anyone up for this we would love to hear from you at

Now we are in 2011 we can all look ahead optimistically to a good vintage year in all senses, wonderful wines and prices to make the producers weep. In the spirit of Auld Lang Syne share a cheering glass or two with good old friends and new acquaintances. It is a truism that – Water divides the peoples of the world, but wine brings them together.

We wish you a wonderful year with the Heathers being the only reason for an “H” in your wine!


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