Autumnal pleasures…

Get ready to enjoy sweater weather with a glass of rich and flavourful red wine says James Viner. As the autumnal days darken and the air begins to sharpen, it’s time to switch from lighter wines like unoaked whites, lighter reds and rosés to bolder reds from sunnier climes, especially when there’s good solid fare involved for Bonfire Night and Halloween merriments.

SO’s new wine critic James Viner suggests six warming reds perfect for cosy nights in. Try these…


  1. 2021 Château Capitoul, Languedoc, France (£8, Co-op, 13%)

Unswervingly flavoursome, earthy, unoaked, Languedoc red, mostly Syrah and Grenache, from a stunning wine estate and luxury sanctuary on the Massif de la Clape, just 3km from the Mediterranean coast, halfway between Narbonne and the chocolate-box fishing port of Gruissan. A steal at the price.


  1. 2020 Raats Silver Hope Cabernet Franc Limited Release, Stellenbosch, South Africa (£16.99, ‘Angel’ price, Naked Wines, 14%)

Fragrant, tangy Cabernet Franc is the perfect autumnal red. This terrific rendition (benchmark for the variety in South Africa for good reason) is mouthwatering, full-bodied, floral and sweet of bramble fruit, with plum, boysenberry, mulberry, blueberry, white pepper, warm earth, allspice and some minerally characters carried along by a raft of vibrant blood orange acidity. It sings a song of flourishing vines, terroir and winemaking nous. A beautiful wine with gentle tannins that’s pure, refined and long, despite an element (14 months) of oak ageing. Top stuff.


  1. 2020 Château Maris Les Planels Cru La Livinière, Organic Syrah-Grenache, Languedoc, France (£18.99, Waitrose, 15%)

This biodynamic, age-worthy autumn warmer is the veritable iron fist in a velvet glove. It’s a characterful, brisk, herbal, organic, full-bodied Midi blend of Syrah and Grenache from the high limestone terrace of gentle slopes at up to 400 metres of altitude, of northern Minervois. Think black olives, garrigue herbs, peppery spice and blackberries. Decant and pour with roasted leg of lamb with tapenade and garlicky stews.


  1. 2019 Viña Mayor, Secreto, Ribera del Duero, Castilla y León, Spain (£19, The Wine Society, 14%)

This is a tip-top, gently spicy beauty made by Spain’s first female Master of Wine (MW) from old-vine Tempranillo fruit grown in high-altitude vineyards in Quintanilla de Onésimo (the harvests here sometimes creep into November) on the northern part of Spain’s central plateau. Deftly elegant, but there’s a power billowing below. Probably best with food. Cottage pie, slow-roast lamb, rib-eye steak or a tomahawk anyone? An energetic, gastronomic ripper of a contemporary Ribera del Duero red framed by sapid acidity and sandy tannins. Carries the alcohol and oak well (it was aged for 10 months in French oak barrels). Buen provecho!


  1. 2020 Herdade do Esporão Reserva Organic Red, Alentejo, Portugal (£19.95, Cambridge Wine Merchants, 14%)

Spot-on, powerful, barrel-fermented, spicy, savoury organic red blend from Portugal’s biggest (covering virtually all of the south-eastern portion of the country), hot, dry and sparsely populated wine region, Alentejo, where red wine rules. Based in Reguengos de Monsaraz – a stone’s throw from the Spanish border and not far from Lisbon – the old historic farm and winery has a one Michelin-star restaurant. Cockle-warming stuff for roast lamb/beef and grilled meats.


  1. 2019 Domaine Peter Sichel, Vallée de Cucugnan Rouge, Languedoc, France (£26.50, Berry Bros & Rudd, 14%)

I received glowing reviews about this wine from Andy Howard MW before last month’s stellar Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR) press tasting. His Syrah-Grenache recommendation from Cucugnan didn’t disappoint: so appetising, succulent, persistent, rewarding and sure-footed with beautifully managed tannins and red cherry/blackberry riffs of mineral pungency. A gem here. Glorious.


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