Thursday 19 April 2018

Cold busters

Enjoy a drink, such as a cognac, in front or a roaring fire
Enjoy a drink, such as a cognac, in front or a roaring fire

Corinna Hardgrave

You've probably heard of the word "hygge", pronounced "hue-gah", it's the Danish word for "wellbeing" and, in essence, it's a way of living. It's about togetherness, appreciating life's simple pleasures, and when it comes to the current cold snap, it's all about being cosy - sitting by the fire with friends or family and cradling a mug of hot chocolate, or even a hot Port.

One of the best ways to embrace it is to channel your inner Delia and put a long, slow-cooked dinner in the oven, or leave a stew bubbling gently on the hob, allowing the inviting aromas to whet your appetite. You may even add a drop of wine to the dish you're cooking - coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon are wonderful, and so too is cheese fondue, which has never gone out of fashion in our house.

For a wine to go with a warming casserole, you don't necessarily have to match the heftiness of the dish with a blockbuster red. But if you like your reds big, be careful what you wish for. An Amarone can clock in excess of 16pc alcohol, which for some people, like my husband, is just perfect; he loves a really rich red wine. But I find it a bit too full on, and more enjoyable to drink on its own. Unless of course, it's an Amarone made by Allegrini which is deliciously fresh in style, but, alas, is very much in the special occasion price bracket.

The Rhone and the Languedoc are good places to look; they have round, rich blends that include, among others, Grenache, Syrah and meaty Mourvèdre. In SuperValu's wine sale, running from February 15-28, one of the winter classics is the Vacqueyras Remy Ferbras which, at €12, represents great value compared to its better-known neighbours, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.

You'll get plenty of heft from a Portuguese Duoro red, a Malbec from Argentina or Cahors, a Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and some of the bigger Cabernet Sauvignons and Shirazs from Australia. In Lidl's current wine lovers' sale, the easy drinking, Australian Shiraz Tempranillo has a good balance of fruit, spice and tannin for €8.99; the Don Tomas Argentinian Syrah for €9.99 has plenty of body and complexity, as does their Chilean Malbec. If you're still in staying in hygge mode, and you're from my school of logic - it's not what you spend, it's what you save - you might just consider trading up for your weekend bottle. It may sound counter-intuitive for this time of year, but if you consider what you would spend on a bottle of wine on a night out in a restaurant, you're looking at some really interesting choices in your local independent, many of which are from small producers, so completely different in style from the more mainstream brands.

I particularly liked the wines from Domaine du Pas de L'Escalette which I tasted with Julien and Delphine Zernott when they visited Ireland a few months ago. Originally from the Loire, they moved to the Languedoc in 2013 and set about reviving 20 hectares of old vineyards on rocky terraces, spread across the base of the Plateau du Larzac in the Hérault, near Montpellier; preserving the bush vines of indigenous grapes which are over 50 years old. These and more recently planted vines are farmed organically and harvested by hand, and with a wine making style that focuses on the fruit, the wines have a purity of flavour and distinct freshness.

So for this week, I've featured one of the wines from Pas de L'Escalette and three well priced winter warmers.

GRAPEVINE

If you are giving up booze for Lent, you'll be interested in 'Designated Diver', a dry-hopped soda with a decidedly grown-up flavour. It's a collaboration between the brewers at YellowBelly Beer in Wexford and Black Castle Drinks in Wicklow (blackcastledrinks.com), which brings together the flavours of Citra and Huell Melon hops with a tasty base of lemon and pear. Dry-hopping is a process where hops are added to an almost finished beer to enhance aroma and flavour, and it works perfectly on soda too, making a refreshing 0pc alcohol drink which is then carbonated to a sparkle.

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