It’s autumn, leaves are on our pavements being annoying and a health hazard, and days are getting shorter. Well, sort of…the sun is setting earlier, but our days are getting longer because of weekdays canvassing sessions, despite the cold outside better suited to being home in front of a fire snacking on roasted chestnuts. It’s been 3 weeks since the curtains closed on Conference Season, and it’s not yet time for the rounds of Christmas parties. You might have the odd fundraiser here and there, but chances are you have gone back to drinking pints with your mates at the pub, and are counting the days until you’ll hold a wine glass, whether full or empty, because what are networking events if you have free hands?
This weather calls for relaxing on the couch with a loved one (that includes pets for those who are lucky to have one, whether or not they also have a hooman they share the pet with!), a cosy blanket, and the latest episode of Outlander on Amazon Prime Video. The only thing missing is a good old bottle of wine to soothe the conference blues, so here’s a list of 5 wonderful options you probably don’t know about that you should try.
Now, contrary to popular belief, while cost matters to an extent, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a cheap and cheerful bottle without breaking the bank. The key thing with wines is that there are some fixed costs, like tax (which in the UK is the same whatever the cost of the bottle) and production costs, leaving the rest of the price as the quality you get for the price you pay. The following prices are from retail rather than eating out (I have heard tales of horror from the lobby bar at the Midland…), but should still be a good rule of thumb to evaluate a wine list (by the way, the Pinot Grigio at Wetherspoon’s is their quite alright).
A bottle around £10 has nearly £3 worth of wine quality, against £0.37 for a £5 bottle. You increase again when you hit £20, and so on. Of course that’s true of artisanal wines while big names might be a less good value for money because you pay a higher brand premium (if you go to Italy, most restaurants have great wine on the tap for a fraction of the cost of a bottle). Bibendum Wines have a helpful infographic breaking down the costs. Now, have fun spotting discounts so you get wine under £7 that has better value for money. At time of writing, all the wines listed were, sadly, full price.
Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay, Australia (Waitrose, £12.99)
If you like Chardonnay as a wine, you’ll love this option which Waitrose own’s sommelier defined as having “tropical fruit flavours, soft buttery vanilla and spicy oak aromas”. If you don’t like Chardonnay, it’ll be like being at Conference all over again because I swear everyone just buys Chardonnay and it’s usually awful. Medium-bodied, great with seafood, so grab some scampi and fries from the local chippy and collapse on your sofa.
Hen Pecked Picpoul de Pinet, France (Waitrose £7.99)
Wine from Languedoc with a note of citrus which makes it a great wine to pair with Oysters on a date night to show your partner that you still love them more than you love campaigning. And if you, like me, are married to the cause and/or don’t eat oyster, it’s a refreshing wine that doesn’t really suit the cold damp Britain of October days, but will make you think of the holiday in the South of France you have booked for the week after the local elections (take me with you!). In the meantime, anyone up for saucisson?
Trivento Reserve Malbec, Argentina (Tesco, £8)
“A bright crimson red whose plum and raspberry aromas mingle elegantly with vanilla notes from the 6 months aged in French oak barrels”. Great companion for meat, like a good old steak (which seems to be a certain male candidate’s favourite post-canvassing dinner, as I hear about it every.single.week.), but lovely to drink on its own too because, unlike the French variety, it is quite weak.
Domaine des Bassets Morgon (Waitrose, £12.99)
Beaujolais is my go-to wine, although I am getting used to drinking more heavy-bodied reds by not having a choice at events because it’s like everyone buys the same brand of Merlot. This wine has all the best qualities of a Beaujolais (fresh and fruity), with a bit more structure to it (so you can keep it ageing another 3 years if you’re mad). It would satisfy anyone who thinks you can drink the wines (like the whisky) I like for breakfast as they are so light.
Bijou Cabrieres Cuvee Sophie Valrose, France (Waitrose, £8.99)
A nudge to the people who drink rosé, although I can’t remember if I saw any at any receptions (I have some vague memories that there might have been rosé at the TRG reception). This wine is again from Languedoc, but has been compared to a classic British summer taste: strawberry and cream. Not ideal if you want your wine to warm you up on a cold, dark night, but great to make you forget you’re in one for a while.