Comforting reds to hunker down with through winter

We all need a reason to be cheerful right now, and my coping strategy, along with warm knitwear and cheese on toast, involves a nice glass of the right red.

Comfort zone: it’s hard to beat a glass of red by the fire at the end a miserable, cold day.

There’s generally not much to be cheerful about at this time of year, and in 2022 there are even fewer things than most. It’s hard to think of a more depressing combination of circumstances, politically, economically and health-wise, on top of which it’s suddenly getting dark at 5pm. My coping strategy is small treats: enveloping jumpers, deep rugs, copious candles, cheese on toast and a nice glass of red. In other words hygge wine.

For those trying to moderate their drinking, it’s about quality, not quantity. By that I don’t mean expensive wines, but the sort that are going to take you into your comfort zone (hygge, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the word, is the Danish term for cosy). In other words, the kind of wines you want to drink after an evening out in the cold, whether that’s watching fireworks or stuck on a platform waiting for a delayed train.

Such wines are mainly full-bodied and higher in alcohol. You know, the usual suspects, though malbec seems to be leading the pack these days. Grenache, shiraz and blends of the two with mourvèdre (GSM), cinsault or carignan that you find in the southern Rhône, Languedoc and the likes of Australia and South Africa, which have successfully adopted the GSM style. Even basic Côtes du Rhône is a hygge wine in my book, and the Co-op currently has a decent own-label one for just £6 that totally hits the spot, though make sure it’s the 2021 vintage. Hygge wine is all about familiarity, rather than the more esoteric fringes of the wine world, though, that said, I was so smitten by the Armenian red in today’s pick that I had to include it, not least because it packs an impressive concentration into its modest 13% ABV. I do envy those of you who live near a Booths.

Some full-bodied reds such as cabernet, meanwhile, really need food to set them off. I find tannin a bit intrusive outside the context of a meal, so look for indications on the back label that the wine has been aged in stainless steel or, more fashionably, concrete (going back to the days when many winemakers didn’t have access to expensive barrels).

Obviously it’s a question of taste, but I think young wines are more quaffable/hyggable than old ones you might have stashed away and that are more of what the Italians call a vino di meditazione (contemplative wine).

Oh, and to finish, a thought that might cheer you up: it’s almost seven weeks until the shortest day, then the evenings start getting lighter. Not that I expect to be out of the hygge wine zone until March.

Five wines for dark nights

Agramont Garnacha 2019 £5.99 Lidl, 14%. Ripe, generous, modern Spanish red that could even handle a curry.

Finca Lalande Organic Malbec 2021 £6.99 (on offer) Waitrose, 14%. Grab this big, jammy malbec while it’s on offer (it’s normally £10.49).

Taste the Difference Discovery Collection Château Auzines Corbières 2018 £10 Sainsbury’s, 14.5%. A gorgeous, spicy, syrah-dominated red from the excellent Laurent Miquel. Way above your average own-label corbières.

Armenia Wine Company Yerevan 782BC Red 2020 £9.50 Booths, 12.5%. Gorgeous, exotic red that’s richer than you’d guess from its ABV. Think slow-cooked shoulder of lamb.

Rasteau Domaine Saint-Gayan ‘Ilex’ 2016 £15.75 Yapp Brothers, 14.5%. Classic, hefty, spicy southern Rhône – made for winter stews and casseroles.



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