As the season changes, so does our taste in wine. Summery styles give way to more autumnal ones, especially where red wine is concerned. The only time I drink full-bodied reds in the summer is with a barbecue; now I’m starting to reach for them more often as we sail into autumn.
Light, tangy, chillable Pinot Noirs seem less appealing on colder, darker evenings. Bigger, burly reds suit a colder snap in the air and, of course, the heartier food of the moment. Casseroles, roasts, rich pasta bakes, fine cheeses – they’re all returning to the table, and a rich red is exactly what’s needed to match them.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean spending more on a bottle. ‘Full-bodied red’ doesn’t have to be an expensive premium Bordeaux, Gran Reserva Rioja or ‘Super-Tuscan’ Italian. There are plenty of decent examples at £8 or under to choose from and here are some of the best around at the moment.
Note that my choices all come from relatively hot-climate regions, where the grapes which give us the richest styles can ripen properly – and that some of them are oak-aged for extra spiciness and texture.
These wines positively need food – they are not easy-going quaffers, but they partner up with rich protein and spices brilliantly. Bring them to the table, not to a party.
Extra Special Old Vine Garnacha 2021, Carinena, Spain
(14.5%, Asda, £6)
Bargain red made in the Carinena region south-west of Zaragoza from the fruit of low-yielding old vineyards. Packed with ripe plums and mulberries, it’s a good pick for roast pork or just a full-flavoured cheese like mature Cheddar. Watch out for that 14.5% abv, though…
Chateau Capendu ‘La Comelle’ 2019, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
(14%, Waitrose, £7.99, down to £6.99 until September 27)
A hearty blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah from the deep south-west of France, aged in oak for six months. It’s brimming with blackberries and has a twist of spice, with well-balanced tannins. Perfect with a beef or venison casserole.
Taste the Difference Western Australian Shiraz 2020
(14%, Sainsbury’s, £8, down to £7 until October 11)
Punching well above its price point, especially on offer, this Aussie Shiraz is big and broad-framed but not remotely jammy, as some are. Its core flavour is blackcurrant and there’s a note of wood-spice. Rich, lingering finish – this could take on roast lamb or medium-hot tomato and onion-based Indian curries.
The Best Negroamaro 2021, Puglia, Italy
(13.5%, Morrisons, £7.75 with 25% off if buying three. The Best Morrisons wines until October 2)
An autumnal star from Morrisons, and the multi-buy deal takes it to under £6. It’s made in Italy’s ‘heel’ from the southern Italian Negroamaro grape and there’s a pruney ripeness here, a sweet hint and rich, rounded texture. Super match for a lamb tagine or just crack it open for a classic lasagne.
Testimonio Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah Tannat 2020, Mendoza, Argentina
(14%, The Co-op, £10, down to £8 until October 18)
Dense, concentrated red – the result of blending three grapes known for making full-bodied styles; 50 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 35 per cent Syrah and 15 per cent Tannat, then ageing it in French oak. Sloes, damsons and spicy plums pervade. Needs robust food like roast leg of lamb spiked with garlic.