Katie Jones is an Englishwoman who followed her dream to move to a tiny village in a remote part of the Languedoc. She makes gorgeous fitou that is succulent and smells of the herbs that grow among the rocks of the parched hillsides. Last time I met her, she told me she was working on a new wine with a rather unromantic name – Hairy Grenache.
I totally get why. Grenache can have a hairy sort of a feel to it, or at least a texture that I sometimes describe to myself as ‘suedey’ or ‘like a pom-pom’. Hairy or otherwise, grenache is a wine that seems to soak in the summer sunshine and keep it until opened, giving you back the warm breeze of a sultry August evening even in the depths of winter. This is especially true when it comes from the southern Rhône or the Languedoc. Look for wines like Le Clairon des Anges Costières de Nîmes 2015 France (£8.50, Booths) – a blend of grenache and syrah.
The word ‘hairy’ usually only appears in my tasting notes in association with the word ‘chest’. Yes, I’m still talking about wine. Hairy-chested reds – big, bulky, shaggy, even slightly surly – are another wine type good for cold January nights, bringing a reassuringly gruff presence to your glass. They may perhaps come from the Douro in Portugal, a craggy part of the Languedoc, or Nemea in Greece, and I’ve definitely had a few hairy-chested Chilean carménères. Try the spicy Taste the Difference Quinta do Crasto 2015 Portugal (£9, Sainsbury’s) which is made in the Douro from port grapes.
A third category of red that you might seek out is the bear-hug wine. Bold but snuggly, these taste sweetly ripe and warm, and lack the just-below-the-surface potential aggression of hairy-chested wines. The great Aussie cabernet sauvignon/shiraz blend is a classic bear-hug of a wine, and Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2014 Australia (£9, Tesco) is pretty much the archetype. Chilean cabernet/carménère is another typical example, as is grenache grown in the baking warmth of the McLaren Vale or the Barossa Valley in Australia, which tastes of roasted mulberries and soaks you with warmth like tropical rain.
I can’t quite decide which of these three categories my favourite of Katie Jones’s wines fits into. But if you happen to be on a ‘drink less but drink better’ mission for January, then I can’t recommend Domaine Jones Fitou 2014 France (£14.50, The Wine Society). It’s a hearty red made from carignan, grenache and syrah, most of which are grown on vines that are more than 100 years old. The flavour of the wine is reminiscent of dried figs, and the texture is gorgeously lush. Katie recommends drinking it with a wild boar stew or steak and ale pie. Who’s cooking?
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Victoria Moore is an award-winning wine columnist and author. Her new book, The Wine Dine Dictionary (£20, Granta), is out now.