Red wines for Valentine’s Day | Fiona Beckett on wine

Let’s ditch the bubbles and rosé this Valentine’s Day ...I sometimes think we’re led by what supermarkets think we ought to drink, rather than by what we actually fancy. For Valentine’s Day, for example, that more often than not means anything pink and preferably fizzy, champagne being the obvious choice. But is that what you or your loved one really wants?Recent research shows that consumers regard red wine as the most relaxing drink, but despite red being as legitimate a Valentine’s colour as pink, red is rarely seen as a romantic choice, with the exception of rather half-hearted injunctions to buy Saint-Amour, one of the least interesting of the Beaujolais crus. Continue...

Where are all the Kiwi wines? | Fiona Beckett

New Zealand makes some of most consistent wines around, and not just that ubiquitous sauvignon. So why are they so thin on the ground right now?I didn’t spot it at the time, but there was a dearth of New Zealand wines at the most recent supermarket tastings. Whether that was because the shops didn’t have much to offer except sauvignon blanc and thought we were bored by it (I am, for one), or whether it was a question of expense, I’m not sure: prices have definitely been creeping up, but then New Zealand isn’t exactly alone on that front.Their absence is odd, though, because the country consistently produces some of the most reliable wines around, with great pinots and excellent, aromatic whites joining that ubiquitous sauvignon. There are even hefty reds, mainly from the Hawkes Bay area on the North Island, where syrah has found an ideal home. The deliciously peppery Terrace Edge Syrah 2015 (£25 Vintage Roots; 14.5% abv), from North Canterbury, say, would certainly hit the spot for fans of the northern Rhône (and it’s on a par price-wise). Continue...

Can burgundy on a budget ever hit the spot? | Fiona Beckett on wine

Weather continues to limit the availability of good, affordable burgundies – but some quality wines are there to be snapped up by the wily drinkerLike a first love, the first wine you fall for stays with you for ever. For me, like many other wine writers, it was great burgundy, which is unfortunately a taste that’s impossible to indulge on anything other than a City boy’s salary.That situation has been exacerbated by the fact that burgundy has been having a torrid time of late. Thanks – or, rather, no thanks – to the region having been hit by hailstorms and frost over the last couple of vintages, volumes of the top wines are down and prices inevitably up (and not helped by our current exchange rate – thanks, Theresa). Continue...

How low can you go? Our pick of the best low-alcohol wines

Whether you’re doing dry January, or just trying to cut down, there are less boozy alternatives are out thereThe first month of a new year is a good time for re-examining prejudices, so I thought I should revisit low-alcohol wines, which I comprehensively dismissed a couple of months ago. Were they really as bad as I made out, and could they offer a passable substitute for the real thing during dry January?Well, after checking out what is currently on offer, the answer is yes and no. You’ve got to have at least 0.5% alcohol to make a decent drink that isn’t a problem for drivers, pregnant women and those who aim to cut down, so these wines aren’t for those who – for religious or other reasons – avoid alcohol altogether. Continue...

Is whisky the new gin?

Whisky is big business for supermarkets, so much so that it’s even challenging gin as the drink du jourJudging by the hoo-ha about gin in the past two years, you’d think we drank nothing else, but it turns out that’s far from the truth. And its main rival is not up-and-coming rum, as is generally touted, but good old whisky. Continue...