For a spicy and punchy defence against the winter chills,—

For the ultimate in beefy reds, Sir Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham has recently launched his own range of wines from Australia, all packed with the hearty style of the man himself. But Aussie reds aside, what other wines deliver big bold brilliance?

Amarone from Italy might be your first pick – often with alcohol levels above 15% with flavours so dark and massive they could probably trigger a solar eclipse. In fact it can be overwhelming for some people thanks to partial air-drying of the grapes, which concentrates Amarone’s flavour.

For power as well as proportion, the blends of France’s southern Rhône are hard to beat – especially from 2016, which produced near perfect growing conditions. Vacqueyras is just one of the superb and lesser known southern Rhône appellations to hunt, but keep your eye out for good old Côtes du Rhône.

My wine of the week is a stellar Côtes du Rhône blend from Tanner’s Wines that I poured at home for my dad recently – he reckoned it was just about the best bottle he’s tried all year, so get in quick to secure your case if he hasn’t already bought the lot.

Portugal too has a canny knack for hearty red blends, for instance wines from the Dao or Douro both showcase the gentle spice and fabulous fragrance of local grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional.

As for single grapes – or ‘varietal wines’ as they’re known in the trade – Argentinean Malbec is rightly famous for its heft, but have you tasted Monastrell from Spain? It’s so mighty it makes Big Daddy look like a leprechaun – I’ve found a belter from Morrisons to recommend. I must also gently bellow my enthusiasm for Chilean Carmenere.

There’s been a trend lately for less booze and more finesse, but bigger versions can still win me over when they feel balanced – and while wines like these might not yet enjoy the same recognition as the England cricket captain, I reckon they’d be right at home in Beefy’s glass.

OLLY’S PICK OF THE BUNCH

PACKS A PUNCH: Extra Special Douro 2016 (13.5%) £5.98 Asda. Get your steak on! Deep, fulsome and flavoursome red from Portugal that hits the bullseye.

WINTER WARMER: Blueprint Reserva Carménère 2016 (13.5%) £7.49 Waitrose. Sleek, warming and fragrant as a molten black fruit pastille.

BIG HITTER: Carta Pura Organic Monastrell 2016 (14.5%) £6 Morrisons. Brambly black fruit with huge impact, this makes Big Daddy look like a leprechaun. (On offer until Jan 6).

SPICE THRILL: Domaine de la Curnière Vacqueyras 2016 (14.5%) £13.50 Marks and Spencer. Peppery and spicy red with the power of a kola cube so massive it has its own gravity field.

WINE OF THE WEEK

Rhône Valley Red 2016 (14.5%) £10.80 Tanners. From an excellent year: grab this while you can. It’s juicy, spicy and nearly perfect red.

This column was originally published in EVENT Magazine, Mail on Sunday, 11th November 2018

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