There was frost in the garden this morning. Quite a crisp one too and enough to take the remaining leaves off the trees in the next few days. I have been in denial about the turning of the year for a little while but there is no getting away from the fact we are heading into the dark months.
It’s at times like these my thoughts turn to storing up some big meaty red wines, full of sunshine and lush to see us through the winter. Powerful Syrahs or spicy Grenaches to banish the cold.
Now it is the turn of Waitrose to come to our aid in these times. Supermarkets are appalling copycats, so no sooner has Tesco finished its 25 per cent off offer on six or more wines, than Waitrose has dreamt up exactly the same promotion, which means it is worth sifting through their list for deals.
I am always a little cautious about buying wine from this posh people’s shop, because they often charge huge markups. In fact a little comparison shopping often shows you can buy the same wine cheaper elsewhere, even after the 25 per cent reduction. But there are one or two real bargains to be had, particularly among the winter warmers.
The first is my favourite Chateau Musar, the wine that has been dubbed the Chateau Lafite of The Lebanon. Chateau Musar is a wonderfully elegant wine, with a Cabernet Sauvignon base but a heady perfume that comes from the Cinsault grapes. It is also renowned for its ability to keep and improve in the bottle for years. List price is £24.99 but the discount brings that to £18.75, which is a proper bargain.
The main one for this week though is a wine called The Chocolate Block from South Africa. I normally shy away from wines with silly names, since I suspect a copywriter has been deployed on the label to cover up the shortcomings inside the bottle. I can forgive these guys though since the winery is called Boekenhoutskloof in Franschhoek, and they could hardly expect customers to manage that tongue twister.
A lot of wines from South Africa are big single grape varieties so it is nice to come across not only a blend, but a fairly complex one at that. The main grape is Syrah, but it is given spice with both Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, and a twist with a few drops of both Cinsault and Viognier. The blend is changed each year by winemaker Marc Kent and the result is impressive. This is a big brooding wine, but one with surprising finesse. There are lots of deep red berries here but also spice and, yes, it is even a bit chocolatey.
As a result The Chocolate Block has a strong following among its regulars and this offer gives them the chance to stock up at £16.49 a bottle. Hurry though – the offer (online and in store) only lasts until tomorrow.
The Chocolate Block (Waitrose, £21.99, reduced to £16.49 in special offer)