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Are you game?

As yours truly walked the streets of town yesterday, collar turned up against an icy easterly straight from the Baltic and beneath leaden skies, I was pensive about the number of people I know who are undertaking a ‘dry’ January. Certainly, to my mind, the most cheerless of seasons is not the time to be forgoing one of the greatest pleasures in life?

To quote the great thinker and philosopher Michel de Montaigne. ‘If your doctor does not think it good for you to drink wine, do not worry, I will find you another who will not agree with him.’ If you are not drinking this month, then I hope this at least brings a wry smile to your lips.

It’s not all bad actually, the weather that is. There have been some lovely bright mornings, crisp underfoot and perfect for a walk in the countryside. I hope you have managed to take advantage.

So, what to suggest by way of wine for this start to the year? For me, these log-burner days demand something hearty by way of both food and wine. Game especially comes to mind. Rich casseroles of pheasant or slowly braised beef. Can’t you taste that rich gravy and melting onions with sweet carrots? Apologies to all who don’t eat meat.

To match, how about a Priorat?* And one from the mistress of Catalonian wines. Daphne Glorian, a pioneer of the region – the province of Tarragona to be precise – and her Priorat Laurel Crianza** is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is one of the most finely-crafted and full-bodied Priorat wines for the price. Grown-up, fruit-forward and enigmatic this is a classic that’s not that widely known in the UK. Most of her production is bound for the States but OAK N4 have snaffled a few bottles for you to try. Get your knives sharp and aprons on this Saturday night.

Or perhaps some salami and cheese with friends for an informal evening round the kitchen table? How about a feisty Italian red like an Amarone***. Corte Giara Allegrini is from a district near Verona and has an intense and inviting ruby red colour. Characteristic hints of cherry and pepper are subtly nuanced by herbal notes. Dry and well-balanced, acidic yet softly fruity and a perfect accompaniment to a finely-sliced saucisson sec.

* Wine Bluffer says: Priorat is a small but outstanding wine appellation of just 1,700 hectares of vines and only 60 bodegas. Lying to the west in the province of Tarragona, Catalonia, in south-east Spain it has increased in quality over the past decade, and consequently in price, although the Laurel mentioned is great value.

** Wine bluffer also says: Crianza refers to the wine having spent a year in oak barrels.

*** Wine bluffer goes on to add: Amarone is a type of Valpolicella where the ripest grapes are left to dry (or raisinate) on straw mats. The wine ferments most of the sugars and a secondary fermentation makes for a high alcohol content of up to 16 per cent.

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