THIS is the first week of the autumn where I’ve been forced to pull on a jumper and turn up my collar against a biting wind.
The onset of longer, colder nights brings the need for comfort foods such as sausage and mash, lamb hotpot and fish pie. I’ve also been heading to my favourite local Caribbean takeaway for the reviving miracle of braised oxtail and rice.
Fish pie calls for the broad mineral flavours of Chenin Blanc, the bite of a herbal Sauvignon Blanc or the honesty of a good Picpoul such as the recently released Co-op Truly Irresistible 2013 vintage.
Meat dishes demand the warmth and spice of Syrah/Shiraz, the firmness of Cabernet Sauvignon, or, sometimes, the sweet charms of Pinot Noir and Portuguese Touriga Nacional.
One of the best ways to fortify yourself against the cold is to drink fortified wine. And I have been doing plenty of that, particularly on a recent trip to Madeira where it was not at all cold – more of that is to follow.
Whether it’s Madeira, Port or Amontillado sherry, the joy of fortified wines is their longevity once the bottle has been opened.
A cheeky measure of any as an aperitif or digestif will convey a warming glow with the knowledge that the rest of the bottle will be fine for a week or so.
THE Exquisite Collection Gavi 2013 (£5.29 Aldi)
Mentioned in this column before, this wine is a winner when it comes to that fish pie.
Lemon zest on the nose, slightly mineral with an almond tang. Winemakers’ Selection South Australian Shiraz (£5 Sainsbury’s)
This wine may not be a single vineyard boutique production but it avoids the sludgy quality often offered by Shiraz of this type, offering bright fruit with some personality. Aldi’s Exquisite Collection 2012 Shiraz (£5.99 Aldi)
This wine really shouldn’t smell and taste as good as it does at this price. There’s mocha and tobacco aromas with succulent blackcurrant and cherries on the palate. A top-notch Friday night wine to knock back over a lamb hotpot or a mutton curry.
Truly Irresistible Picpoul de Pinet 2013 (£6.99 The Co-op)
A new release that is perfect for fish pie or probably for any other fish dish for that matter. Refreshing and wellbalanced with apple fruit and plenty of acidity. Truly Irresistible Barbera d’Asti 2012 (£6.99, Co-op)
I was very impressed with the depth of flavour in this weighty, plummy red with cherry aromas.
Again a nice match for that lamb hotpot or sausage and mash with red wine onion gravy.
Errazuriz Estate Series Merlot 2013, Curico Valley, Chile (£9.99, Tesco, Majestic, Budgens, NISA, Booths)
A rounded and soft perfumed nose without a hint of leafiness gives way to blackberry and cassis fruit. This will match most meaty, comfort food such as beef casserole. Blandy’s Alvada fiveyear-old rich Madeira (Currently on offer at Waitrose - £12.99 reduced to £9.99)
Notes of orange citrus and a slightly spicy finish make this the perfect pick-me-up.
Quinta do Crasto Douro Superior 2011 (£13.95 Slurp)
This fine velvety red from the Douro region of Portugal combines red fruit aromas with elegant spice. Serve it with lamb casseroles. Vidal-Fleury CrozesHermitage Rouge 2012 (£16.95 online)
The is the archetypal autumnal red. There’s smoky black pepper and anise on the nose but the fruit is exceptionally fresh with discreet oak.
Hedonistic with sausages, more than good enough for lamb. Robert Oatley Finisterre Syrah, Great Southern 2012 (£25 Hanging Ditch, Oddbins, Chorlton)
I sampled this superb wine at Matthew Jukes’ Top 100 Australian Wines roadshow at Manchester House. It’s an outstanding bottle with classic Shiraz notes of pepper and dark brooding fruit.
●● Errazuriz Estate Series Merlot 2013