Sun-deprived? Can’t remember what blue skies look like? Forgotten the smell of dusky paths and ripe peaches?
Fret no more. A bottle or two of Roussillon wine is just what the doctor ordered at this time of year. The effect is not dissimilar to sitting in a light box, only it’s far more pleasurable.
I have a particular soft spot for this untarty part of South West France thanks to several family holidays spent in the shadows of the Albères mountains. In fact, there are three mountain ranges, rivers and the Mediterranean sea.
What more does a chap need? Wine, of course – and there’s stacks of it, at accessible prices and of high (and rising) standards.
Vins du Roussillon recently dropped off a couple of winter snifters that bear all the hallmarks of the region – restrained power, big flavours, sophistication and affordability.
Saint Roch Côtes du Roussillon Syrah Grenache delivers intense damson fruit without that awful sweetness that plagues too many bigger wines. Full-bodied, it has an incredible bramble colour and exudes that bone-warming glow for which Roussillon, the sunniest place in France, is famed.
The wine is bottled on the Rte de Ceret and speaks of the glorious cherries for which the town is famed. Great with game. And you get all this for £6.99. (Available nationwide at Morrisons and morrisonscellar.com) 6/10
Croix Milhas Rivesaltes Ambré is one of the four main types of Rivesaltes, one of the top appellations for vin roux naturel. This amber-hued wine is aged for at least three years in vats or oak barrels and is made from grenache gris, grenache blanc, macabeu and muscat on the high slopes of Roussillon.
For a sweet dessert wine, layered with crystallised fruit, toffee apple, gingerbread and nutty notes, Croix Milhas is surprisingly fresh. Light and lingering, I detected a saltiness underlying the dripping sweet fruit. Superb with sticky puds or blue cheese.
A 37.5cl bottle is £7.94 – available nationwide at Tesco and tesco.com. 7/10