JWL Issue #074: Red Wine Special - Pinot, Cab Franc, Rhône & Rioja to Buy

October 29, 2019

In Burgundy, they call chardonnay a red wine and pinot a white, such is the weight and the delicacy of each grape respectively. And yet outside of the world’s most expensive region, it more often swings the other way.

Red was my true love for a decade, and yet the last year or so has been characteristically defined by a shift in preference. My default for red, became an exploration of white. And with it came a love for the many varietals, regional and vintage variations, and overall stylistic ranges you get with white wine.

But there’s nothing like returning yourself to an old flame than the cold and crisp depths of a new season. This weekend, some friends of ours slowly roasted a leg of goat, served with celeriac mash, and fresh greens, following another friend’s new batch sourdough. There is no greater arrival into Autumn that such a meal.

And with it, for me, comes the delight and joy of getting to revisit a whole category of wine that for the last few months has taken a back seat.

This week’s Taste is a special red-focused special, with apologies to the lovers of white, rosé, orange, and sparkling.

Elsewhere, I’m gearing up for box four of The Wine List. I’ve had lots of great recommendations recently for new features: lots of you are requesting some type of box to keep tasting cards in, others requesting the answers, and others requesting additional tasting cards so friends and family can join in. Over the next few months, I’ll be exploring what the next iteration of the product looks.


“Forever on search of affordable pinot,” reads my Instagram bio. Here is the answer. Pinot Noir Jean Cornelius (£7.49 from Lidl) is, quite simply, delicious. Like a lot of cool climate pinot, this conjures up frosty mornings and mountains of fallen leaves. Brambles, red cherries, structure. The best sub-£15 pinot I’ve had all year.

Tapa Rioja (£7 from M&S) is nicely structured, with some crushed berries, sweet plums, and background leatheriness on the nose. While at 14% this will be heavy for some, it’s still restrained for a lot of reds we see out of Spain today.

Elsewhere in M&S, Lirac Les Closiers (£10) is a classic Cotes-du-Rhône. Pepper, liquorice and blackberries dominant this palate with a hefty 14.5% alcohol body to boot. At £10, it’s a step up from a lot of the supermarket CdR, but well worth the extra pounds if you love the southern Rhône.

Cabernet Franc is in its natural home in Loire. St Nicolas de Bourgueil (£17.50 from Berry Brothers) is fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to explore the variety. The wine’s leafiness might be recognisable by red pinot fans, but the fruity weight on the balance takes it further away. A slight barnyardy nose complements rather than dominates the balance. Great accompaniment for roast leg of goat.


Cabernet franc: A primer

Cabernet franc is used in blending in Bordeaux, but dominates by itself in Loire. For me, cabernet franc, has a single dominant characteristic: that of green bell pepper. In subtle wines, it blends into an aromatic, herbal and fruity air. In less subtle variants, it can be the dominant and sometimes astringent aroma.

It’s a thinner skinned grape than cabernet sauvignon, producing paler and more elegant reds.

Outside of France, you can find great single variety cabernet francs in Fruili and Veneto in Italy, in Villány and Szekszárd, in Hungary, and is on the rise in Canada.

If you want a new red to throw into your rotation that’s not the traditional heavier varieties, and pinots getting a bit done, there’s a world to discover here.

Further reading

Embrace the Grape. Katie Mather in Ferment.

A song to listen to while reading this week’s email

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