Can I offer you a protective layer of something mouth-pleasingly delightful to take your mind of this, the tail end of winter?

These wines from Rioja combine the core components of quality: complexity of flavour, value for money and colossal scope for pleasure. 

 One bottle is never enough. We owe it to our bodies and our minds to drink responsibly, therefor quotas must be set by our appetites (and mine is huge!). 

Castillo San Lorenzo Rioja Tesco

Castillo San Lorenzo Reserva, 2010
Grapes: mazuelo, graciano, tempranillo

Ok, this is your “smash’n’grab” bottle from Tesco. It is good quality and damn cheerful. Lovely mouthful of cherries and blackberries, with soft silky tannins and pleasant vanilla oak flavour. A great weekday playmate!

RRP £6.50 from Tesco
http://www.tesco.com/wine/product/details/default.aspx?id=256990990

Viñedos de Altura, Crianza, 2012, Bodegas Ramon Bilbao
Grapes: 50% garnacha, 50% tempranillo

Very comforting mouthfeel with plenty of spice and gentle but present oakiness. Very enjoyable. I immediately thought of a plate of cured hams, succulent Jamón ibérico with soft, nearly runny inside, chorizo tortilla.

RRP £12.95
http://www.bodegasramonbilbao.es/tienda/index.php/ramon-bilbao-vinedos-de-altura-crianza.html

baron de ley rioja

Baron de Ley Reserva, 2010
Grape: 100% tempranillo

Lovely red colour, especially around the edges of the meniscus. Ripe plum fruit on the nose, with hint of vanilla form the oak. Great taste with soft tannins for a long gentle finish. This wine is really tasty and great value at £12.49. I think I bought a bottle for even less in-store at Waitrose - worth checking for promotional discounts.

Roasted pork cutlets with herbs would go well. Really easy wine and well priced for a night in chatting with loved ones / friends!

RRP £12.49
http://www.waitrosecellar.com/all-wines/wine-type/baron-de-ley-rioja-reserva

Cune Imperial Reserva, 2010
Grapes: 85% tempranillo, 10% graciano, 5% mazuleo

Delicious red fruit nose, really attractive! Really nice balance in the mouth of soft vanilla, ripe bursting red fruits, strawberry and cherry. Good length but not overpowering, so that you can enjoy a few glasses without having tannic-lock-jaw. A good tip for quality home drinking at a reasonable price.

RRP £21.99
http://www.waitrosecellar.com/all-wines/popular-regions/rioja-wine/cune-imperial-rioja-reserva

olagosa oro rioja

Olagosa Oro, 2008, Bodegas Perica
Grapes: 95% tempranillo, 5% graciano

Wow, a big impressive mouthful of wine. Complex aromas of leather, tobacco, lovely touches of blackberry fruit. This is a ponderous wine to drink slowly and possibly alone, so as not to be distracted. 8 years old, well structured and so has many more on the clock.

It’s pricey at £46.95 but is it worth it? I suppose the real question is: can you afford it? I loved it.

RRP £46.95
http://www.perfectcellar.com/collections/attr-grape-tempranillo/products/bodegas-perica-oro-rioja-reserva-especial-2008

Good foods to accompany can only enhance the pleasure. Well selected bottles, a genius recipe, wrapped up in the evening comfort of doing whatever it is that makes you smile. That could be getting cosy with loved one, writing letters of emails, watching a movie, or relying on a chunky book to transport the mind to other places. Whatever it is, let rip!

 

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Driving into the Entre-Deux-Mers region from the north, the vineyards roll out like a bright green deep-pile carpet across the undulating land. It’s hard not to be excited about tasting wines with so much heritage, as we head to Chateau-Sainte-Marie to meet with 5th generation owner, Stéphane Dupuch. 

 

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Carluccio's deli and restaurants are a high-street staple, where great flavours in food blend easily with quality wines on the list. Following the death of the charismatic founder, Antonio Carluccio, his spirit lives on in style and philosophy. Nick Breeze talks to Head of International Operations (especially where wine is concerned!), Mike Stocks about wine-list tips, food matching and the great man of "mof mof":

 

Winemaker and owner Nicola D’Auria greeted us at the entrance of this fascinating cantina. The winery and cellars have been designed by Rocco valentini in the shape of a vertical barrel in order to immerse the tasters senses in wine.

 

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