February always seems to be a month of consolidation for me. That’s partly meteorological (weather that encourages hermithood) and partly financial, insofar as it follows January — a month notable not just for its post-festive belt-tightening, but also the arse-rending existential agony of buying my annual South West Railway season ticket. If there’s a more appalling way to spend more than £5k, please do let me know.
In the South Downs, February was mud and blossom, uprooted trees, sudden breathtaking islands of sunshine in the ocean of grey. And I wanted wine to be the metaphorical equivalent of those rare bouts of sunshine.
Let’s start with an everyday bottle, The Wine Society’s White Rioja (£8.95). This is pretty squarely what you want from a white Rioja: lovely lemony, crisp stuff with its characteristic tang of sheep’s cheese. Think of a bracingly sharp apple sauce with a crisp crumble topping thanks to a subtle smudge of oak. Dry. Refreshing but substantial. As is typical of the Wine Society’s own range, it’s a very good representation of a ‘standard’ white Rioja, and I generally have a bottle or two of it kicking around in my wine rack.
And while we’re at it with the Society’s own range, have a go at their Primitivo too (£11.50). All bitter dark chocolate and cherry — what Black Forest Gateau tastes like, in a parallel universe where Black Forest Gateau isn’t the world’s most disappointing cake. Full and generous in the gob, it’s pretty easy going but with enough depth and balance to keep you coming back. Probably not a wine you’d cast in a starring role (it’s not super complex), but a great supporting actor.
I didn’t exclusively drink Society’s own booze, though. And amongst the wines I enjoyed from their wider range was Château de Caraguilhes Corbières Prestige Rouge (£14.95). This is lovely: wood and dust and ripe autumn berries. Not glib ripe berries, mind; serious ripe berries. There’s an excellent lacing of bitterness and tannin to keep things disciplined and focused, too. You know how those berries can be. I’d say this is rather good value at £14.95 — and certainly sufficient to banish the lingering winter chill.
Alas, though, I can’t link to it, as it seems to have sold out. Zounds. Hopefully they’ll have a newer vintage in stock in time for February 2021, eh?