January is traditionally when we plan our holidays, but with uncertainty surrounding Covid restrictions, you may be seeking other ways to be transported.
Wine can have this effect, being so rooted in the landscape, climate and culture of where it’s made. Look up your favourite wines on the web and see where that takes you – most wineries have websites to drool over, with glossy photos and videos, plus the lowdown on how it gets from vine to glass.
Longing to go island-hopping in Greece? Then look for on-trend assyrtiko from the volcanic island of Santorini, with its lovely lemony freshness and steely spine of minerality. It whisks you away from winter in a sip. Albariño has a similar vibe if you’d rather be in Spain, or try a great-value grillo from sunny Sicily.
Or are you hankering after a city break? Open a chianti, burgundy or rioja, then lose yourself in the museum websites of Florence, Paris or Madrid. Alternatively, pour yourself a glass of port and discover the many charms of Porto. Perhaps you’re missing a skiing holiday? Choose a riesling from Alsace, or anything from Austria, then sit back to watch Ski Sunday with something warming to eat.
A good rule of thumb when pairing wine with food is that dishes from a particular region go well with the wine made there, so let that guide your menu planning. The only limit is your imagination. Horse-riding in the Andes? Argentina is spectacularly beautiful, especially high in the mountains where the best wines are made. Pour a malbec, griddle a steak, and bring out your inner gaucho – without the saddle sores.
The Wine Show, streaming on Amazon Prime, takes a light-hearted yet informative approach and makes for wonderful armchair travelling, while the newly launched Vivant is an immersive, interactive platform that takes wine geekery to a new level.
While Covid has put the kibosh on so many of life’s joys, let’s give thanks for escapism through cyberspace, and the pleasures of good drinking.
Best international wine
Rioja is Spain’s flagship wine and this is a textbook example of the modern style- fruity, juicy and gluggable.
Here’s a great-value malbec from high-altitude vineyards made by one of Argentina’s best wineries. Dense and spicy, it’s crying out for steak.
This organic winery has a gorgeous website that covers the history, culture and food of Sicily. Served slightly chilled, this light, fresh red is excellent with cold meats.
Made in Portugal’s stunning Douro Valley, most famous for port, this very special wine has rich and peachy fruit finishing with intense herbaceous freshness.
Zweigelt, Austria’s most-planted red grape, is treated to a little oak ageing, adding notes of vanilla to bright fruit, and a silky earthiness.