Top quality wines at realistic prices

At this time of year one should be saving or abstaining after the extravagances of the festive season, and yet Tom Harrow suggests there are also some
gatherings that may require bringing a bottle or two

Below are my currently preferred off-piste selections that will ensure affordable but entirely enjoyable sampling of some new wines over the winter months ahead.

Gruner Veltliner
Austria is responsible for making some terrific wines at the moment. Whilst the reds further south in the Burgenland are well worth exploring, it was Gruner Veltliner which really put the country back on the wine map after the unfortunate antifreeze scandal of the 80s. Whether from the Kremstal, Kamptal or Wachau regions, there is no shortage of these impressively decent and characterful whites to enjoy, under €15.Stylistically Gruner tends to occupy a space somewhere between the gooseberry and grapefruit character of former with the more floral and stony freshly milled white pepper. Recommended producers include Domaine Wachau, Sepp Moser and Weingut Stadt Krems.

Picpoul de Pinet
Known as the Muscadet of the south, this charming and supple wine shares some of its northern cousin’s leesy, wheaty character but with a ripeness of spicy, that reminds you that it hails from the warmer climes of the Languedoc. A great example of an affordable wine appreciated by those in the know, its ever-growing fanbase will attest to what a pleasure it is tasting an unpretentious, versatile white that is zippier yet fuller textured than Pinot Grigio but fruitier and softer than lesser Loire Sauvignon Blanc and similarly priced. A great and gluggable aperitif, it’s also well-paired to the local oysters and other freshlycaught shellfish. Recommended producers include Domaine Ls Croix Gratiot, Le Cave de L’Ormarine and Domaine Les Lauriers.

Barbera (d’Asti/ d’Alba or del Monferrato)
Very much thought of as the second grape of the Langhe – with Nebbiolo and the grand wines of Barolo and Barbaresco hogging the limelight, Barbera is well worth getting to grips with. Its forest berry, brambly character is supported by a crisp vein of natural acidity whilst its tannins are quite and fruity. Rarely expensive, Barbera meaty ragu and less wallet-busting wines of Piedmont. Spending your well-earned savings on extra truffle shavings definitely makes sense… recommended wines come from Villa Sparina, Castello di Neive and Araldica.

Monstant DO
With vineyards almost completely surrounding Spain’s most voguish wine destination, Priorat, Monstant is capable of producing some exciting, richly hedonistic reds especially. Stony soils, often bordering the mountains after which the region is named, an arid climate and, where you can Carinena (Carignan) makes for an attractive combination that tends to punch well above its modest price. Dark-fruited with polished leather and dried herb notes, Monstant reds are good examples of affordable winter warmers, and great with roasted and slow braised meats. Recommended wines come from Bodegas Acoustic, Celler

Uruguayan Tannat
What Malbec has done for Argentina,and Carmenere is doing for Chile, Tannat is hoping to achieve for Uruguay, i.e take a later-ripening, lesser known European grape and applying more sunshine and heat in order to get sufficiently juicy fruit to balance the rich tannins slightly green character that cooler climates produce. When achieved the resultant wines are powerful and spicy with chocolate pod, coffee bean aromas alongside a morass of dark, plummy fruit. The leading light in this field is Bodega Garzon, whose wines are terrific value for the quality and scale of production. Other recommended wines to try this season come from Pisano and Bodegas Carrau.