Here’s the round-up of my favourite drinks in Waitrose this month. The selection is focused around winter friendly wines, ideal for sipping in the colder months.

Continuing my series of writing about ‘readily available’ wines – a nonsense phrase employed by press to shoehorn wine writing into mass market supermarket wines – I’ve picked some bottles for winter’s hardiest month. You should still buy your wines from your local independent and support them, now more than ever. However, if you are inclined to buy your booze along with your weekly shop, then for Waitrose shoppers these drinks are what you should plum for:

That classic BIG winter red wine: Primitivo

Full bodied red wines have a quiet monopoly over winter drinking. When you’re sipping wine to hearty stews and intense television dramas, it’s only natural to want something that balances between richness and simplicity. Richness in its intensity of fruit, simplicity in its silky-smooth tannins.

My pick is Primitivo (in fact southern Italy is generally a go-to for any wine like this, especially Nero d’Avola). In lieu of a better comparison, Primitivo is a softer, jammier and spicier Syrah. It shares similarities to new world Shiraz you might buy from Barossa Valley in Australia, for example.

Pazzia Primitivo di Manduria DOP wine label for Waitrose.

However, it’s best news is that it is generally very well priced. Pazzia, one of the better examples, can be picked up in Waitrose stores for just £11.99. That’s a lot of wine for your money.

2018, Pazzio Primitivo di Manduria DOP ★☆☆ Long legs (it’s 14.0% abv). Purplish hue, showing off the grape’s deep colour from its thick skins. Pure aromas of blackberry jam; small hints of smoke and fennel. The palate is full and deep with fleshy black plums, berries, spice and meaty notes. Alcohol’s warming but nicely in tune with the fruit. Fennel and floral rose-like aromas nod their heads on the finish. Would be a delight with lasagne or a mature, crumbly Cheddar.

Support South African wine with a glass of Journey’s End Sir Lowry

Just before Christmas in 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, banned domestic sales of alcohol for a third time. The wine industry, already struggling with the global pandemic and shut restaurants like elsewhere, has had to deal with huge waste and stock surplus. This is tragic news for those of us who know how good South African wine is.

So there’s never been a more important time to drink South African wine. Luckily, they are producing wines that tend to lean more towards winter drinking. Generally, South African wines bridge the old and new world of winemaking styles, showcasing deep fruit and primary concentration like the new world, balanced with the old world’s taste for spice and structure. The results are some bigger, more characterful wines that in their youth can truly shine.

One mainstay of South African wine brands in the UK is Journey’s End. This winery is owned by the Gabb family (originally from Shropshire), who bought the estate in 1995. Today they hold over 120 hectares of vines in the cape, having grown in response to international acclaim. Minimal intervention is practiced in the vineyards and the winery takes pride in its choice of premium oak, amphorae and clay eggs to produce a range of mature wine styles.

Journey’s End Sir Lowry Cabernet Sauvignon, the vineyard’s flagship premium red wine from the Cape.

Its vineyards responsible for the ‘Sir Lowry’ label overlook the False Bay in the Cape with some magnificent views. Sir Lowry is a full bodied red wine made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, costs just shy of £15, and takes its name from the estate’s local Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, where the Gabb family – along with others – help invest in schools and the community.

2019, Journey’s End Sir Lowry Cabernet Sauvignon – Considering its youth, it does what you’d expect on the nose: deep primary blackberry aromas over sweet vanilla and chocolate hints from its oak maturation. Deeply fruity with a herbaceous underbelly and black pepper palate. The finish is richly satisfying. Drink with beef stew.

An old friend comes to stay: Jackson Stitch Sauvignon Blanc

Jackson Estate ‘Stitch’ Sauvignon Blanc bottle shot, available from Waitrose.

After five years in the trade, I still don’t know if I like Sauvignon Blanc or not. Rare times I’ve tried it, I’ve adored its purity and freshness. Once in a while, it’s unforgettable. Mostly, it’s samey-samey and bland as hell.

It’s important not to forget that Sauvignon Blanc’s commercial appeal is rooted firmly in its neutrality; a crowd-pleasing, fresh white wine. There’s little complexity, but then there’s little to offend anyone either.

Years ago, I tasted Jackson Estate Stitch Sauvignon and fawned over it. In hindsight, I thought my glowing notes were down to being a young wine journo. I hadn’t tasted wines broadly, so this was just one of the first I had tasted that was better than most.

So when I saw the latest vintage, I wanted to see if I was being fair to my younger self. Turns out I wasn’t. This wine is marvellous – and it’s on offer down to £9.99.

2019, Jackson Estate Stitch Sauvignon Blanc ★★☆ – Hailing from New Zealand’s Marlborough wine region, this wine feels closer related to Sancerre from the Loire than its domestic friends. It’s full of grassy and citrussy aromas with intense, pure green passion fruit on the palate. So clean and perhaps a little nostalgic. Serve with buttery risotto or garlic roast chicken.

All prices and offers correct 28/01/2021.