Yesterday evening I clicked on an unusual wine query from a man whose email out-of-office reads, “Sorry – I’m in the woods.” I know Alastair Humphreys from way back (there is a Yorkshire connection). He is an adventurer and author who has cycled round the world (it took him four years), walked the entire length of the sacred Kaveri river in India, crossed Iceland (unsupported) by foot and inflatable raft, canoed the Yukon and completed many other perilous and exhausting challenges. Now he wanted to know what wine to drink from enamel mugs with beef stew on an overnight camping expedition he is leading tonight. And he wanted to buy it from Waitrose.
I am not much good with guy ropes or waterproof trousers but this is just the sort of expedition question I am fully equipped to deal with. I have Views on Camping Wine. I like it a bit rugged and down to earth. Nothing sweetly over-produced is going to get my vote here. I want camping wine to be robust and bold – drinking outside diffuses the flavour impact. I recommended red – carmenere from Chile, malbec from Argentina, a sturdy French vin de pays, or a Portuguese wine from the Douro or the Dao would all be high on my list for this job. Although, admittedly, my ideal micro-adventure will always end in a nice comfy bed, not under canvas. Here are the two wines I recommended to Alastair. They are both on an offer that ends on Tuesday. The mountain emergency services will not be called if you drink them inside.
Quinta de la Rosa, Waitrose Douro Valley Reserva 2012 Portugal (Waitrose, £8.24 down from £10.99 until 12 May) Quinta de la Rosa is a family-run affair – the estate, perched on the vertiginous banks of the Douro river, was given to Sophia Berqvist’s grandmother as a christening present in 1906. Not a bad christening present. And not a bad wine either. In fact, a super wine. Made from port grapes, it’s dry, red and oak-aged; elegantly structured, but with a gently growling undertow. For claret fans who want a bit more wilderness and might.
Montgras Reserva Carmenere 2014 Colchagua Valley, Chile (Waitrose, £6.74 down from £8.99 until 12 May) Absolutely no shortage of might in this wine: it’s a foghorn but it’s a satisfying foghorn. Big, juicy, boisterous, with quite a bit of oak (most of it French but there’s a bit of American too which adds a subtle lick of vanilla), it saturates you with rich flavour, like fat raindrops and ripe mulberries. This isn’t a style I go for unless it’s done well. Happily it is here. Carmenere is savoury and fragrant. It can taste and smell like black tea and dried herbs and roasted coffee. And that’s all in there as well.