THE lure of the vine is even more seductive at this time of year when long nights and log fires call for warming comfort food, and a large glass of ruby red.
And as every sommelier or galloping gourmet knows, the right wine can unlock a myriad of flavours within your favourite dish.
To combat the cold, and budget the weekly shop, there's nothing like a good value vino which headlines in the The Co-op's "Red Wine of the Month’’.
For a good match with pot roast leg of lamb, or Moroccan lamb tagine, try The Co-operative Rioja Tinto, Vina Gala NV, Spain (£4.49 from £5.49, The Co-op). It's surprisingly good, with raspberry, sweet spices, tingly tannins and a marvellously smooth finish.
A Chilean cab sav is always a good card for a mid-week drinker, especially one that's robust enough to cope with sausage, mash and gravy.
Try Extra Special Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Chile (£6.58, Asda) - grippy with black cherry and spice, firm tannins and an oaky sweetness, it will reward you more if it's opened a couple of hours before serving. Elegant Italian reds from the Piedmont region can really lift a bowl of meatballs and spaghetti, and transform a simple supper into home cooking just like Mamma used to make.
For a dose of Italian hospitality and warmth, grace the table with a bottle of Vinchio Vaglio, I Tre Vescovi 2009, Barbera d'Asti Superiore, Piedmont, Italy, (£7.19 from £8.99, until Feb 21, Waitrose). Easy going and extremely pleasant with a plummy nose, basket of leafy, brambly fruits and lively tannins, it improves with every sip.
Thanks to the surging popularity of Argentinian malbec, it's easy to forget this grape also produces inky black, full-boded wines from south-west France.
Try the delightful Vallee Blanche Malbec 2010, France (£7.49, Majestic), which makes a pleasant change from its South American cousin.
Southern Portugal offers rich pickings for hearty reds, and Finest Touriga Nacional 2010, Portugal (£7.79, Tesco) is a famous port variety. A top drop with lamb stew, the intense, brooding dark flavours and firm backbone of tannins work brilliantly with piri-piri sauce, if you fancy adding some fiery heat to lift the spirits.
Spanish beauty Torres Celeste 2009, Spain (£13.99, http://www.cambridgewine.com) is a new release from Spanish giant Torres, and the first of the Torres Zodiac Series to hit our shelves. Heavenly in name, and in mouthfeel, it's aged in American and French oak for 12 months.
Beautifully smooth with lush, brambly fruit, forest fruit aromas and well-integrated tannins, it's as polished as a star in the night sky. A treat with roast fillet of beef and Yorkshire pudding.
For a winter white that's low in calories, try Stowells Light White, Australia (£5.49, Asda). A blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, it's fresh and fruity, and weighs in at only 63 calories per 125ml glass, with 5.5% abv.