IF you all had as good a Christmas as I did then you've got a pantry full of chocolate and cheese to wade through over the next week or so. With that in mind, I thought we could look at some hearty reds to start the year.

The bonus of these wines is that they are also warm cuddly wines which will comfort you through the first few cold weeks of the year. I'm talking about the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz Cab blends, Malbecs and Californian Zins, all of which can give your palate a bear hug and all of which are perfect pairings with leftover cheese and chocolate.

Although I taste wines from all over the world with an open mind, my preference has edged towards California over the last few years and, to be honest, there's no sign of them being dislodged.

The wines coming from the sunshine state are rich, smooth, full flavoured and complex, attributes which every winemaker seeks to impart in their wines. Australia and South Africa are a distant but exceptional second and third. However, I caveat all this with the note that if price really doesn't matter, ie if you've just signed for Celtic or Rangers, then you still can't beat the first growths of Bordeaux.

Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia

Wow, this is good for the price. Rich autumn fruits, spice and cocoa all present in a really well balanced and complex wine.

Marks & Spencer £8

Blacks Station Malbec, California

I stumbled on this one last summer and, by heck, I was delighted. One of the smoothest Malbecs I've tasted, with blackcurrant aromas, ripe almost warm fruit on a silky palate and soft, juicy tannins. This is the best £15 you can spend in January

Oddbins £15