Italian White Wines For Winter? Sure!

By Barbara Hay ~

As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, appetites crave rich food—and red wines. Today, avoiding white wines in winter is an outdated notion there are so many weightier whites that can withstand winter’s chill.

Whether it’s a whole roasted chicken, apple-braised pork Osso Bucco or mashed potatoes, heartier comfort foods are a favorite on winter menus. Even the most novice wine drinker can understand the most important tenet to truly enjoying wine: drink what you like, period. A white wine’s  refreshing acidity will also benefit winter meals, cutting the fat and enhancing the foods we love when it’s cold outside. Many favorite winter dishes, from roasted root vegetables to French onion soup, simply pair incredibly well with white wine. Think about it, a crisp Pinot Bianco is just as quenching with winter butternut squash ravioli as it is with a summer scallop ceviche.

So, there’s no need to cut out white wines entirely, we just need to look for bottles with more minerality and depth to accent the richness and flavors of cold-weather favorites.

Some great choices are the fragrant and focused Pinot Grigio of Italy’s Alto Adige region. These Alpine Pinot Grigios display the classic, complex elegance of the region. They offer focused flavors, finesse, and zesty fragrance as fresh and bracing as the nearby pine forests, the crystal-clear lakes, the rolling hills.

Rather than the light citrus and apple flavors you may expect from your usual Pinot Grigio, you’ll find these are crisp, opulent whites with lovely notes of lemon curd, flint and fresh mountain herbs.

Alto Adige region Pinot Grigio pairs beautifully with baked seafood, herb roasted potatoes, rich potato dumplings, smoked meats, goulash, polenta, buckwheat, sauerkraut or even a winter salad of citrus, avocado and radicchio.  If you’re looking for an easy weeknight dinner with this wine, try pairing with your favorite roast chicken and a loaf of crusty bread.

If you want a winter-appropriate, citrus-driven wine with notes of white florals and a sturdy mineral backbone, that isn’t a Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco is a good choice. This elegant bright wine with notes of stone fruit, and lime peel can take on hearty, winter foods such as Gorgonzola Gnocci, homemade macaroni and cheese, duck cassoulet or roasted mushroom risotto.

Pinot Bianco from this northern region is both sturdy and refreshing with beautiful herbal notes, tempered with essences of stone fruit and lime zest.

For those who want something completely different—a wine with a festive nose that’s versatile enough to pair with even the spiciest of it’s-too-cold-outside-to leave-the-house takeout—try Müller-Thurgau (sometimes the label says Mueller-Thurgau).

Müller-Thurgau is a German grape created by Dr. Herman Müller, from the Swiss canton of Thurgau, who crossed Riesling and Sylvaner grapes to create this variety in 1882. In Italy, Müller-Thurgau is used to make dry wines with mineral notes in the Alto Adige and Fruili regions.

Müller-Thurgau is a majestic Alpine wine that is more full-bodied than Riesling and sturdy enough for cold weather, but delicate enough to sip on its own any time of year. Expect floral aromatics of white mountain flowers,honeydew melon and exuberant orange blossoms followed bynotes of nutmeg and baking spices, marzipan and a superbly round finish.

Müller-Thurgau is the perfect wild card wine to keep at the ready. Whether needing a pairing for glazed ham, ordering takeout Pad Kee Mao, or enjoying a snow day with a bowl of curried pumpkin soup, its soft floral and spice notes will brighten the flavors in your dish, and enhance the umami.

White wine aficionados, even your red wine drinking friends will enjoy these winter whites!


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