When the weather chills you to the bone, reach for wines that will warm you up. Unless you live someplace balmy, January is not the time for drinking light, crisp, or especially refreshing wines. Our typical wintry weather—complete with chilling temperatures, barren trees, and snow calls for much-needed warmth. We wear heavier clothing, eat heavier denser foods and we layer everything, from clothing to blankets to our favorite meals. It’s all in the layers. Cold dark winter nights are made extra special when we consider wines that have texture and layers have a lot of dimension to them, in terms of aroma and taste.
The best wines to drink when it’s cold outside are rich, full-bodied wines—ones that warm you up and are wonderful for a night in front of your favorite movie or that are perfect for long conversations in front of a fireplace with your closest friends, family, and loved ones. Reach for a wine that’s lush and rich and more fruit-forward it will serve you better than one that’s lean and minerally with high acidity. This is the time of year to go full-bodied in your wine selections. Full-bodied wines reign supreme in winter since they pair well with heartier dishes.
Five wine types to consider are:
• Syrah — There’s nothing like the flavor of Syrah. Offering traces of cured meats, smoke, coffee, blueberry and iron oxide, it pairs beautifully with flavorful foods. Think a roast, lamb and seasoned Shitake mushrooms. Savory meals and a glass of Syrah are a great pairing and one you won’t soon forget.
• Zinfandel — The perfectly crisp, ripe flavor of a glass of Zinfandel helps us forget about winter—even if it’s only for a few minutes. Zinfandel can be fresh and fruity with lower alcohol content and a red raspberry flavor or extremely ripe, with a jammy, sweet flavor—this red has something for everyone. This wine’s fresh, fruity flavors and aromas help make it wonderfully versatile in pairings with savory dishes or with traditional Italian red-sauced dishes (think lasagna, spaghetti, and the like) where the fresh, fruity flavor releases all of the tangy acidity of the tomato sauce. It can also highlight cheeses and chocolatey desserts.
• Cabernet Sauvignon — The perfect go-to choice for any bold wine lover in winter. It is a choice that is fruity but slightly heavier, and it contains dark fruits like plum, cassis, blackberry, and boysenberry. It can also have herbal flavors. Often, there are some extra flavors that come from vanilla, dill, caramel, toast, and coffee—all perfect flavors when the weather is chilly. Steak is a great option with a glass of Cabernet and some savory warm appetizers.
• Petite Sirah — This wine offers some of the richest and biggest flavors you will ever find. Flavors of dark fruits like plum, prunes, and dark cassis are followed by hints of dark chocolate flavors. Perfect with hearty stews, roast beef and game, and don’t forget the potatoes!
• Chardonnay (Oaked)— When foods during colder weather turn to old comfort favorites like mac and cheese, mashed potatoes topped with butter, warm chowder, and dense loaves of bread, Chardonnay is the perfect glass of wine to choose. The dry, fruity essence complements these dishes. So many wintry seasonal dishes benefit from some crisp and/or buttery white wine characteristics.
Take time to experiment with and enjoy the rich flavors of these wines while the weather is chilled—just like your glass.