Ultimate Pairing Guide: Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Winter Wines

As Christmas carols and holiday traditions begin to make their annual appearance, the days begin to shorten, and the air begins to cool. Will it be a year filled with snow or more mild than usual? It’s hard to tell. But, the one thing that’s certain is that wine may become a more central household feature.

Winter Can Always Use a Pick-Me-Up: Winter Wine Is the Solution

As the year begins to come to a close, and a new year positions itself on the horizon, winter starts to come into full bloom.

To many, this means more time inside with the opportunity to connect with friends and family. Maybe it means trying new foods and wines as the holidays and colder weather make their appearances.

As you focus in on what you’ll need to prepare for the season, remember holidays that might be celebrated in your home including Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.

Winter Red Wines and Winter White Wines With Sweet, Rich or Earthy Flavors

As the weather cools, sweaters, slippers and objects of comfort become more prominent. Your wine supply should be no different.

The crispness of fall starts to fade as the unpredictable weather of winter and the hope (or dread) of snow becomes a central focus. Because of this, fortified wines and deep, full-bodied varieties become more popular wine choices.

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Fortified winter wines are perfect, sweeter and stronger options for winter events, after-dinner enjoyment and holidays. Those you may want to look into include:

  • Port. To be considered a Port, the wine must hail from a specific region in Portugal. It is then fortified with unaged brandy, adding an extra layer of warmth and a higher alcohol content. It’s perfect for after dinner sipping by the fire.
  • Madeira. Madeira wine can be starkly dry, extra sweet or anything in between. Due to its aging process, it possesses an extra layer of complexity and can generally be enjoyed in the evenings following dinner or at your leisure.
  • Commandaria. Produced exclusively in Cyprus, containing Xynisteri and Mavro grapes, Commandaria wines are sweet, extremely rich and fruity. These wines contain up to 20% alcohol, making them perfect for winter sipping.

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Not a fan of port? Simply looking for a white option that’s perfect for winter? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. To mix it up a bit, your shopping list could include:

  • Chenin Blanc. While Chenin Blancs are often used in context with the word “wooly,” they’re perfect for cozying up with some comfort food, clothes and relaxation. Who couldn’t use more of that?
  • Oaked Chardonnay. Buttery, flavorful and rich can be qualities that are craved during the winter. Many oaked Chardonnays bring just that. Try a “toasted” variety for a new tasting experience that might be worthy of regular winter enjoyment.

To many wine enthusiasts, there are few things better than a hearty, deep red wine in the middle of winter. While stocking up on your favorite comfort wines, consider trying something new, like:

  • Shiraz. While some Shirazes can be described as “lighter,” many varieties of Shiraz lean toward the “savory” side, making them an excellent complement to hearty winter soups, roasts and other dishes. Consider adding a variety or two to your rotation.
  • Valpolicella. Developed by adding wine to casks that have grape skins left over from the production of Amarone, Valpolicella wines are full-bodied, rich in tannins and perfect for winter wine-worthy occasions.

The Best Winter Wines to Try This Year

Interested in the varieties listed above? Excellent! Check out our picks for excellent winter wines to try this year:


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