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We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone.
Today: When the weather chills you to the bone, reach for wines that will warm you up.
Cold winter weather makes me move a little slower. The clothes I wear each day are a little thicker. And the food I’m inclined to cook has a denser, bigger quality to it. Sweet potatoes instead of zucchini, say. Or farro instead of couscous.
The same goes for the everyday wines I drink. I’m more likely to reach for a wine that’s lush and rich than one that’s lean and minerally. I’ll go for a more fruit-forward wine before one with high acidity. And, at this time of year, I’d rather hunker down with a wine that matches my pace than choose a breezy, easy-drinking option.
It turns out that our instincts for hunkering down in the winter can also be used for choosing wintertime wines. First things first: think texture.
It's all in the layers.
Unless you live someplace balmy, January is probably not the time you feel like drinking wines that are light, or crisp, or especially refreshing. Instead, think about wines that have layers, like the way you dress when it's cold. Wines that have texture and layers have a lot of dimension to them, in terms of aroma and taste.
When you smell a textured wine, tuck your nose deep into the glass -- you'll get the sense there’s more to it beyond one or two sniffs. Some grapes are known for their dimensional aromas, like Viognier and Gewürtztraminer; in the winter, older wines made from Riesling are a special treat, because they’ve often developed smokey, honey aromas over their time in the bottle. Look for German Rieslings in particular, where Dönnhoff (from Nahe, Germany) and Prum (in the Mosel region) are favored producers. In the Alsace region of France, the Boxler label is a personal beacon of light.
When you taste a textured wine, you’ll notice it has a savory quality, similar to what you’d find in long-braised meats or stews: There’s an initial flavor when the wine (or meat) first hits your tongue, then another layer of flavor as it passes through your mouth, and yet another layer of flavor as you swallow. Not surprisingly, wines that emerge from regions that are also bountiful food producers offer savory characteristics. Hit the Italian section of the wine list or shop for reliable and often exceptional bottles, especially Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige, Nebbiolo from Piedmont, and Sangiovesee from Umbria and Tuscany.
Whether you focus on texture, smell, or taste, winter is the perfect opportunity to take your time and consider the layers in your glass.
What do you drink in the winter? We want to hear all about it in the comments.
Photos by James Ransom