Wines to Hunker Down With

January 16, 2014

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. 

Wines to Hunker Down with from Food52

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.

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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.

More: Need more help choosing wines? Read Cathy's rundown on wine shops.

Wines to Hunker Down With from Food52

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.

Wines to Hunker Down With from Food52

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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Libby
  • Joshua Lichterman
    Joshua Lichterman
  • Kate J Daley
    Kate J Daley
  • Rodney Fleisher
    Rodney Fleisher
  • Herr Gourmand
    Herr Gourmand
Cathy Huyghe

Written by: Cathy Huyghe

Best advice I've ever heard regarding wine? "Just drink the stuff."


Libby February 13, 2018
I'm all about a great argentinian Malbec for the winter months!
Joshua L. April 12, 2014
I was just introduced to this site yesterday by my friend, Alice Medrich. I was raving about a Pinot Noir we had found the previous week at a B&B in Sonoma County which was very drinkable even though it was a young 2011. As a lover of high alcohol "big" Zins, I was further surprised by the light 12.5% yet complex flavors. The B&B sells it for $18.95/bottle. The winery, a mere $7.00 plus tax and shipping. Turns out it is an Italian Pinot imported by Chateau Diana in Healdsburg, CA. They call it "Black Oak" which led me to believe it was Californian. Great new house wine for drinking right now.
Cathy H. April 13, 2014
Thanks, Joshua! I love how you've picked up on the trend of lower-alcohol wines. It's gaining a lot of traction and (I think) for good reasons -- they're easier on the palate, they tend to be very food-friendly, and they're simply a more relaxed and natural way to incorporate wine and food into our routine. I hope you'll keep looking for them and enjoying them. Cheers!
Kate J. January 23, 2014
I love pinot noir in the winter in NH.
Cathy H. January 23, 2014
Nice! Pinot Noir can have so much subtlety and layers. Do you find yourself serving it closer to room temperature in the winter, rather than chilled?
Kate J. January 24, 2014
I do. Seems to be quite the crowd pleaser also.
Rodney F. January 16, 2014
I do not know what it is yet, but it is Spanish.
Cathy H. January 17, 2014
Big and fruity Spanish wine, maybe? There are definitely votes for that!
Herr G. January 16, 2014
I just had a similar Riesling as you described from "Langwerth von Simmern" two days ago. They had a brilliant year in 2012 and the wine was accompanied by a basque blue cheese called "Le Berger" - that was the best treat I had in weeks.
Food and wine to entertain you through a whole evening.
Cathy H. January 17, 2014
That sounds perfect -- I haven't tried Riesling with blue cheese, much less a Basque blue cheese, but consider it on the to-do list! Any other cold-weather pairings that you've especially enjoyed recently?