If you live in the Cayman Islands, sunny Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro or other places with year-round warm weather, the wine you choose to drink isn't likely affected by the seasons. But, here in Utah, Mother Nature plays an influential part in my wine buying and ordering decisions. I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't drink your favorite bright, summer sauvignon blanc during a cold snap; I'm not the wine police. But as our habits—eating and otherwise—change in wintertime, it makes sense that our wine selections would change, too.
Many of us tend to be a bit more housebound in cold weather; we physically slow down some. And when it comes to food, there are more hearty stews, roasts, braised and baked dishes, chilies, soups and slow-cooked meals than in warmer weather. And so, you'll naturally want to select wines that complement those foods rather than overwhelm them. One of my favorite winter seductions is Provençal-style beef daube, but I wouldn't think of drinking it with a light pinot grigio.
A key component to achieving successful pairings is to pay attention to texture. That is, the textures of both the food and the wine. A thick, hearty beef stew begs for a big, rich red to drink with it—perhaps one from Côtes du Rhône or Chateauneuf-du-Pape in France. They tend to have big fruit backbones, chewy tannins, high alcohol levels and dark, earthy flavors. A couple of good options would be Guigal Côtes du Rhône ($17.75) or the more luxurious Mont Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($45.96).
Another reason reds fit so well into our wintry ways is temperature. In hot weather, we want cold (or at least cool), refreshing drinks—in other words, white wines. When it's chilly, we turn to those served at warmer temperatures—the reds.
Not all winter reds have to be big, brooding, serious wines. Take, for example, 19 Crimes Red Blend ($10.99) from southeastern Australia. Like its name—which refers to the 19 different crimes that would result in British rogues being sentenced to live in Australia—this blend of shiraz, pinot noir, grenache and cabernet sauvignon is whimsical, almost tasting like a chocolate-vanilla shake in a wineglass. It's also a fruit bomb, bursting at the seams with currants and dark fruit flavors. Enjoy it next to a warm fireplace on its own, or pair it with red meat.
Syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon are perfect partners for winter dishes, and Poggio al Tesoro Bolgheri Mediterra ($26.99) is made with all three of those varietals. It's a fragrant and fruity wine that is rich and complex, yet light enough to pair with dishes such as roast chicken or pastas with sauces like carbonara, Alfredo or cacio e pepe. Other red wines especially well-suited to the season are zinfandel, pinot noir (particularly with mushroom dishes), sangiovese, Barolo, malbec and Rioja.
Obviously, I'm not going to eschew white wines entirely. But unlike in the spring and summer—when I'm interested mostly in light, un-oaked white wines—in winter I turn to heavier, oaky ones (both white and red) with bigger bodies and chewier textures than my summertime sippers. In other words, chardonnay. A white burgundy like Louis Jadot Meursault ($67.97) is 100 percent fermented and aged for 15 months in wood barrels before bottling. The result is Meursault that is rich enough to pair with roast turkey, pork and cream sauces. Domestically, big, rich chardonnays from producers like Rombauer ($35.99), DeLoach ($13.95) and Landmark ($27.49) are great for winter enjoyment.