Winter is here and the temperature is dropping. Depending on where you live in Canada, you could be dealing with numb fingers, knee-high snow or even hungry bears. Regardless of if you’re currently on the wet-cold of the west coast, or the -30C winds of the east, you’re probably curled up indoors, enjoying a book, or marathoning the next installment of your favorite Netflix show.
To pair with these winterly activities we’re going to suggest some Winter Wonder Wines to help you enjoy this magical season to its fullest.
I’m dreaming of a white (wine) Christmas
There is a common misconception that white wines are reserved for summertime drinking and red wines are for winter. This is totally false. There are some reds that are better to consume in summer (think Beaujolais and entry-level Valpolicella) and some whites that are better in winter.
First, we suggest looking for a good Gewurztraminer: a high-alcohol, full-bodied and oily white wine with a rich, spicy palate. You can expect flavours like lychee, ginger, spice and cinnamon in every sip of Gewurztraminer. There’s also a bit of sweetness in the wines, which is usually made in an off-dry style.
Another white wine option is Torrontes from Argentina, which is big, bold and gingery. It’s very similar to Gewurztraminer, though tasting notes often report it is a tad spicier. What could be more perfect for winter than a strong white wine that tastes like sugar, spice and everything nice?
For something completely different, look for a ‘creamy’ or ‘buttery’ white wine, particularly Chardonnay. These wines can be quite rich, with tropical fruit palates, and a creamy texture which pairs beautifully with quiet, dark nights at home.
…But if the White runs out, I’ll drink the Red
The sun has been a bit aloof, it’s not warm and we’re all dreaming of a warm summertime, but life does go on and there are six months to kill between fall and spring. When you’re looking for a strong wine to wait out winter with, you’re going to want to look for something with high alcohol. Typically, these are not the best wines to enjoy in hot weather as they are the opposite of light, crisp and refreshing.
There are many varietals and blends which will fit the bill, but one to look for is a Barbera: a crowd-pleasing party wine, Barbara’s are spicy and savory, with notes of dark berries, violets and herbs. Barbera’s are full bodied wines that do well with time in a decanter to fully open and reveal the extent of its layered flavours.
Another to look for is Grenache, with concentrated flavours of cinnamon and cloves, this varietal is basically bottled Christmas. Concentrated and pure, Grenache is characterized by flavours of red and black fruits balanced with sweet spices. Perfect for the holidays.
For that extra special occasion, you can look for Chateaneuf-du-Pape or it’s more rustic neighbor Gigondas. These wines are famous for their complex palates of dark fruits, rich spices and smoky backbone. The perfect varietal for pairing with a decadent Christmas meal, these are medium to full-bodied with silky tannins and a long, lingering finish. Let it decant while the meal cooks, if you can resist!
Many of these grapes are naturally higher in sugar, which means they become rich, thick and powerful wines that are high in alcohol. There’s something immensely satisfying about nursing a huge, hearty alcoholic red wine while watching the snow pile up outside. With these wines, sometimes described as “spicy”, you are sure to feel warm and cozy.
Lets get Fizzical
A happy miracle of winemaking, bubbly is a magical beverage. It’s one of the great inventions of the past that occurred accidentally, and there’s still some magic about it today. Beyond the simple joy of consuming a fine sparkling wine, those magic bubbles are widely associated as one of the most celebratory beverages on earth.
So, what better way to toast in the holidays? While a fine Champagne may stretch your budget, there are many excellent value-priced alternatives available. Cava is a fabulous option and is made in the same method as champagne. It is creamy, yeasty, and rich with notes of toasted bread, fennel, white fruits and sweet spices. They are crisp and acidic with a long clean finish. Perfect served as an aperitif with light appetizers for your holiday get-together.
Prosecco is also an excellent option, however, it’s perhaps not the most wintery, or cold-climate bubbly. With fragrant notes of fruits such as peaches and honeydew melon, as well as blossoming spring flowers, it may be better preserved for patio season.
Instead, you can also reach for a selection with cremant on the label. Cremant is any sparkling wine from France made outside of the Champagne region, meaning they are made in the same high-quality standard as champagne but without the hefty price. Rich and creamy, and simultaneously delicate and crisp, these cool-climate wines are an excellent choice for a cool winter’s eve. Grab a bottle and let the effervescent bubbles whisk you away.
Mulled Wine: So Hot Right Now
If you find yourself craving something more spiced (‘tis the season after all), you might want to make a mulled wine. There’s nothing more traditional for the holiday season than a warm glass of mulled wine. It’s very easy, and the results are delicious!
First up, pick up a bottle of inexpensive red if you don’t have one handy. You probably don’t want to make mulled wine from fine wine or that bottle you’ve been aging for years since the process involves spicing the wine and changing the taste altogether. This is one of the occasions that an economical red is the most appropriate. Still, be sure to avoid any varietals that are overly sweet, as too much added sugar will make a sickly-sweet mulled wine. When in doubt look for bold full-bodied reds such as Syrah and Malbec.
While following a recipe is nearly foolproof, experimenting with the recipe (adding an extra shot of brandy, maybe?) is also part of the fun!
Here’s a great recipe to get you started:
- 2 Bottles of Red wine
- 1/2 Cup Brandy
- 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
- Teaspoon Cloves
- 2 whole Star Anise Pods
- 2 Full cinnamon sticks
- Peel of 1/2 and Orange (white pith removed)
- Optional: Cranberries, raisons, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, as a garnish
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and heat on LOW for 1 hour. Be careful not the let the wine reach a boil. If you boil the wine, it can lose its alcohol content. Think low heat and just until it’s warm. Granted, the longer the mulled wine is on low heat, the more the flavours develop. After an hour of gentle simmering, ladle into mugs and add garnishes if desired.
There really is nothing more seasonally appropriate than an aromatic mulled wine. As you make it, the smell will envelop your kitchen, a surefire crowd pleaser.