Winter Wine Pairings

There is a chill in the air and some areas have already been socked with snow so it is not too early to start thinking about winter – more specifically:

“What wine goes with winter?”

Winter wine

Today’s guest author, Madeline Blasberg, explores this question and offers great advice. (By the way, I was not compensated for this post.)

Winter Wine Pairings

When the weather outside gets frightful, you have all the more reason to uncork something truly delightful. Warm foods on cold winter nights practically beg to be paired with wine – but which one? Wine pairings can be based on a number of different criteria- what’s growing the garden, what’s native to the region, even what’s written on the price tag. But seasonal wine pairings are near guarantees that you and your guests will love each and every menu you create.

So what are the flavors of the season? That answer varies with every degree of longitude, but – geography aside – there are likely a few characteristics that we can agree upon.

Winter foods tend to be heavy, thick, and contain more meat and fat. They are often bathed in complex sauces with long cooking times and beautifully present spices. They are elaborate, mouth-coating, concentrated, and savory. They are elaborately cooked over heat, roasted in the oven, caramelized in the pan, slow cooked, braised, and simmered until the heat of the kitchen and the aromas of the dish permeate every floor of the house. Those are the essences of winter fare.

But how does that help us to understand winter wine? These winter culinary characters – the rich, the heavy, the hot, the spiced, the creamy – they’re players in culinary labyrinth that almost always leads to the aisle of red wines. But before the white and rosé defenders reach for their heretical pitchforks, let me say – they have a point. No seasonal wine pairing is ever truly monochromatic. But just as rosé has a way of making summer nights slow down, red wine has a way of warming up even the most bitter of winter chills.

Winter wine pairing basics

Given the culinary profile of winter foods, you’ll want to choose wines that exhibit similar qualities: full-body, thick tannins, deep, strong, persistent in flavor. Familiarize yourself with the world’s reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Malbec, Tempranillo, Merlot, etc. Experiment with different vintages, growing regions, varietals, and amount of oak aging.

Pair your roast beef with Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, or Tempranillo. Enjoy your roasted vegetables with Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, or Chianti for roasted tomatoes.

And if by chance there’s still a little heap of embers glowing in the fireplace long after your winter meal has ended, grab the corkscrew once more. Wrap yourself in a blanket and pour a glass of a red wine night cap. Choose a wine with supple tannins that does not leave you with cotton mouth, and lush fruit flavors that are ripe from the moment you uncork the bottle.

If you’re enjoying a piece of chocolate by the fire, pour yourself a glass of Port, Vin Santo, Banyuls, or Pedro Ximenez. The wine should be silky smooth, like the bed you’re about to crawl into, with a hint of warmth from the alcohol to keep your toes from getting cold.

Madeline Blasberg is a Certified Wine Consultant currently working as an Official Wine Commentator & Reviewer for Etching Expressions, a company specializing in personalized wine bottles. She has spent time living in Mendoza, Argentina where she was surrounded by wine, both personally and professionally.

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  1. I rarely drink reds in the summer, but love a good quality cab or zin when the weather turns cold and the food turns heartier. Great post!

  2. Thanks Mo! It’s 8:50 AM and all I want to do is crawl back into bed with a glass of Port. No, seriously I loved this post. It nicely pared down the winter wine basics into an absorbable package for me.
    Kelly L McKenzie recently posted…Grandma Treats Us To Drag ShowMy Profile

  3. I haven’t had a glass of wine in 10 months and I’m now seriously regretting that choice! Oh for a glass of wine that is “silky smooth, like the bed you’re about to crawl into, with a hint of warmth from the alcohol to keep your toes from getting cold.” *sniff* I miss wine!
    susan recently posted…Lessons in Encouragement | ListenMy Profile

  4. Oh, this is *so* helpful!! I am terrible when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s embarrassing! I am actually printing this out and sticking it in my kitchen drawer!!!! I love it!! –Lisa
    The Dose of Reality recently posted…Don’t Dog Sit If You Want To Be a Brain SurgeonMy Profile

  5. I’m happy my Cab is a good winter staple with all the meat dishes we eat. But now I want chocolate and port ASAP! 🙂
    Katy recently posted…When Lint AttacksMy Profile

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