Food & Wine
Winter Wine Recommendations for Cold Evenings
February 26, 2021
Written By Coravin
While many white wines have year-round appeal, there’s no denying the appeal of a body-warming red on a cold winter night. Though not required, winter reds are best paired with a roaring fireplace and cozy socks.
When it comes to varietals, everyone knows the usual suspects like Bordeaux, Barolo, and Rioja, but those are not the only winter reds we recommend. The wine world is a vast space filled with hundreds of varieties that hit similar pleasure points with deep color and dark fruit flavors with hints of smoke and earthiness. So, without further ado, here are our picks for the best winter wines – some familiar, some not.
1. Sagrantino from Umbria
Italy’s fourth-smallest province, Umbria, is a landlocked vision of grassy green hills dotted with olive trees and medieval villages. Not unlike Tuscany, it does diverge in a few key ways – namely, it boasts fewer tourists, a border edged in snow-capped mountains, and a grape that almost went extinct. Sagrantino, fortunately, was saved from the brink in the 1970s by local wineries, notably Adanti and Arnaldo Caprai.
The red grape, rich in polyphenols and tannins, has a rugged allure that takes years to soften. Even then, its trademark coarseness never truly fades. It’s not an easy wine to love, especially if you’re partial to the plush, perfect Cabernet Sauvignons of Napa Valley. But, in the hands of a talented winemaker, Sagrantino brings mouth-coating tannins, deep black and blue fruit, and monumental structure. Search for an older vintage and let it decant for at least 1 hour. For pairing, choose a dish with fat and umami – ingredients like herby sausages, wild mushrooms, and aged cheese will pair well.
2. Shiraz (Syrah)
To address any confusion right out the gate, Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape, but the name “Shiraz” was adopted by Australian winemakers to differentiate their unique style of Syrah. So, as you might’ve ascertained, here we are suggesting an Australian Shiraz for your deep winter drinking – months that call for something sturdy and boozy (~14-15% ABV).
With primary fruit flavors of blueberry and black plum, this full-bodied wine also often exhibits undertones of milk chocolate and tobacco. This is another red that is best served decanted for 1 hour then paired with dishes full of flavor (e.g. gyros, Asian 5-spice pork, or Indian tandoori meats).
3. Mourvèdre from Bandol
A quick Google search for Bandol, France, will present you with beautiful images of turquoise water, sandy beaches, and seaside villages. Hidden from the coastline of this idyllic sun-filled dreamscape are vineyards producing wines from the Mourvèdre grape which are, surprisingly, more fitting for winter.
The relative obscurity of this full-bodied, rustic wine is perhaps because the region produces small quantities each season. Characteristics include fruits like blueberry, blackberry, and plum, with undertones of black pepper, rose, and smoke. It’s important to know that Mourvèdre can be aggressively tannic in its youth, but as it ages, it evolves into brooding, mysterious wines that a few hours by the fireplace should give you time to explore. Pair this one with meat dishes like beef short ribs, pork shoulder, and BBQ, or vegetarian dishes with lentils, wild rice, and shitake or portobello mushrooms.
Next up is a wine you’ve probably seen before. Sangiovese boasts both high acidity and high tannin, but its earthy and rustic flavors pair well with many comforting winter meals – both meaty and vegetarian. We recommend taking the time to truly sniff out this winter wine because the grape is known to transform its genetics based on its environment. Depending on which region your wine is from, you should find some tart cherry, red plum, strawberry, or even fig. Other flavors that could come through on the nose are roasted pepper, tomato, Italian spices like oregano and thyme, or potpourri.
If your mouth wasn’t already watering with all of those possibilities, Italian Sangiovese is paired best with warming meals like roasted veggies, pizza, tomato sauce-forward pasta dishes, and hard cheeses.
5. Tannat from Madiran
Last on our list is another lesser-known wine: Tannat. Originating in Madiran, a small village in South West France, the Tannat wines you might find in your local shop today are actually from South America – Uruguay, specifically. The name itself gives a hint to what’s inside: a full-bodied wine with deep inky color and big tannic structure coming from the thick skins of the grape.
When you pour yourself a glass, you’ll taste forest fruit, spices, cocoa, and vanilla flavors. Tannat’s food pairings echo some of the winter eats above – think high protein, high-fat foods like beef, sausage, roasted lamb, aged cheese, and so on.
Ready to tap into your bottle? Us too. To make sure you have the perfect glasses for your winter wines. Here are some of our top picks from the Coravin Marketplace.