It is amazing how our tastes change for food and drink with the change in weather for those of us who live in a region with drastic temperature change. In Canada we see our temperature go from 30 degrees Celsius to minus 30 degrees Celsius. That is quite a change.
Along with the change in weather, our yearning for certain food and drink change along with it. Today I want to talk to you about winter wines, which really vary from our summer preferences.
Picture yourself nestled into a comfortable sofa, a fire roaring in the fireplace, maybe a light blanket to keep the chill away, someone you are having a great conversation with or a good book, a glass of red wine and maybe a platter of charcuterie to share. Can you see it? The questions will be, which wine is the most appropriate for winter, aka a winter wine.
I have a few suggestions for you to consider when looking for a wine for winter.
Some of these wines are well known as winter wines, others, maybe not so much. The next time you are looking for a red wine for winter, consider trying something you may not have had in the past. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
The first winter wine I want to discuss is a Pinotage from South Africa. Although a warm country where they don’t see much weather around the freezing mark, they make some outstanding wines that fit our taste profile for our winter wines. Wines that bring warmth to your mouth, that are a mouth full and go well with game meat, hearty stews or a platter of cheese and charcuterie. Pinotage is the distinctive and national grape of South Africa.
It is a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault bred in 1925 in South Africa. The known region of this grape is Stellenbosch, so if you have a chance to pick up a bottle from this region you will get to taste a typical Pinotage. You can expect to find a full-bodied wine with a taste something like a Shiraz. Try it, you will like it!
The second wine of winter I would like to introduce you to is the Cabernet Franc. This varietal is mostly found in the Bordeaux wines which I will speak about later in this blog.
Cabernet Franc has been a shining star of Canadian winter wines. This varietal grows very well in Canada and is a great wine when well crafted. The Cabernet Franc is, by DNA, the father grape to Cabernet Sauvignon. Personally, I find the Cabernet Franc a full-bodied red that can pair with so many different foods or can be enjoyed on its own. Few wineries bottle a 100% Cabernet Franc, but I am starting to see it more often in the wineries and in the retail stores. If you find it difficult to find at your retailer, ask about it, they will help you find it.
Another great winter wine is the Italian Nebbiolo. Did you know that Nebbiolo is the grape that makes Barolo? If it is not from the designated piece of land that allows the winery to call their wine Barolo, then they call it Nebbiolo. Usually less expensive, this make a great wine for winter with its warmth and pairing capabilities to our winter foods.
A Nebbiolo wine will be a bit more translucent and will have a delicate smell, but when you taste it, you are greeted with robust tannin and high acidity. Go to the Italian section of your wine retailer and look for it.
For our fourth wine of winter, I would like to suggest the Raboso grape. This is a little-known grape varietal from Italy that is often used in a blend with other grapes, sometimes a Merlot or other varietals. The Raboso grape also called Raboso Piave, from the name of a river near where it is grown in the Veneto region. It produces deep-colored wine, with notably high levels of tannin and medium alcohol content and high acid. Makes for the perfect winter wine for our northern winters.
And for our last wine of winter suggestion, the Bordeaux wines. Bordeaux wines are a blend of many grapes, the predominant ones being Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Carmenère and Malbec for the reds. Take your pick of your preference as to the dominant wine in each blend. The exact blend may not always be on the bottle but if you prefer a more fruit forward blend pick up a bottle where the Merlot will be the first or second wine on the list. If you prefer a Bordeaux that brings out all the qualities of the Cabernet Sauvignon, then look for Cabernet Sauvignon to be the first wine listed on the label on the back of the bottle. Not sure how you like your Bordeaux for a winter wine, try more than one (not necessarily all at once) to see what your taste profile tells you. There really is no wrong answer, it is all a matter of preference.
There are so many wine varietals that suit our winter wines palate, so this list is just a place to start. Remember to drink responsibly and enjoy experimenting with different wines!