When the white snow starts falling and covering our beloved Sierra Mountain ski slopes, most wine drinkers dream of full-bodied red wines. While I love a rich red, let me tell you why you should be serving and drinking white wines all winter long.
White wines are typically viewed as being light, fruity and best on warm summer days. While this may be true about some white wines, there are many that have the richness and body to hold their own on a cold winter’s night.
What do I mean by richness and body? Body in wine refers to how heavy or thick it feels in your mouth. Think about how differently 2 percent milk, whole milk and cream feel when you drink them. Of course, the experience with wine is not as extreme. Wine body is described as being light, medium or full-bodied. Many factors make up the body of a wine, including alcohol levels, grape variety, oak aging, climate, residual sugar and bubbles. Some red wines, like pinot noir, have a light body, while some white wines, like chardonnay, are full-bodied. A wine’s color alone does not tell us about the body of a wine or what time of year we should drink it.
Here are five tips to help you select a great white wine for winter sipping.
1. If you like it, drink it. Do not let anyone’s rules and thoughts override your taste—especially me. One of my wine-educator friends loves sauvignon blanc in the winter. You do you—but if you want some help finding something new, keep reading.
2. Food is a big part of winter entertaining, so pay attention to parings. Rhone white wines like Marsanne and Roussanne are great served with rich shellfish like shrimp and crab, as well as with many cheese dishes, like fondue. Vegetarian fare can benefit from aromatic white wines like Gewürztraminer or Riesling—do not serve boring wine to your vegetarian family and friends. These wines also work extremely well with spicy foods and strong herbs.
An oaked chardonnay from a warm location has all of the richness, body and flavor it needs to accent the foods of winter. The warm climate leads to ripe grapes with rich flavors and lots of sugar, providing a higher alcohol content. The oak aging will provide notes of vanilla, toffee, caramel and baking spices. What could be better than to have a glass of wine with all these great flavors with some pumpkin pie or roast turkey?
I spoke with Ty Martin, the owner of Craft Wine and Beer, about his favorite white wines for winter. He reinforced my thoughts: “With all of the crazy food options sure to come my way this year, I will always have a versatile bottle of white on hand. Albarino and Gruner Veltliner are two of my favorites. I particularly enjoy Galicia’s Albarino with fish and pork dishes, but it loves anything salty and pairs surprisingly well with squash.
“Austria’s Gruner Veltliner is a champ at pleasing every palate. It can handle green vegetables with ease, and even stands up to meaty dishes in a pinch. I’m always thirsty for Nanclares Dandelion Albarino, and the leesy Gruner from Christina is an absolute steal.”
I could not agree more, especially about the Gruner. If you have never had a Gruner Veltiner, you owe it to yourself to try one—and if you have never been to Craft Wine and Beer, you need to get down to Midtown Reno to experience a wine shop with some of the most unique and eclectic wines available.
3. Do not serve your winter whites too cold. In the summer, we might want our wines to be as cold as possible, but not in the winter. Most complex white wines will taste much better when served between 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the rich flavors to be expressed by the wine—and enjoyed by you.
4. A sweet wine—like a late harvest, a port or a Sauterne—works wonderfully with heavy cheeses and rich sweet desserts. I do not generally crave these sweet wines, but around the holidays, they can add the perfect magical note to the end of a chilly winter’s night.
5. Sparkling wine always works. What says winter celebration more than Champagne? The fine bubbles in each mouthful of Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Crémant or Spumante explode and create the perfect environment for light, heavy or sweet foods.
White wines deserve to be served all winter long. Do not limit yourself by being stuck with only red wines. Be original; be bold; and be unique this winter season.