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Winter Wines

 

There are all sorts of things that are wonderful about winter time. Snow, comfort food and roaring fires are just a few of them. But one of the best things about brisk weather and the winter months is the opportunity they afford to switch up your wine routine.

Colder temperatures and heartier fare are important reasons to look to new wines at this time of year. But another, in all likelihood less obvious reason, is quite simple: state of mind. The arrival of winter signals a change in our routines and activities.

It’s as much an emotional change as it is climatic. We dress differently, we eat differently, and, it follows, we might as well drink differently!

Look to the following special wines ideally suited to winter time to capture the spirit and mood of the cooler months in your glass.

Barolo
Often referred to as “the wine of kings,” this hearty red from Italy’s north westerly Piedmont region is known for being at once full-throttle and delicate. Its power comes from the significant tannin found in the Nebbiolo grape, from which it’s made. In fact, Barolo is known for being amongst the most tannic of all red wines in its youth.

This same quality allows it to age magnificently for up to 20 years or more in your cellar. But you don’t have to wait that long to enjoy this beauty: many Barolos are approachable after just 6 or so years. Along those lines, vintages can vary significantly and have a big impact on when a Barolo will be approachable, so consult your wine merchant for more information on recent vintages before purchasing.

Barolo’s delicate quality comes from its headily perfumed nose, which can smell – seemingly impossibly – at once of dried rose petals, herbs, tar and plum. These aromas, together with its rich, earthy flavors, make Barolo a fantastic candidate for the winter table. It can stand up to the heartiest of hearty dishes – think ragout and casserole and beef – but can also be enjoyed fireside with a cigar after an invigorating day on the slopes.

Watch for versions from Ceretto, Angelo Gaja and Guiseppe Rinaldi.

Ice Wine
I can’t think of a wine more perfectly suited to winter consumption than golden-hued ice wine. Made either from frozen grapes deliberately left on the vine into the crisp winter months (traditional ice wine production) or artificially frozen grapes (the process is called cryoextraction), ice wine is a super sweet concoction that’s at home when paired with a wide variety of desserts and cheeses.

Ice wine production originated in Germany (it’s “Eiswein” to them), where the crisp climate is ideally suited to its production. Very good versions are also made in Canada on Ontario's Niagara Peninsula and in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley as well as some of the northern US states. Wherever it’s made, ice wine smells and tastes of honey, apricot, citrus and tropical fruits and can also show mineral and ginger notes.

Ice wine should be served cold and is a great match with dairy-based desserts including crème brûlée, cheese cake and custards. And there’s no better match than ice wine when it comes to cheese boards, because this stunner is versatile enough to stand up to a broad variety of cheeses. And finally, ice wine works beautifully with luxury food stuff foie gras and other super rich savory fare.

Look for versions from Inniskillin Winery in Ontario, Canada.