Roll out the bear skin rug and stoke the fireplace, it’s time to crack open those hearty, full flavoured reds and get that cuddly warmth happening
While winter might drown out the fresh, crisp aromatic whites of sunny, summery-feeling days, it’s a time to celebrate the bolder wine styles that have been gifted to us by warm climates and grape varieties that can eke out balance, even at their most generous and bombastic.
When winter rolls round, it’s time to think even more about warm-climate Australian regions like Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley and Heathcote, but even cooler climate regions can produce wines of deep flavour and intense concentration when nature and winemaking conspire.
A general rule of thumb is to keep an eye on regions that get maximum sunshine, hot summers and long ripening periods. It’s also advantageous to seek out grape varieties that naturally get robust fruit character and work well when left to mature and deepen in flavour.
The grapes that first come to mind for wintertime are those often most familiar: Shiraz can go full throttle and find great balance, even when at its most concentrated and potent. Rich Cabernet Sauvignon from warm regions might miss some of the elegance of Clarets or maritime climates of Bordeaux of Margaret River, but even with amplitude there is satisfaction. Grenache blends, particularly the ubiquitous GSM (Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre) also work well in the cooler months; their spice, layered flavour and general intensity of fruit character are great with a chill in the air.
Other grape varieties that seem to take on added personality in winter are usually those with firm tannin profiles. Tannins are our friends – they lend structure to wines, help reset the palate after rich winter dishes and generally aid with giving depth and character to wines. If you’re looking beyond the regular repertoire of big name varieties, think about seeking out Nebbiolo, Tempranillo or Sangiovese; they’re all apt at chillier times of the year.
When approaching a red wine for cold nights, also take stock of what might be hitting the dinner table. Typical wintery fare like slow cooked lamb shanks, beef stews, goulash, coq au vin and vegetable curries all seem to take on new personality when consumed on cold days or nights, and set against a glass of something potent and heady, can truly be a magical thing.