Winter wine surprises

Coles Liquor’s James Vercoe recommends the best wines for winter – and they are not all big reds! Whites, whisky, even rosé also work perfectly with warming cool-weather dishes.

Pink, white and red varietals of wine in glasses

Winter wines can be much more varied than a bold shiraz.

Winter’s here. The days are shorter, the scarves are out, the electric blankets are on and the home kitchen menu is laden with soups, stews, braises and pies. The cold weather has us searching for comfort and nourishment.

When we think of what type of wine to drink we may go straight to a bold Barossa shiraz, but there are many other options to consider. We explore some unexpected winter wines, the dishes they are best paired with and why they might just become your new favourites!

Winter whites with texture

White wines are most often associated with the warmth of summer. Racy riesling with fish and chips, fruity sauvignon blanc with crunchy green salads and vibrant pinot grigio with barbecued prawns. There are, however, some white wine varieties that work well with winter fare.

Texture and body are key for winter whites, something with a structure powerful enough to stand up to the hearty flavours of roasting and slow cooking. Chardonnay is the most obvious choice. While chardonnay can be made in many different styles, its structure is always the focal point of the wine. A little oak ageing will also help build texture into the wine. Adelaide Hills and Yarra Valley chardonnays from warmer sites, made with a small amount of new oak ageing, produce ripe, full wines that pair especially well with winter favourites such as pumpkin soup, roasted chicken and fettucine carbonara.

Another white wine to consider for winter drinking is fiano. Fiano is fast becoming the “go-to” white grape for producers in warmer wine regions such as McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. This is because of its ability to maintain freshness in warm climates. The warm days allow the grapes to fully ripen and give a lovely texture to the wines. The texture, freshness and flavours of lemon, apple, peach, almond and a gentle salinity make fiano an ideal food-pairing wine. Fiano works particularly well with winter dishes such as roasted pork with crispy crackling, baked pasta and spanakopita.

Try pink for hearty meals

Rosé can also be a fantastic winter wine. We are now starting to see a broad spectrum of styles in the pink wine category. While the light-bodied, herb-edged Provencal style rosés will probably be best reserved for summer, there are now many more textural options from regions such as the Clare Valley and Margaret River that show lovely fruit, a good open weight and a refreshing acidity that are great for pairing with heartier meals. Baked salmon with roasted fennel, slow-cooked pork ribs and spaghetti with tomato and basil are just a few great options for textural rosé.

Channel Spain and Italy for cool-weather reds

Of course, winter is also a time for red wines. There are two Spanish red wine varieties that make for fantastic winter drinking. Tempranillo wines from the regions of South Australia are plush with red and blue fruits, they have a lovely herbal savouriness and delicate tannins. They are the ultimate wine pairing for slow-roasted lamb shoulder but also work very well with braised mushrooms served on polenta or pepper steak pie. Grenache is the other Spanish red variety that suits winter weather extremely well. The wines have a lovely, rounded weight with bright fruits, delicate spice and a warming alcohol. McLaren Vale grenache is a remarkable pairing wine for pulled pork, osso bucco and lightly spiced pumpkin curry.

The Italian sangiovese grape is another impressive red wine grape variety for winter drinking. The red fruits of Australian sangiovese, along with its powerful tannins, compelling structure and herbal flavours, make this an exceptional wine to pair with wintry Italian dishes such as eggplant parmigiana, ragu and Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine-style steak).

For puddings choose sticky or whisky

Winter is also a great time for pudding. Whether it be chocolate, sticky date or crème caramel it’s hard to go past an unctuous glass of Rutherglen muscat. The luscious sweetness along with flavours of raisins, baking spice, orange rind and toasted hazelnuts make it an ideal partner for any winter dessert. Once you have finished your “pud”, a small dram of Speyside whisky and piece of milk chocolate or a glass of tawny port and some 85 per cent dark chocolate is lovely way to round out a winter evening with your Ugg-booted feet up in front of an open fire.
Cheers to winter.

See our full selection of wines at Coles Online