Our best wines for winter
The temperatures have been creeping down over the past few weeks and the shift from the gentle warmth of autumnal sun to frosty mornings means a shift in wardrobes - and in the wines we like to drink.
We seek bold flavours from spicy, warming wines when it's cold, so full-bodied red wine is the obvious choice. If you prefer whites, then wines that are richer and fuller can offer similar comfort as well as refreshment. But which wines should you go for?
We've put together some winter wine tips below and made our picks for the wines to enjoy this season. As ever, these are not hard and fast rules. Often the most satisfying wine is the one you like most, so whatever your preference, we hope you find something to enjoy.
Best red wines to drink in winter:
This is the time to put ripe, full-bodied reds in your glass. Go for red grapes that have concentrated flavours and more body. You'll find this in wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec which brings us to our first wine pick:
Sottano Cabernet Sauvignon, £13.00
Sottano are a great bunch of winemakers in Mendoza, Argentina. While their Malbecs may get most of the attention, their Cabernet Sauvignon is equally good and perfect for cold nights. It is a deep and brooding red full of cassis, mocha, leather and tobacco but all held together by a little time in oak barrels. Exactly what you want from a Cab from this part of the world. This is one to try with a warm pot of chilli.
We're also looking for wines with plenty of savoury spice, and the Southern Rhone Valley in France is a great place to find them. This wine by Domain Burle has been a staff favourite for years. Damien and Florent Burle took over the running of the family estate in the Rhone appellation Gigondas from their father Edmond in 2004. Sharing the responsibilities in the vineyard and the winery between them, they aim to make classic Southern Rhone wines that are bursting with life. The blend here is Grenache and Syrah with local varieties Caladoc and Marselan. It is ripe and round, packed with red fruits, and has just enough of that nice warming spice. This is the wine for winter stews, slow cooked for hours.
Cantine Sampietrana, Brindisi Riserva, £14.00
Southern Italian blends are ideal for winter too. Wines from Puglia, made with Negroamaro are rich and full of ripe blackberry and mulberry fruit. This wine by Sampietrana also contains a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon giving the wine even more weight and structure along with some cassis fruit. Really delicious with a comforting bowl of beef shin ragu.
"From the heel of Italy, this is just a banger of a wine for us. Everyone who tries it loves it. Concentrated dark fruit, richness from oak and velvety smooth. Try it with a spicy pasta dish."
Jeanneret Rank & File Shiraz, £19.50
We mentioned Shiraz, and the place to go for bold, gutsy red made from this grape is Australia. We particularly like this from Clare Valley's Jeanneret. They see Shiraz as the 'rank and file' grape of the Australian wine industry. It's grown in almost every wine region and is liked for its ability to produce big, soft, rich and balanced wines. Shiraz from the Clare Valley has all these characteristics and its own unique form and structure. This wine is big with bramble, blackcurrant, spice and dark chocolate aromas and a palate that is stuffed full of dark, delicious fruit given depth by more spice and textured tannins. It's a perfect choice for smokey, grilled ribs.
If you're looking for a great selection of winter warmers, try our Fireside reds case here.
Best white wines to drink in winter:
Now when choosing white wines for colder nights, you're again looking for wines with more body and spice. The richer the better. Wines that have been barrel-fermented, or matured in oak barrels often have a creamier texture and will have picked up a bit of spice from the wood. But you don't want to lose the sense of refreshment that makes white wine appealing, so some balancing acidity is a must.
This is a wine that gets the balance right. An energetic white Rioja blend of Viura and Tempranillo with bright aromas of sweet peach, citrus and tropical fruits that carry through to the palate, which is accompanied by creamy notes and spice from time in oak. There's a generous weight, that feels satisfyingly round and mouth filling, and is perfectly balanced by bright acidity.
"Another great example of a modern white wine from Rioja. The oak influence adds a lovely texture, and the fruit is so vibrant and concentrated. It's a very satisfying combination and tastes great with a plate of seafood tapas."
Cortese, Vanedda Bianco, £17.00
On the other hand you may not want a big oaky wine, so if that's the case, try something that has had a bit of skin contact. Orange wines are good, but often have more tannin too, so if you want something different, try this Vanedda Bianco. It's a rich and complex Sicilian white is made up of a blend of Grillo, Cataratto and Fiano. On the palate it is wonderfully nuanced with layers of fruit and spice held together with well-integrated acidity. The flavours change with every sip: the bright colours of Sicilian summers, the bouquet of an orange or lemon grove, the sunny streets, with their aromas of herbs and spices. A wine that can take you on a journey or simply refresh you depending on your mood.
This goes very well with pork chops with a honey and balsamic glaze.
Now the grape that most obviously comes to mind when thinking of rich and creamy whites is Chardonnay. It is a grape that is very versatile and when aged in barrels it develops a lovely weight and depth. Burgundy in France is home to the some of the best Chardonnay in the world, and it is worth exploring some of the lesser known regions there to find good value. This wine by Gondard-Perrin from the Viré-Clessé appellation is a fantastic Chardonnay. It is made using fruit from old vines which give it some good concentration and intensity. Flavours of apple, apricot, melon and honey are complemented by buttery oak on a rich palate balanced by herbaceous minerality. An ideal wine to have with a herby roast chicken.