Feb 20, 2014

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The Best Wine Varietals To Warm Up Your Winter

There’s a famous Lewis Black stand up spot where he argues that it’s not “that we shouldn’t have a holiday of love,“ perhaps just not in February. His delivery is superior, (follow the link) but with the passage of this frigid, snowy, blustery winter, celebrating Valentine’s is going to be but one respite among many.

With the right fireplace or a bunch of the right friends – or for quality time with your significant other – a toast to the season with something really full-bodied is the order of the day. Reds are loaded with antioxidants and can raise your levels of Omega3 fatty acids, and the benefits to regular, moderate wine consumption are being updated nearly every day. Rather than listen to wine enthusiasts, check with the healthcare experts before deciding to up your intake.

Just as the temperature hits rock bottom, your appetite for thicker, richer foods is going to peak too. That’s ok. A heartier, bolder wine will make heavier dishes that much heartier too. Here’s a quick list of the bottles you’ll need to carry home to make winter better than just bearable.

1) Chardonnay – Obviously this is a list mostly of red wines, but some Chardonnay not only helps you to burst the bubble of winter stereotypes, For a little party or an impromptu celebration, a winter Chardonnay can actually make you shine. Be a little daring. Perfect for seaside contemplation or truly existential revelry, any of your white cream sauces will thank you, and guests seeing too much red will thank you, too.

2) Barolo – With a nice Italian sounding name like that, you’d think more people would remember it. Barolo is one of those relatively unsung heroes of the Italian winter. Tannic, often very powerful, Barolo goes best with your Italian feast; gamey red meat, heavy tomato-rich pasta and that risotto you’ve been planning but haven’t had an excuse to break out. Heavier cheeses like a Parmigiano Reggiano, Danish blue or Gorgonzola or even an aged cheddar are going to stand up to Barolo. So go strong and you may even come up with a true winter highlight.

3) Cabernet Sauvignon – Let’s make things a little easier. Here you really can’t go wrong. It’s almost difficult to find a Cabernet that won’t liven up February – even March – with some extra ribald cheer. Rich, deep and dark, you don’t have to get medieval either. Cabernets tend to be reassuring, even when complex and they can be just that. Pairing easily with steak, shepherd’s pie and the heaviest dishes on your table, a couple of good bottles will not only test your commitment to moderation, but turn any dinner into a celebration. So throw one.

4) Zinfandel! Wine should really let you imagine the best of any season, dish and turn of fate. Even if you’ve never been, you can probably imagine the Mendocino Valley on a foggy, overcast winter evening. Ripe, fruity Zinfandels, even those low in alcohol and the sky high in raspberry can go with just about anything else you were thinking of serving. Marinara sauce of course can be spectacular, but for a sweeter Zinfandel, you’ll want to pour a little closer to a dessert with cheeses and chocolate.

5) Petit Verdot – If all of the above is still too timid and you’re really hoping to strike a different chord in the heart of winter, consider one of the Petit Verdot blends. Inky, deep, dark and dramatic, a 2011 Carter Cellars Red is probably not quite ready for this year. (Next year it should make for a magnificent winter warmer.) But something like the 2009 Dancing Hares from Mad Hatter Napa Valley is dark red, passing the line into rich black, and there’s all kinds of deep, dark winter taste; tar, smoke and licorice. Too much? Think oak and cherries and some caramel too. It’s based on Merlot but there is enough Petit Verdot in there with a flourish of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to make for an exquisite dinner pairing. “Brooding” is the word that seems to come up. And, let’s not kid ourselves; if you’re not in the Florida Keys, this has been a brooding, nail-biting winter already. There’s no reason not to make the most of it.

This isn’t the most conventional list of winter wines, but that’s in part because a wine lover needs to experiment – especially when conditions are changing quickly and you’re not sure what exactly tomorrow will bring. Throwing all caution to the wind isn’t mandatory, but with the right wine, you’ll be smiling all the way until Daylight Savings time begins.

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This article was written by James T. James is a writer working out of Mexico City who writes for several websites focused on food, wine, and even the occasional SEO company.

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