The clocks have fallen back, and temperatures are dropping across the country. Winter is indeed on its way.
The arrival of colder weather may mean swapping out the summer and fall gear for heavier layers for some, and that doesn’t just apply to clothing. Wine lovers are prone to trading in their glasses of light and crispy white wines for more full-bodied reds in the winter, too.
But the changing of the seasons doesn’t necessarily mean drinkers need to change the color in their glasses. Some styles of white wine can be just as cozy as a chunky sweater, even in the dead of winter.
The key is to reach for white wines with texture. And plenty of creamy, rich, oily, and decadent white wines with well-integrated acid fit that bill.
One of the world’s most popular wines, Chardonnay can be a winter white wine lover’s dream.
Chardonnay is a dry, medium-body, medium-acid white wine that shows various flavors, from orchard fruit to tropical nuances like pineapple, guava, and even banana. However, winemaking techniques and the regions in which the grapes are grown can often influence structure and taste.
Chardonnay from warmer regions like Chile and Napa display tropical fruit notes and tend to be more balanced with acidity, making wines from those regions perfect candidates for wintertime palates.
During the winemaking process, winemakers will often incorporate malolactic fermentation — a method in which the tart malic acid in wine converts to soft and creamy lactic acid. This process can influence the lush flavors in Chardonnay which reminds some drinkers of buttered popcorn.
Aging the wine in oak barrels can also add to its texture and taste. It’s here where Chardonnay often gets its spicy vanilla and oaky flavors. Prestigious regions of France like Burgundy and some parts of Australia are well known for releasing high-quality, oak-aged Chardonnay that true wine enthusiasts devour year round.
Not to mention, Chardonnay is a versatile wine that works with a multitude of foods. Pair it with a plate of baked chicken or fish, pasta with creamy Alfredo sauce, hearty veggie stews, and risotto, or absolutely nothing at all.
White Blends from Southern Rhône
Look to the southern region of the Rhône Valley for bold white wines with body and grace, a ton of rich, mouth-filling, fruity flavor, and inviting aromas you can smell a mile away.
White blends from Southern Rhône typically start with a combination of aromatic white grapes, including Marsanne and Roussanne. They may sometimes include small amounts of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Ugni Blanc, and Bourboulenc.
While almost always aromatic with a noticeably oily and viscous mouthfeel, the wine’s flavors depend on the blend. When Marsanne is the dominant grape, the wine exudes more peachy, brioche, apricot, and honeysuckle flavors. More waxy, herbal notes are detected if Roussanne is in the lead.
With such structure and higher alcohol levels, white blends from Southern Rhône make perfect pairing partners with plenty of rich and decadent dishes. Drink these wines with holiday staples like roasted potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, or pair the wine with hearty poultry dishes like roasted chicken or turkey.
Although Viognier originated in Southern Rhône, it’s the northern part of the valley where the grape hails as the true supreme — particularly within the Northern Rhône region of Condrieu, where the grapes make single-variety wines.
With its golden hue, Viognier is an incredibly aromatic white with low levels of fresh acidity that can warm the palate like a brand-new scarf knitted by a loving grandmother. At first sip, the drier styles of the wine can be pretty perfumey and floral. However, some aged versions exude pronounced notes of peach, tangerine, and mango, while oaked versions display spicy vanilla aromas and hints of baking spices like clove and nutmeg.
What makes Viognier such a classic winter white wine — aside from its full body and high alcohol — is its notably oily texture that makes the wine feel weighty and round in the mouth. That also lends to its food-pairing abilities. Viognier works exceptionally well with various white meats and fish and is a treat to drink alongside a cheese plate or dishes featuring rich polenta, tofu, and squash.
Though Condrieu may do Viognier the most, there are stellar examples of the wine coming from parts of South Australia and California.
With all the holidays that come during the winter months, there’s no better time to break out the bubbles.
Reach for Traditional Method sparkling wine — also known as Méthode Champenoise or méthode traditionnelle. Bubbly with any of these markers indicates that the wine has undergone second fermentation with extensive lees aging in the bottle. Champagne, the French wine region that put sparkling wine on the map, is known for utilizing this technique. And it’s through the traditional method that many of the classic Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs display such fruity, nutty, toasted brioche nuances and richness.
Champagne, of course, can lean on the expensive side. So if you’re looking for a more price-conscious bubbly to warm up with this winter, turn your attention to the sparkling wines of Spain, known as Cava. Also made via the traditional method, Cava costs a fraction of the price of most Champagne without lacking in taste. Not to mention, it works just as well as an aperitif or palate cleanser during extravagant meals.