It’s the middle of winter and short ribs, chicken curry, chili, slow-cooker stews– basically anything that sticks to your ribs– are what I’m craving. What do you drink with these warming winter dishes? I suggest big and brawny wines, so comforting that they feel like your favorite wool sweater. Warm climate wines from California, Southern Italy, Southern France, Argentina, and Australia fit the bill. These wines are luscious, full-bodied, with pronounced dark fruit aromas. They’re sure to make you feel warm and fuzzy, just like a visit from an old friend.
The growing season from summer through fall is more consistently warm allowing grapes to fully ripen and develop hedonistically bold flavors. The warmer and faster ripening period also concentrates grape sugars, which leads to higher alcohol levels during fermentation. Blue and black fruit flavors along with mocha and spice are very pronounced. While the current wine trend is to steer away from these higher alcohol wines, when the temperatures reach below freezing, why not warm up with delightfully robust reds? Lush and muscular, these are the wines to savor this January.
Top 10 Wines for January to Warm You Up:
2015 Tait The Ball Buster, Barossa Valley, Australia ($19.99):
Like the name suggests, Ball Buster is a powerful wine. Made from 100% basket pressed Shiraz, this is a wine to enjoy in cold temps. This is one of my personal favorite wine bargains, as it drinks well above the $20-price tag. Full of black pepper spice, blackberry, black plum, fruit cake, and tobacco, it’s a bold choice with balanced, grippy tannins and great structure.
2014 Marchiori and Barraud Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.99):
Another rich and lovely red for relaxing by the fire. 4% Malbec added to the blend brings out a ripe complexity. Some green notes of mint and eucalyptus are well integrated with the intense dark fruit character and licorice flavors. A long and velvety finish.
2014 Ferragu Valpolicella Superiore, Verona, Italy ($49.99):
Super concentrated and raisiny, this beauty offers floral and perfumed aromas with hints of sweet blackberry jam, prune, anise, and violet. Extremely lush, velvety, and supple. A showstopper!
2015 Mas Olivier Faugères “Parfum de Schistes,” Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($19.99):
The Faugères region benefits from a warm Mediterranean climate with long sunny days in summer. This is a modern style blend of 80% Syrah and 10% each of Grenache and Mourvèdre with gorgeous cassis and spice notes. Balanced minerality and pronounced blueberry flavors make this a rich and succulent red.
2016 Barrique Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County, CA ($29.99):
Aromas of ripe black cherry, black currant, vanilla, and spice box on the nose. The palate offers fresh, juicy black cherry notes along with savory black pepper, clove and cedar. Schneider’s private label Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied with smooth tannins.
2016 Venge Scout’s Honor, Napa Valley, CA ($39.99):
A potent blast of blackberry, black raspberry, vanilla, brown sugar, and cinnamon stick. Spicy nuances and jammy fruit flavors allow this Zinfandel to stand out from the pack. Plush and intense, the fruit comes from old-vine Zinfandel with a touch of dry-farmed Petite Sirah, old-vine Charbono, and a small percentage of mountain vineyard Syrah. Kirk Venge is one of Napa Valley’s top winemakers and is known for his complex and sought after wines.
2012 Qupe Syrah, Santa Barbara, CA ($13.99):
The bold and bright blackberry, black cherry, and baking spice aromas move to focused tannins and leaves you with a fresh, friendly, and smooth finish.
2016 Carol Shelton Monga Zinfandel, Cucamonga Valley, CA ($22.99):
Deep black cherry fruit, orange zest, vanilla, white peppercorn, and licorice aromas and flavors. Firm tannins and a long, lush finish. This wine is delightful now and it will continue to improve in the bottle for another decade.
2013 Cascina Adelaide Barolo, Italy ($39.99):
A blend of Nebbiolo from some of the finest vineyards in Barolo. They’re matured for 24 months in small oak barrels, then 6 months in the bottle before release. The result is a wine with an intense ruby color, aromas of wild tart cherry, rosemary and a hint of vanilla and toasted oak. The palate is balanced by fine tannins and fresh acidity. This a rich and complex red that belongs in your winter survival kit.
Lambert Chocolatier Tawny, Australia ($24.99):
I’m finishing the list off with a sweet little dark chocolate infused fortified wine similar those from Porto. This wine is the ideal end to any special meal and a great match with a chocolate or nutty dessert. A winter delight that’s lively and bright with aromas of chocolate, cherry, toffee, and almonds. Butterscotch notes blossom along with dried fruits on the palate.
Visit Elyse Genderson at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill to discover wines you love.