It’s dangerously cold outside and your peers are screaming for red wine, but you’re a white wine drinker. Are you stuck with crispy, light and refreshing whites that all those red wine drinkers start sipping on when the snow melts? NO!
White wines can have just as much oomph as red wines during a Hercules or polar vortex. Wines that are chilled but still cozy on the palate and wonderful for food pairing. The trick is to find the right ones. Join me as we get nice in the winter white department.
Not just any Chardonnay though. I am talking specifically about Burgundy Chardonnay and mostly from the Mâconnais district in the south of Burgundy. California Chardonnay is getting better but it’s still a hit or miss on balance. To be, almost, guaranteed (there are always unknowns) a nice bottle of soft, round white wine — wine wafting with slight hints of dried flowers, subtle citrus and a kiss of butter (see malo) — with a comfortable weight on the palate and enough acidity and alcohol to pair with even lean meats, then look for Burgundy whites with Mâcon on the label. Mâcon is located in the Mâconnais, a large swath of land under vine making up the southern tip of the Burgundy region. Because of its size and the fact that there are no “noble” designations such as Premier Cru, the majority of these wines are quite affordable. Prices start around ten bucks and go into the upper twenties and they’re pretty easy to find. Most wine shops have at least one or two of them.
“Gewürztraminer’s faults are only in having too much of everything.” – Jancis Robinson
This is one of my personal faves when it comes to winter whites that need food. I like to sip on the examples from Alto Adige, an autonomous region in Northern Italy, with a bowl of pasta and cream sauce or lean meats. But wines made from this, one of the oldest grapes in Europe, can be found all over the world in varying styles, from France and Germany to New Zealand, Washington State and even California. It also shines in New York State. Generally though, the key word for Gewürztraminer is “heady.” Don’t let that scare you. These wines are fascinating on the nose and palate and, even though they can be considered a full-bodied white, the acidity of these wines and their aromatics balance everything out. No matter where in the world you buy this wine from you will be experiencing serious aromatic stimulation with scents of fresh roses (not hints of roses, but heavily scented) and that exotic lychee flavor that goes beyond grapes. These wines aren’t messing around and among the sweet soaked aromas you get a nice kiss of savory with hints of cracked black pepper and the occasional bacon fat. Yeah, this one is for rugs and fireplaces. It’s primal, baby. As far as price goes they have a very wide range, from as low as nine bucks all the way up, up, up and way up!
For some reason I can drink the Würz all day and night but Riesling and my palate just don’t jive. But that doesn’t mean I can’t mention it. Although it’s not my jam, it’s a great white for this time of year. If the word for Gewürztraminer is “heady” then the word for Riesling is “tart.” These wines vary in style as well, but you’ll never get away from what Jancis Ronbinson calls its “rapier-like style.” Although they are high in residual sugar (natural sugar leftover from the fermentation process), which helps give them weight, the raciness of the acidity keeps everything in check. With relatively low alcohol these wines are sharp and full of honey and steel (gun flint in the poetic lexicon of industry descriptors) with wafting floral notes like white flowers and, occasionally, dried flowers. Swimming among all of this and sometimes floating above is the distinct note of what we call petrol in the wine world, but you’ll probably recognize it as a kiss of kerosene. This can be off-putting to some and loved by others. Either way these wines are great with Asian fare, but also nice with a cheese and meat plate while gazing out at a winter wonderland. Pricing on Riesling is as varied as those of Gewürztraminer.
So, light the fire. Get out the bear skin rug. Let the snow drifts shift. Cook a winter snack or full-on meal and enjoy these recommendations. Why? Because you’re worth it! You deserve to be able to drink whites in the winter. And who knows, you might get some red-is-for-winter peeps converted. You rock!