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Whites right for Winter

Christmas Wines.JPG

As you find yourself getting up 10 minutes earlier to allow for the car de-icing routine, or at least wish you had allowed for that extra 10 minutes, your body naturally starts to crave things that will guard against the cold of the winter months. Warm porridge in the morning, hot soup for lunch, stews, roasts and a load of carbs, with a mince pie to finish.

At the same time, our drinking habits often take a turn towards the dark side. Lagers change to bitters, gin to whisky, orange squash to hot Ribena for the younger crowd. And so to wine, where pouring a glass of crisp, refreshing Sancerre is generally a good sign that warm weather has arrived and a generous spicy Rhône red is what will see you through the red meat season from November until March.

But as with all things, it’s not that simple. Some people just don’t like red wine for a start, or bitter or whisky for that matter. Also, the choice of food available to us means we’re not always bound by the seasons in what we eat. White wine can often be a better partner for spices, cream, cheese or the roasted birds that feature in our winter diets.

So for those of you wanting the freshness of white wines whilst standing in the warm glow of the wood burning stove, what should you choose? I am going to give you my top 5 choices for white wines for winter that will stand up to the Baltic winds and give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Australia >

Love it or hate it you can’t ignore the fact that Chardonnay can come in any shape or size you like. From a crisp, mineral Chablis to blockbuster Californian butter mountain. Climate and winemaking play a big part in what style you get, so colder climates and no oak will produce a light fresh citrusy wine, while sunshine and new American oak barrels will add spice and richer textures.

Led by newly crowned Australian Winemaker of the Year Dave Bicknell, Oakridge is a winery located in the cooler Australian region of Yarra Valley in Victoria. It's the southernmost region before you hit Tasmania. With a climate that is colder than Bordeaux, it can produce wines which retain their freshness but still get plenty of sunshine. Producing ripe full flavoured grapes, a perfect balance.

Aging in French oak barrels adds some richer toffee apple flavours to the bright fruity melon and citrus character. The ripeness produces alcohol levels around 13% which adds further body. This will pair with a more wintery fish course that has a buttery rich sauce rather than a squeeze of lemon, or some roasted white meats, including turkey.

Orange Republic Godello, Casa Rojo, Valdeorras, Spain

Light and fresh is great when you want something thirst quenching served cold. The flavour however, is the key when it comes to drinking wine with richer foods. Fuller flavoured wines should be served at slightly higher temperature. Take them out of the fridge 20-30 minutes before serving, this will bring out the character that chilling can suppress.

Godello is one of Spain’s on-trend white varieties. It offers more flavour and complexity than many Albariños grown in the neighbouring area of Galicia. It was almost wiped out in the 19th Century but has been revived, establishing itself as a rich wine with citrus and stone fruit flavours and a refreshing acidity. In the hands of wine whizz kids Casa Rojo it has a fantastic orange character like a squirt from a peeling tangerine. There’s nothing more seasonal than that. Unoaked but richly flavoured to cope with salmon, roasted vegetables, scallops and chorizo.

Gewürztraminer Alsace, Tradition, Emile Beyer >

Warm spices come into their own at this time of year. The smell of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg giving you an instant rosy glow and an urge to heat up your cheapest red wine. Resist the temptation to bulk buy wine that you would never drink untainted. Instead, investigate the difficult to pronounce but deeply rewarding flavours of a grape whose names ‘Gewürzt’ translates to spicy.

Alsace in Eastern France is the home of Gewürztraminer. The Beyer family has been making wine there for 14 generations. Whilst they use the experience of their predecessors, current owner Christian Beyer has built a new winery and taken steps towards biodynamic agriculture. Ensuring the wines reflect the best of the complex Alsatian ‘terroirs’ for many generations to come.

The Gewürztraminer grapes are handpicked quite late. This ensures full ripeness. The wine is aged on the lees for four months for added texture and complexity. Aromas of rose and orange blossom combine with hints of spicy ginger. The palate finishes with a delicate honeyed sweetness that makes this a great wine with spicy pork dishes, Thai curry or smoked cheeses.

Côtes du Rhône Blanc, La Redonne, Jean-Luc Colombo >

The Viognier grape needs plenty of heat to ripen, with the resulting wine often packing an alcoholic punch at around 13.5-14% ABV. This means the wine needs to have plenty of flavours to balance it. Luckily Viognier has character in spades. Floral orange blossom and apricot aromas followed by ripe stone fruits on the palate.

Jean Luc Colombo is a star of the Northern Rhône, having established himself in Cornas in the 1980’s. His daughter Laure has taken over winemaking duties producing full flavoured but elegant wines. Classified as Côtes du Rhône, the wine blends Viognier from just south of Condrieu and Rousanne from near St Joseph. These are the perfect environments for these distinctive varieties.

The 30% Rousanne blended into this wine adds complexity and ripe tropical fruits. The wine is partly aged in oak and on the lees to balance freshness with a touch of spice and creaminess to the finish. All this combines to produce a luscious wine that is perfect for taking the edge off the cold weather. A great partner for creamy pasta dishes, rich fish pie, or roasted poultry.

Ceres Pinot Gris, Central Otago >

Although not keen to admit it, most people enjoy a touch of sweetness in their wine. It brings out the fruit character, softens the acidity and half a bottle later you have realised what the term ‘easy drinking’ means. As well as having forgotten the damp, darkness outside. Serving a sweeter style wine, nicely chilled, will help keep the balance of freshness from the acidity and sweetness from the grape juice.

Pinot Gris’ home is Alsace where the wines often come in an off-dry style with some spice and honeyed character. This pairs well with local patés and creamy sauces. Although the same grape as Pinot Grigio of Northern Italy, when left to ripen later and longer it produces a wine of entirely different character, giving you other possible food matches. Outside of France, there are great examples of Pinot Gris being produced in New Zealand, cooler regions of Australia and North West USA.

Ceres is a small family estate in the very southerly region of Central Otago in New Zealand. It's owned by brothers James and Matt Dicey and their father Robin. Despite the latitude, the region is protected from the cold and wet of the Antarctic by a mountain range to the west. Similarly to Alsace, this makes it a drier and warmer climate than you’d expect. This allows for aromatic grapes such as Pinot Gris and Riesling and delicate reds like Pinot Noir to flourish.

The Ceres Pinot Gris is off-dry and with four months of lees ageing and stirring. There is a rich texture along with tropical and stone fruits and a mineral, steely finish. A fine match to Thai cuisine, a spicy pumpkin soup, oven baked cheese or richly sauced curry.

Let it snow

What all these wine have in common is some added texture and weight. Sometimes it's from ageing in oak barrels, sometimes picking later, or maybe some extra sunshine ripening the grapes. Whether it’s bangers and mash on a Tuesday evening or a roast dinner that you are catering for, a wine with extra body and flavour will match the extra richness, creaminess or just comfort food stodginess that gets us through the dark months before the beach body fitness regime starts again. You don’t need to chill them too long, so half an hour in the fridge, or outside the back door and you are good to go.

These five wines will hopefully offer you a starting point for exploring beyond Sauvignon Blanc this winter and bring more enjoyment to your heartier food menus. There are great examples of wines made in these styles to suit all budgets. Look for South African Viognier and Gewürztraminer, Chilean Chardonnays and Aussie Pinot Gris in our portfolio. So click the thermostat up a degree and uncork one of these winter wonders this January.

You can find more information about the wines we stock here. If you want to stock any of the wines mentioned, click here to place an order online now, or here to request an account with us; and don’t forget we’re here to support you with everything you need to ensure that your wine range is a success, from free menu design and print services to staff training.

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