The nights are darker, golden leaves are falling from trees and there’s a chill in the air – sweater season is officially here. With Bonfire Night and hearty autumnal dishes back on the menu, it’s time to pour a tipple that feels cosy, warming and all things nice.
Despite the common misconception that high alcohol is the only route to tingly warmth and spice, you can in fact achieve the satisfying comfort you seek from a variety of wine styles – some more unexpected than others.
Many structural components of wine are responsible for its reassuring embrace – from generous, ripe fruit and thick-skinned tannins to lees contact wines and fermentation processes – not to mention the usual ‘hits’ of terroir, climate, and grape variety. As I often say, there’s a lot of variables going on in any given bottle of wine, it’s just a matter of discovering what variables work for you – and at what time. Wine is subjective after all.
With that said, you shouldn’t be surprised to see some ‘big reds’ on our ‘winter warmer’ wine list; brooding, big reds that bring a bang to your bonfire night celebrations such as Napa Valley Cabernets, Northern Rhônes and Reserva Riojas.
Less conventional but just as hearty are generous white wines that bring unctuous flavour and creamy texture with elegance and ease. We’re talking over-ripe Viogniers that are dripping in stone-fruit lusciousness, and oak-fermented Chardonnays that invite vanilla and coconut to the winter party.
There’s also a lot of fresher wine styles and varieties that are being produced with lees contact too. The ‘lees’ are the leftover yeast particles from fermentation, and when the wine is left in contact with them you get a bucketload of creamy texture and buttery flavour. White wines made this way are like stepping into a French patisserie and indulging in a fine pastry or beautiful brioche.
Now we’re in the realms of pure indulgence, we may as well move onto my other go-to styles of wine that simply deliver at this time of year: port and pudding wines. Fortified and fabulous, port wine is one of Portugal’s greatest gifts. From ruby, LBV and tawny to vintage, colheita and white – and everything in between – there’s a comforting richness that comes from port that you just don’t get anywhere else. Take a flask of port to your firework display, and you’ll not regret it.
Last but never least, pudding wines. The one golden rule with dessert wines is to make sure that the sugar content of the wine exceeds that of the sweet treat. After this, it’s great fun to simple explore and discover your perfect pud pairings. For now, though, I’ll leave you with some tried and tested combinations to get things going: chocolate and Sauternes, an Auslese with anything red berries – my favourite is an Eton mess, but very berry trifles and pavlovas also hit the spot – and how about a Tokaji Aszu and a caramelised apple tart?
If you want to get ‘winter ready’ and fancy trying out some of the season’s best, we’ve put together some themed wine cases to tickle your tastebuds. Give us a call or simply pop by to our Sherborne wine shop – oh, and don’t forget your mittens.