I’m not one for following rules. Especially not strict seasonal rules regarding wine. Just last week, when the temperature was below freezing, I enjoyed a glass of rosé at a wine bar. And as I buckled down inside during this weekend’s snowstorm, it was white wine in my glass, not red.
Yes, that’s right. I happily drink white wine during winter. There’s no reason to take a break from drinking whites between Labor Day and Memorial Day. With such a wealth of interesting, complex, sometimes crazy wines that make for wonderful winter whites, why would you?
Of course, when we talk about winter whites, that doesn’t mean those crisp, zingy summertime sippers you might know best. In winter, we’re looking for whites with velvety, full-bodied textures in the mouth, and richer, fuller flavors. We still want freshness but not necessarily refreshment. We want a wine that’s more rounded and not too crisp. We desire less acidity and more aromatics. Spice, dried herbs, honey and fleshy or tropical fruits are welcome, and if there are citrus notes we prefer tangerine and lime rather than lemon. A little bit of creaminess or stony minerality is good, too.
Think about the winter table. Dishes such as casseroles and soups, root vegetables and squash, roast pork and fowl, fondue and creamy sauces—these all pair beautifully with bigger, richer white wines.
There is no shortage of options on that front. If there ever was a white wine that seemed appropriate for winter, it’s gewürztraminer, particularly those from Alto Adige and Alsace. These wines are full of aromas and flavors of rose and tropical fruits, baking spice and clove, and pair phenomenally with spicier foods. Italian gewürztraminers from Alto Adige, an alpine wine region up against the Dolomites, tend to be less sweet than their French cousins from Alsace, which can vary from bone dry to having a honeyed sweetness.
I rarely crave the full-bodied white wines from the Rhône Valley in the summer, but in the winter? Absolutely. With their floral aromas, ripe texture, and intense yet elegant flavors, white Rhône wines—made from grapes such as clairette, marsanne, roussanne, viognier, and grenache blanc—speak perfectly to the frigid season.
You’ve likely tried a taste of red Bordeaux before, but if you haven’t familiarized yourself with the luscious and rich white wines from Bordeaux, winter is an excellent time to do so. Most of the white Bordeaux wines you’ll find on shelves are made of some combination of sémillon, which enriches the wine with honeyed aromas and flavors, muscadelle, and sauvignon blanc. Don’t be mistaken; these are a warm departure from the green and zippy sauvignon blancs you drink at the beach. Good white Bordeaux is rich and concentrated yet elegant, herbaceous and citrusy, and incredibly food-friendly.
Then there’s the full-bodied, fruit-forward grape from Spain called godello, which offers incredible value. And don’t forget about the aromatic, floral varieties from Greece— grapes like malagouzia, moschofilero, and vidiano—which make compelling wines that taste like vacation in a bottle.
Most importantly, make sure not to serve these winter whites straight out of the fridge. You don’t need a white wine to be icy cold, especially when it already is outside. Let the bottle sit for 30 minutes or so on the counter so that it’s cool, but not cold. Too much chill masks the beautiful aromas and richness these wines have to offer.
At the right temperature, any of these fuller-bodied white wines will help carry you through these last few weeks of winter.
5 Bottles to Seek Out:
Trimbach Gewürztraminer 2014
Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet (Hervé Souhaut) Saint Joseph 2016
Rhône Valley, France
Clos Floridene Graves 2015
Valdesil Valdeorras Godello Sobre Lías 2014
Skouras Moscofilero 2016