Warm Reds for Winter

By Sunny Brown

Category: Seasonal Feature

The hectic holidays have come and gone and it is time to settle into the doldrums of winter with your honey, some comfort food and a really good bottle of wine. Cold weather and icy conditions practically cry out for a big and robust red, something with the body and structure to stand up to hearty winter fare, but also something with the fruit, weight and richness to warm the bones on the very coldest of evenings.

Which begs the question- which red wine to choose from? With such a bevy of styles and flavors the options are endless, but since we can’t give you endless options, we have narrowed it down to a few of our favorites:

Cabernet Blends

Let’s face it, just about everyone who likes red wines also likes Cabernets. It is the epitome of non-offensive, with juicy fruit, generally tame tannins and a clean feel no matter where the wine is made. But Cabernet can be boring, and with such a glut of Cab on the market, it is time to strike out in search of variety. It is now common for just about every grape under every sun to be blended in with Cab at some point or another, but if looking for a fine bottle of red to keep old man winter at bay a true Meritage or Bordeaux-styled blend can’t be beat. Cabernet Sauvignon easily adds ripe red fruits and structure to any blend, but like a symphony it is not just the wind section that creates beautiful music, it is the harmony between the ripe fruit of Cabernet, the silky feel of Merlot, the youthful exuberance and delicate perfume of Cabernet Franc and even the broad shoulders and firm structure of Petite Verdot that take a melody and transform it into a work of art.

The Selene Chesler is a fine choice for those looking for depth, body and complexity in a wine. Mostly Cabernet Franc, with 20% or so each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the Chesler is a wine that is rich and broad enough to stand up to full-flavored dishes such as roasts and stews without killing the palate with fiery tannins. Since it has now reached its fifth birthday, the wine has softened and become more round, with a lovely feel that is pure silk. This wine is all about balance, with everything in the correct proportion, and at the end of a long day shoveling snow it is like a delicious and beautiful warm blanket of purple goodness.

Syrahs

For years Syrah toiled in relative obscurity as the great wines of the Northern Rhone in France where relative unknowns here in the U.S. due to their high prices and low production. In the late 1990s the Yellow Tail phenomenon turned Syrah (or Shiraz!) into a household name, and most of the major winegrowing regions on the planet followed suit with their own versions. But as wine drinkers became bored with thousands of versions of cheap and uninspiring versions of Shiraz the Aussie wine market in the U.S. has collapsed, and Syrah is on the brink of falling back into the wine hinterlands.

But it should not be so! There are perhaps few more versatile grapes on the planet than Syrah, and due to the soft market it remains an incredible value at all price points, often providing more character, more Complexity and more inky depths of flavor than Cabernets, Pinot Noirs and other more fashionable grapes at the same price.
There is no grape on earth better suited to cold weather than Syrah. By nature it is a tannic and big wine, with gobs of fruit and tons of personality and it often brings a touch of alcoholic warmth as well. The rich fruit and sturdy structure of Syrah works well with many dishes from Pork to Veal to Beef, and the juicy nature of the fruit allow it to provide a fine counterpoint to even the most heavily spiced dishes.

In this case the Rusciano is a fine mix of both old and new world styles, with rich fruit, a broad body, a velvety feel and lots of personality. It is almost as if the wine contains the acid and tannin of Hermitage, the fruit and riches of Australia, and the mid-palate complexity and depth of a fine example from California. A wonderful mix!

Malbecs

Few would argue that Malbec is the hot new grape. Wine lovers and newbies alike across the nation have taken to the full fruit, chewy body and soft style of Malbec with reckless abandon. It has become the grape to ask for if you want a red wine but don’t know what you want. And with good reason, as the high elevations, dry summers and long falls of the foothills of the Andes in Argentina create wines that have everything red wine lovers could want- lots of ripe black and blue fruit, chewy tannins and a tendency to carry oak and earthy complexity.

The Campo Negro is a fine example that hasn’t been colored outside of the lines. The current trend with mass-produced Malbec is to crank the volume up to eleven, with way to much fruit, alcohol and oak, but the Campo Negro offers a lovely perfume that smells of black plums, ripe raspberries and just a touch of cocoa followed by an expansive palate that has not lost its tannic edge. There is plenty of fruit and a silky feel to offset the full body, and the finish lingers and lasts. Look to pair it with roast birds, slow-braised meats and Grandma’s pot roast.