Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Sip & Savor: Red Wines for Winter

Dec 28, 2015 11:04AM ● By Cate Reynolds
Well, there’s no denying it—winter is definitely here! It’s time for hearty meals and a glass of rich, full-bodied red wine.

When we think of red wines, wines produced from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are usually our first thought. The cabernet sauvignon grape is one of the predominant grapes used to produce the wines from Bordeaux and is the most successful red grape grown in California. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are produced in most wine producing regions around the world. These red wines are full-bodied with rich, full flavors, lots of texture, and sturdy tannins. These are often the wines you see described as big (sometimes they are described as huge). Wines from this grape are dry and supple with flavors of ripe cherry, plums, and currants interwoven with spice, cedar, and tobacco flavors from aging in oak barrels. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are superb when served with dishes made from game, beef, or lamb and with strong flavored cheeses.

Another great winter red wine are those made from the Zinfandel grape. The Zinfandel grape is the most planted grape in California and red Zinfandel wines are produced in many styles from light and fruity Beaujolais-style wines to big, blockbuster reds. These big reds are perfect for accompanying winter meals. They are rich and intensely flavored with bright fruit and substantial tannins. Their flavors are usually described as berrylike with zesty, spicy characteristics. Try red Zinfandel wines with lamb and veal dishes.

Merlot wines also make a perfect choice with many winter hearty meals. Merlots are easy drinking, ripe, round wines, with voluptuous cherry, berry, and red fruit flavors and softer tannins than Cabernet wines. Usually the more expensive wines are fuller bodied and richer with more structure and more tannins than less expensive Merlot wines. Try Merlot wines with steaks, roast beef or lamb, and cheeses.

While the varietals listed above are the classic red wines we find on American wine lists or store shelves, don’t forget some of the other wines in the hearty red wine category. The Syrah grape (or Shiraz as it is called in Australia) produces big hearty red wines. Wines from the Northern Rhône regions of France like Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape produce fabulous big red wines from the Syrah grape. You will also see Australian Shiraz, which is the same grape variety as the “true” French Syrah. Because of differences in growing conditions and winemaking traditions, Australian Shiraz is more upfront fruity with flavors and aromas of rich ripe strawberry, cherry, cassis fruit and frequently a “peppery” finish. These wines are delicious and often very well-priced. In California, some wineries have taken on this grape and made it their own. It is not hard to determine what foods to pair with these wines. Try them with lamb chops or roasted leg of lamb, beef steaks, roasts, and game meat like deer.

Italy produces two stellar red wines that are perfect with winter meals; Barolo and Barbaresco. Produced from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region of Italy, these are the Grande Dame wines of Italy and should be paired with roasted or grilled red and white meats, game, and aged cheeses.

Warm up your winter meals and evenings by the fire with a few selections from our suggested wines above. You won’t be disappointed.

–Chris Lawson of Fishpaws Marketplace