Hey, guys. How’s hibernation going? Oh, me? I’ve knocked out three seasons of “West Wing,” a dozen peliculas and put a remarkable rip in the mag collection.
Sipping wise, the winter solstice can be a trying time. Whites are flat-out off my radar at the moment, and the hard cider kick that sprang to my life last spring is gradually becoming exhausted. Beer is just too much work, and you wouldn’t like me on liquor.
So while there’s nary a red wine that doesn’t pair well with the popping crackle of a fireplace, everyone needs options beyond traditional table wines. Here are several too often overlooked.
A personal favorite during the big chill, mulled wine is a steaming hot cocktail of red wine, various spices, a drop of raisins and often some port or brandy. The warm fruit immediately calls to mind rich apple cider, but then you remember you’re sipping on a grape-driven beverage. Grape cider, anyone? Have some friends over this weekend. Get messed up. Make your own.
Pairs well with: Fireplace. Bing Crosby.
My fingers are crossed for a port upswing in the years ahead among the arriving generation of wine drinkers. What’s so enticing about port, a fortified wine from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, is how practical it is; there are delightful offerings at the $40 a bottle mark, and thanks to the fortification, it keeps for months. Plus, offering a date a few ounces of port is a nice close-out to a well-executed evening.
My preference falls in the smoky, nutty traits of tawny ports, but explore vintages too to find your preference.
I can’t stress enough: Investing in port — keeping two or three bottles on the rack — is something you won’t regret. Unless you’re a frequent dinner-party host, a few bottles will last you the season.
Pairs well with: Nightcap conversation. A movie you’re probably not going to watch.
Not unlike port, I find Sauternes to be so painstakingly under-appreciated. Eric Asimov at the Times wrote to that point recently in “The Pour,” where he also provides guidance on where to find some solid Sauternes in New Jack City.
With Sauternes, composed from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes in Bordeaux, you never forget your first time. A luscious stream of honey. Dried peach. Pineapple.
Pairs well with: Wine-loving friends. Discovery.
Eiswein, or “icewine,” is a succulent desert offering likely to please the full spectrum of dinner guests. Winemakers in Canada and Germany have established themselves as kings of ice wine, a sweet, acidic pour produced from grapes harvested when the temp drops below 20 degrees.
“Amongst the finest dessert wines in the world, ice wines are ideal pairings with cheese, foie gras and other luscious delicacies,” notes Anna Lee C. Iijima at Wine Enthusiast.
Pairs well with: A night you were dreading but turned out OK. Whitney Houston dance party.