One of life’s many simple pleasures is curling up in front of a fireplace with a glass of red wine. Sorry other alcoholic beverages, but wine owns this game. The mellow, understated red wine buzz is completely befitting for an evening spent next to a roaring fire. Whether you’re surrounded by friends of the romantic, platonic or four-legged variety, indulge in this winter tradition as often as you can while it’s cold. Drinking is, after all, an activity that goes well with hibernation.
Are certain red grapes more warming than others? Quite possibly. A wine with some spirited spice content may cause the pleasant warm feeling to disperse throughout your body that much quicker. True, this may be a placebo effect, but that’ll feel somewhat inconsequential as the cold is chased out of your extremities. And although they are somewhat out of fashion, a moderate to high alcohol content wine will definitely impart a bit of extra warmth. Here’s a few of our favorite go-to’s!
Syrah is an ideal winter red wine. If you’ve gone all out and prepared a crockpot feast involving braised meat and savory herbs, Syrah will be your new best friend. A naturally spicy varietal, it will traditionally exhibit lovely notes of black and/or white pepper, rosemary, clove, bacon fat, blackcurrant and even curious hints of tar or smoke. If you go French, focus on the Northern part of the Rhône Valley for more unadulterated Syrah goodness, or even little fun pockets of the Languedoc-Roussillon for exceptional values.
Winter and Zinfandel are like peas and carrots. For my taste, I’m only really in the mood for a big, burly Zinfandel a couple times a year, and that’s always when it’s cold out. Zinfandel loves a hot climate. With a lot of sun and heat, comes higher alcohol content.
A good Zin’s booziness will be well-carried by its hefty dark fruit: blackberry, black cherry, blueberry preserves, macerated berries, berry pie… basically any kind of berry in almost any form. The berryness will be accentuated by gorgeous black pepper, tobacco and creamy oak, depending on the producer. Zinfandel’s alcohol content can range from the 14%’s all the way to over 16%. Shhh. Don’t tell the TTB.
Ummm… a baby Syrah grape that someone spelled wrong? Nope! Petite Sirah is neither petite nor Syrah. Although the Syrah grape is one of Petite Sirah’s genetic “parents,” they are very different and they run average in size, by grape standards.
Petite Sirah is most memorable for its dark, practically black color in the glass. Most of its flavors and aromas fall into the “black fruit” spectrum: black plum, blackberry, blueberry, and even black tea. Notes of dark chocolate, coffee and wild game may follow; three more things that go with winter! Some consider it a thuggish, oaf of a grape on its own, but you must bow down to its domination of the big, accessible category.
Sort of like Malbec’s crazy cousin, Carménère is an exceedingly fun varietal. About 98% of the world’s Carménère exists in Chile, where it is the second most planted grape after Cabernet Sauvignon.
Find a good one, and you’ll be treated to a heady bouquet of smoked meat, licorice, eucalyptus, bitter chocolate, bright red berries, black olives and minty green herbal edges. Sounds like quite the combo, amiright?
Surprisingly, all these elements work together to make an interesting and fun-to-drink wine. It’ll make you feel about as exotic as possible during your love affair with your couch.