By Joy Neighbors
When the snow flies and the cold winds blow it’s the ideal time to enjoy some spectacular winter whites by the fire. Winter wines usually bring to mind those dark brooding reds, but there are some substantial whites that are perfect for the long, cold months ahead.
When selecting a white wine for winter fare, look for vinos that are oaked, full-flavored and complex enough to handle the season’s rich and hearty foods. And remember to take a cue from the weather outside and serve these wines cold.
For wintertime enjoyment, a Chardonnay should be full-bodied and buttery with a hint of fig and vanilla flavors. An oak-aged wine will have a creamier, toasty taste that compliments heavy dishes. Serve a rich chard with roasted chicken, turkey and dumplings, or a delicious poultry-based vegetable stew.
I can sum Riesling up in one word: yum! Perfect for meat-based meals – think chili, lasagna, curry or meatloaf – the drier Rieslings offer up spice, orange peel and floral aromas with hints of pineapple, pear and apple on the tongue. A sweeter Riesling can become dessert in itself, or pair a glass with apple pie or a pear tart (whipped cream optional).
Call it Pinot Gris (France) or Pinot Grigio (Italy); both are the same wine but with stylistic differences based on the country of origin. Pinot Gris has more body along with a floral honeysuckle aroma and spicy flavors that offer a kick of acidity, making a great contrast to a heavier meal. Pair this winter white with the 3 P’s: poultry, pork, and pasta with cream sauce, or serve it along with winter vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, or beans.
Traminette (Indiana’s Signature Grape)
Traminette grapes are cold hardy, which is why they grow so well in Indiana and the Midwestern region. Traminette wines tease you with floral notes of honey and the concentrated flavors of peach and pears, without the bitter aftertaste of its parent grape, Gewürztraminer. Serve a dry Tram with a spicy Asian dish; a semi-sweet Traminette pairs nicely with ham and beans, and a sweet Tram is wonderful with a vanilla-flavored dessert. (Think cake, cupcakes or cookies.)
A glass full of bubbles can make you smile regardless of the weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s Champagne or a sparkling wine. What’s the difference between the two? Only a bubbly from the Champagne region of France is a true “Champagne.” But as long as the sparkling wine is crisp, chilled and effervescing, it will add to any celebration. (Even if you’re just celebrating Saturday night at home.) The flavors of citrus, fruit and vanilla are typical in these wines with a yeasty aroma and an estimated 49 million bubbles in each bottle. Sparkling wines are complex, refined and smooth, yet playful. Pair them with Camembert cheese, sausage, cream sauces, and salty foods. (My guilty pairing pleasure –potato chips!)
These winter white vinos are crafted from a variety of grapes including Riesling, Traminette and Vidal. The grapes are left on the vine to freeze before harvesting, which produces a more concentrated, sweet nectar that is then crafted into this highly sought after dessert wine. The best ice wines are ultra-sweet but not cloying so you can enjoy the honeyed aromas and nectar-like flavors that linger in your mouth. Ice wines are great with appetizers like blue cheese and nuts; they can also be paired with white pasta meals, or savored with an apple crisp or cherry-covered cheesecake.
Now that the holidays are past, take time to sip and savor these great winter whites. You’ll be amazed at the depth these vinos add to your favorite hearty meals, carrying you through winter’s snowy blasts just as comfortably as your favorite sweater. Cheers!