Everything grows richer during the winter. Fabrics are thicker and our clothes more layered, desserts are creamier and more decadent and meals become heartier and more filling. Our wines are not the exception, and even even the most militant “rosé all day” crowd might embrace the season afoot and indulge in fuller-bodied, bigger wines.
What to look for when you’re choosing a winter warmer? Well, there are many elements that contribute to add texture and complexity to a wine.
Oak ageing is one of the big ones to keep an eye out for as not only it conferes wines with a variety of secondary aromas such as toast, vanilla and spices, but it helps mellow out the tannins and let the wine mature. You don’t have to go Gran Reserva everytime, even a year will make a difference. And while this is not an absolute rule and a lot of other winemaking decisions contribute to the final result, think more vanilla and sweet spices for American oak, and toastiness for French oak.
Another process that adds richness to a wine is ageing it on its lees for a period of time, this is often done to rich, creamy whites. The lees are simply dead yeast cells that remain in the wine after fermentation (let’s remember, once yeast eats the sugar and alcohol levels rise, it can no longer subsist).
This sediment is often filtered, but in some cases, a winemaker decides to leave it there for longer and even practice bâtonnage (stir the lees every now and then to amplify their influence). Not only this adds texture, it gives the wine “bready” notes (biscuit, sourdough, croissant, etc).
The process above is often combined with malolactic fermentation. This converts malic acid, which is sharper and tart, into lactic acid, which is softer and smoother. Think of the difference between a crisp, green apple or greek yogurt. And as its name suggests, lactic acid is primarily found in dairy products, and in wines, it is credited with bringing it that pleasant buttery, creamy texture of big whites such as certain Burgundies or Californian Chardonnay.
Alamos Ridge Chardonnay
€14.95 – available at O’Briens Wine
This rich Chardo from the Uco Valley (Mendoza, Argentina), is a refreshing side of a high-altitude region most commonly known as Malbec station. It is aged from six to nine months in a combination of French and American oak.
Full bodied and with a combination of ripe citrus, pineapple, yellow plums, lemon curd and melted butter, it is one to keep on your radar if you enjoy big whites, and a great example of the style at a vary good value.
Au Bon climat Wild Boy Chardonnay
€39.95 – Available at Green Man Wines, Baggot Street Wines, 64 Wine
Love buttery whites? Turn it up to eleven with this creamy Californian from Santa Barbara.
It is fermented and aged in oak barrels, offering a big, generous, rich combination of primary and secondary characters.
Imagine a lemon meringue pie, butter biscuits or almond croissants. Think layers of ripe fruit intertwined with toasted pastries and butter, even perhaps a hint of yogurt.
Chateau La Gaffeliere Dame Gaffeliere 2015
€42.5 – Available at Celtic Whiskey Shop
A classic and elegant red from one of Bordeaux’s most prestigious appellations, St Emilion, located on the right bank, famously known for giving the spotlight to Merlot and Merlot-dominated blends like this wine.
Rich and full bodied, but with a freshness that makes the wine vibrant and invites another sip. Notes of ripe plums, blackberries and cherries combine with a background of cocoa and a subtle toastiness into a with with smooth tannins and a long finish.
Bodegas Matsu El Recio
€23.95 – Available at Mitchel & Son, 64 Wine, Greenman Wines
This 100% Tempranillo from Toro, Spain, offers a happy balance between the fruitiness of youth and the complexity of age. Ripe blackberry notes converge with vanilla and dark chocolate, think black forest gateau without the sweetness.
It is made biodinamically, and the fruit is sourced from very old vines, 90 to 100 years of age. The oak presence is harmonious (14 months, French barrels) and the tannins are firm but not harsh, complementing its silky texture and providing structure.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
€36.50 – Available at Terroirs
This Australian winery is one of the most prestigious producers in a region known for premium Cabernet Sauvignon. It is located on a strip of what’s known as ‘Terra Rossa’ soil, in which the grape variety thrives. Only the best fruit from the estate makes it into this wine, which achieves great tipicity and ageing potential.
Aromas and flavours of blackcurrant, black cherries, toast, espresso and a hint of leather are enhanced by the refreshing contrast of a light minty and aucalyptus-like frangrance. Rich and with moouth-filling texture, it has moderate tannins and a long, complex finish.
El Coto de Imaz Rioja Reserva 2014
€19.95 – Available at Baggot Street Wines
This award-winning Rioja (Best Old World Red under €20 at the Irish Wine Show Star Awards 2018-2019) it’s just the ideal companion during a cold winter evening. Made with 100% Tempranillo grapes, it is aged for 18 months in American oak barrels.
Keep it or drink it now, and enjoy the balance and freshness it shows. Moderate tannins are delivered in a velvety body. Tasting notes are classic Rioja, with black fruit, cranberries, vanilla and sweet spices on toast.
Niepoort Ruby Port
€19.99 – Available at Martin’s Off Licence, The Corkscrew
Yes, any time of the year can be time for Port, but when the nights grow longer and colder, it’s its moment to shine. This vigorous Ruby port offers an intense and bright parade of forest fruits and a velvety, smooth texture.
It feels fresh and juicy, with a sweetness that finds a pleasant contrast in the high intensity of its flavours. It is ideal to share with cheese or after dinner. Serve it slightly cold, at around 12 degrees.
ARTICLE BY GABY GUEDEZ