Winter Whites

It’s Not Just Red Wine that Pairs with Cold Weather + Hearty Food

The winter months and cooler weather often call for white wines with more texture, body and wood influence. Textured white varieties include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, to name a few. Of course, the weight and power of these grapes and wines depends greatly on the region, producer and vintage. White wines with oak influence are generally found in Burgundy, Bordeaux, Northern Rhône, Rioja, Friuli, Australia and the United States. Certainly there are more, but these suggestions will offer plenty of new white wine discoveries endowed with the toasty vanillin aromas and mouth-filling texture of oak.

"When looking for a wine to pair with a winter weather dish, a properly selected white wine can be the perfect complement for these dishes."

The winter seasonal cuisine is generally influenced by vegetables such as squash, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and cooking preparations that often include roasting and braising. Winter weather also inspires richer and heavier sauces to accompany proteins or pastas.

When looking for a wine to pair with a winter weather dish, a properly selected white wine can be the perfect complement for these dishes. White wine grapes are often thought of in warmer months for the refreshing qualities associated with bright acidity, lack of oak and lighter texture. However, white grapes are also capable of offering richness, body and depth similar to full-bodied red wines but with specific flavors and structure that can be even better for pairing with savory foods.

White Burgundy (Chardonnay from the region of Burgundy, France) is always a winter wine favorite, especially from the villages of Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. These luscious wines offer rich flavors of apples, pears and quince, with dried citrus, mineral and dressed in oak flavors of cinnamon, vanilla, toast and caramel.

For something more adventurous, the wines of Alsace are brilliant in the winter months with loads of texture and flavor that can be enjoyed with or without food. The wines of Alsace will rarely see new oak influence, so their flavors are driven by grape variety and terroir. Often these wines include a touch of sugar richness, but this can be elegantly balanced with the fat and sumptuousness of a roasted pork or chicken dish.

Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley is another great wine to rely on in the winter. These wines can be dry and intense or sweet and luscious — both styles offering a bright kick of acidity on the finish. The richer or sweeter styles are perhaps the better wines to rely upon in the colder winter months. The wines of Vouvray are always reliable, but also look for Montlouis, Savennières, Saumur and Anjou for outstanding examples and value.

Finally, consider the wines of Austria for another winter white wine possibility. Grüner Veltliner is the most widely planted and most important white grape in Austrian wine production. This typically dry, melon and pear scented wine shows hints of savory tones like lentil and white pepper. However, this grape is capable of greatness and can range is style from light and lean to rich, intense and exotic. It all depends on the region and the style of the producer. Other Austrian white varieties of note would include Riesling which is generally dry, minerally and delicious or grapes like Welschriesling, Weissburgunder, Neuberger, Roter Veltliner, Rotgipfler and Zierfandler. All delicious in their own right but less known in the U.S.

For producers, here are three of my favorite white wines to enjoy during the winter season. A great White Burgundy from Marc Colin in Chassagne-Montrachet, a classic Grüner Veltlier from Bründlmayr in the Kamptal and a remarkable Chenin Blanc produced by François Chidaine in Montlouis. For suggested Glassware, Zalto and Riedel are some of the finest glasses on the market and offer many styles for specific wines. The Zalto Burgundy glass would be perfect for the Marc Colin, the Riedel Sommelier Series Grüner Veltliner glass for the Bründlmayer and the all-purpose Zalto or a general white wine glass from Riedel for the Chidaine Montlouis.

Photo by Kim Fuller

Marc Colin Chassagne-Montrachet ‘Margot’

The Marc Colin Domaine was established in 1970 and produces wine from 15 hectare situated in 26 different appellations including St. Aubin, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Santenay. Colin and his family produce mostly Chardonnay wines from the finest parcels in the Côtes de Beaune, but also produce a few delicious village level wines from Pinot Noir as well. Even though the Domaine has only been producing wine since 1970, there are vines that have been in the family for over 100 years. Today, Colin’s son, Joseph, is the chief winemaker and responsible for maintaining the traditional family style that includes organic production, judicious oak use and optimum freshness. The result in the glass is wine that is characterized by a silky texture, roundness and a subtle hint of cinnamon and vanilla from time in spent in French oak.  Each separate plot of land shows the differences and intricacies of Burgundy terroir, giving each wine a unique and distinct character. Like many of the great producers of Burgundy, Colin’s vineyard practices are the focus to creating world-class wines. He does not use herbicides, grapes are handpicked earlier and less new oak is used, looking to produce high-toned, expressive wines. This Chassagne-Montrachet pairs especially well with roasted fowl, mushroom risotto and Époisses cheese. The current vintage is delicious right now and offers all of the lush, roasted apple and pear fruit flavors one might expect from young, vibrant White Burgundy.

Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner ‘Lamm,’ Kamptal

The Weingut Bründlmayer is situated in Langenlois, some 70 kilometers north-west of Vienna, upstream along the Danube in the Lower Austrian Kamp Valley. The wooded hills of the Waldviertel protect the vineyards from the cold, north-westerly winds leaving this environment warm and ideal for producing wines with richness and weight. During the day, the sun warms the stony terraces, while at night the fresh, fragrant forest air drifts through the Kamp Valley into the Langenlois area. The wines are characterized by a combination of hot days and cool nights, the meeting of the Danube and Kamp valleys and the geological and climatic diversity of the vineyards. The Bründlmayer winery and cellar is equipped with the best available technology and a traditional heuriger (family run restaurant), which is open almost all year round and where all wines can be tasted in a convivial atmosphere. Similar to many small wineries in the area, the family is responsible for all viticulture and wine making. Lamm is considered one of the finest sites in the Kamp area. It sits a bit lower on the hillside with deep loess soils that are perfect for producing top quality Grüner Veltliner wines. Beautiful flavors of yellow plum, white peach and Honeycrisp apple find balance with the stony mineral and field flower aromas.

François Chidaine Les Choisilles, Montlouis sur Loire

Montlouis is an appellation of 400 hectares located directly across the river from Vouvray. The soil types in both sites are quite similar, consisting of sandy clay over a base of Tuffeau. However, many say the style of wine coming from Montlouis is slightly leaner and crisper than the wines of Vouvray. François Chidaine’s estate is divided into eight distinct plots, with many of the vineyards between 40 and 80 years old. Chidaine practices biodynamic farming and his wines are marked with vibrancy, gracefulness and an ability to age for many years. Les Choisilles cuvee is named after a type of black flint found in the region called Choisille. This Chenin Blanc is a concentrated, powerful, dry wine that is breathtakingly beautiful — characterized by a lively and refined nose of pineapple, sweet tangerine, chalky soil tones and a hint of lanolin. On the palate, tropical fruit flavors run through the wine, with perfectly balanced acidity and a stunning, complex finish.