In the Spirit: Warm Wines for Cooler Times. by Cam Pinkney

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With the Fall Equinox behind us, it now means that the daylight hours shorten and the nights get longer. As the temperature drops, I’m sure you will find yourself cozying up by a warm fire with a glass of wine pretty quickly. What wine could compliment such a perfect ambiance with family and friends and those warming harvest-time meals? Let’s connect our senses to some wines that will ensure a warm embrace into the colder months.

Acidic and crisp wines with bright flavors, in general, compliment lighter dishes, while heartier, more full-bodied wines match richer dishes. Some heavier and denser varietal wines that will compliment winter dishes are oak-driven Chardonnay, Malbec, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Find wines that are oak-aged as they usually have an element of spices like clove, toast and smoke along with caramel and vanilla.

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For creamier dishes, you can use oaked Chardonnays. They have a buttery, round mouthfeel with appealing notes of baking spices and a warm fruit component. Malbec tends to have an earthier palate with bright fruits like plums and blueberries. Zinfandel is a standout for me with a broad range of jammy fruits and a warm finish due to the higher alcohol on these wines. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are bold and dense wines with higher tannins, balanced acidity and depth of fruit that pair excellently with protein dishes. Try a Cabernet Sauvignon from warmer climates like Napa Valley or Australia and Syrah from the Northern Rhone. If you want to explore further into big and bold wines, try an Italian Barolo or Aglianico as these are a surefire match to reflect the depth of many rustic dishes with their high tannins, dried fruit and spice notes.

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However don’t put the Sparkling wines on the shelf just yet. These tasty treats are always welcome because of their ability to cleanse your palate while working with an array of dishes. “Traditional method” sparkling wines like Champagne, as opposed to lighter wines like Prosecco, have ample warming characteristics like brioche, nuts, and toast along with complex fruit notes, while their defining quality is having a high acidity to compliment fatty and creamy dishes.

The last few months of the year are full of festive dinners spent with family and friends. Try some different wines and share the experience as there is no better pairing than wine and good company.

– Cam Pinkney, Prime 44 West Sommelier at The Greenbrier. HashtagWV October 2016.

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