Temperatures are dropping and winter has arrived, which means now's the time that wine preferences tend to steer towards red and red alone. And sure, we love cosying up by the fireplace with a glass of shiraz as much as anyone, but red is by no means the only choice when it comes to winter wines. Creamy, luscious whites can be a surprisingly welcome addition to your winter rotation and, in some cases, pair even better with traditional winter foods.
What to look for in a winter white
While the stereotype of white wines only being suitable for summer and spring drinking may be oversimplified, it’s true that not all whites are made for cooler temperatures. The key is to pick white varietals that are highly textured and strongly concentrated in flavour, and with a higher alcohol content too.
Dry white wines are a worthy partner for heavier foods typically served in winter, like roasts and casseroles, as the high acidity can stand up to their richness without overpowering it. Sparkling wines also possess a high acidity and a versatility to harmonise with many foods, meaning they too can hold their own as a winter wine. A good rule of thumb is to go with whites that pack more of a punch, leaving the delicate, floral styles for warmer times.
Four white varietals that work in winter
Chardonnay has a structure and roundness that offers a rich mouthfeel, making it ideal for winter consumption. Choose a style that has been oaked and aged (not all chardonnays will have been) to ensure it is concentrated in flavour, with enough body to accompany a winter meal. Seafood chowder is always a favourite!
Gewürztraminer is a distinct, bold wine that originated in Germany. The thick skin of the grape gives the wine an oily texture, and to offset this, a small amount of residual sugar is often left in the bottle. This sugar gives the wine a richness that sets it apart from the more summery whites, making it a great choice to drink in winter, particularly with salmon, smoked trout or even a duck curry.
Sparkling wine’s versatility means it definitely deserves a spot at your winter table. Its high acidity is perfect for cutting through the richer, fattier foods that tend to be served in winter, while its lighter body is what makes it an iconic pairing with seafood, of which there is plenty throughout the Australian winter. As an added bonus, bubbles and fizz always bring an extra element of excitement, so it's sure to cheer up even the greyest of days!
Botrytis semillon is a delicious dessert wine that can be enjoyed year round. Made from semillon grapes that have been hit with botrytis – a fungus that causes grapes to dehydrate while maintaining the sugar levels – this wine is highly viscous and sweet with a high alcohol content. The rich, luscious palate really warms the cockles and is a perfect after-dinner treat to be enjoyed by the fire.
How to serve white wine in winter
An obvious factor in why we tend to steer away from white wines during winter is the chill factor. Fortunately, it’s a common misconception that all white wines need to be served at a very cool temperature, except for crisp whites. The heavier, richer varietals, like those mentioned above, actually taste better and more true to form when they are drunk at around 12–13 degrees celsius, rather than ice cold. Take your bottle out of the fridge 30 minutes before dinner and you should be spot on, with the change in serving style making a glass of white a much more attractive option when the air is chilly.
Ready to shake up your routine? Then step out of your comfort zone, shake things up and impress your dinner guests with a surprising pairing. Remember the rules of thumb, reap the rewards and, most importantly, enjoy!