The Wine Blog

Baby it’s cold outside…

January 29, 2014

baby it's cold outside

By Amy Ullman

January closes out with yet another arctic blast, the temperature keeps dropping and lets face it we don’t want to leave our homes. Kind of a drag right? Wrong! This is exactly the time of year when it is time to find a fireplace (in your home or someone else’s) and curl up with a glass of something delicious. And not just any kind of something delicious – fireplace wines are a unique category unto themselves. Think full body, luscious texture, and the perfect balance of acid and tannin that does not require food.

Australian Semillon

Super knowledgeable Dryncer’s might already recognize Semillon as one one of the classic white grapes of Bordeaux, where it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc to make still whites, and the lusciously honeyed Sauternes. However, it has failed to make as big a splash overseas as its outgoing sister, Sauvignon Blanc. That is until some savvy Australian producers in the Barossa and Hunter Valleys started experimenting with this unsung variety. The result is wines that are refined and lovely, with zesty acidity, yet an almost mouth-coating rich texture. Proof that winter white is not restricted to fashion only.

Wine by the fire

Mersault & St. Aubin

We know that oaked Chardonnays have gotten a bum rap, and we know that many of you are card-carrying members of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) Club. However, we are respectfully submitting Meursault (and it’s less spendy neighbor St Aubin) for your approval. These delicately oaked Chardonnays are simply stellar for the season, reminiscent of buttery baked golden apples and Bosc pears, sprinkled with sweet baking spices, with just the faintest whiff of toast and smoke in the aromatics. If loving these oaked wines is wrong, we do not want to be right.

Spanish Garnachas

Although we are huge fans of Spain’s Tempranillo based Riojas, they were just too delicate and subtle for this week’s list. Instead, we turn our firelit sights to the Garnacha driven blends of Navarro and Priorat. Garnachas (like their French brethren Grenache) thrive in hot climates with rocky soils. The plants yield little fruit, but what fruit they do produce is rich, balanced and concentrated. The results are wines that are almost heady, brimming with rich black fruit, earthy spiciness, and silky tannins.

Bandol Reds

Although Bandol is also known as a region that produces stellar rosés, it is their Mourvedre based reds that we are yearning to be cozied up with on chilly winter nights. Traditionally, Mourvedre is part of the classic trio (along with Syrah and Grenache) that drives the southern Rhone’s most delicious reds, where it lends perfume and structure. In the Bandol, however, it truly shines when flying solo. The wines are spicy, dark, chewy and meaty–we almost want to serve them on a plate! Who needs to dinner with a wine like this?

Salice Salento Reds

fire socks

These budget-friendly beauties hail from Apulia, at the heel of Italy’s boot. The primary grape in this region is Negroamaro, meaning black and bitter in Italian. The name does not do these wines justice, however. True, there is a slight bitter bite hidden deep within those bushels of black fruit, red flowers and sweet spices, but the texture is smooth, silky and tender.

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

A classic wine for a classic season. We cannot imagine anything better than a roaring fire and glass of robust California Cab at our finger tips: inky and rich, with aromas and flavors of rich cassis, black berries, black cherry, vanilla, mint, cedar and smoke. The acidity and tannins balance perfectly, keeping drinkers happy one delicious sip after another.

So are you still missing summer days and sunshine? Yeah, we didn’t think so.

Amy Ullman

Writer Amy Ullman is the irrationally exuberant founder of Wine for Rookies. She received a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from Harvard University in 2009 with concentrations in Economics and French. She holds the title of Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers, a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators, and is currently working on her Diploma of Wine and Spirits via the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.