Cold Weather Red Wines

Nov 09, 2023Cambridge Wines

When the temperature drops and the snow starts falling, there's nothing quite like curling up by the fire with a glass of red wine. The rich flavors and warming qualities of red wines make them the perfect companions for cold weather. In this article, we will explore the appeal of red wines in chilly temperatures, delve into different varieties suited for winter months, discuss the art of pairing them with winter foods, and provide tips on storing and serving red wines in cold weather.

Understanding the Appeal of Red Wines in Cold Weather

Have you ever wondered why red wines seem to be the drink of choice during the colder months? There are both scientific and psychological reasons behind this prevailing trend.

The Science Behind Wine and Temperature

Scientifically speaking, red wines are typically fuller-bodied and higher in alcohol content compared to their white wine counterparts. These characteristics create a warming sensation when consumed, making red wines more appealing during winter. The higher alcohol content in red wines causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and creating a feeling of warmth from within. This physiological response is particularly welcomed during the cold winter months.

Furthermore, the tannins present in red wine contribute to a sense of richness and depth. Tannins are compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems, and they provide a dry and slightly bitter taste to the wine. In red wines, the tannins are more pronounced due to the extended contact between the grape skins and the juice during the fermentation process. These tannins add complexity and structure to the wine, creating a satisfying mouthfeel. During winter, when we often crave heartier and more substantial flavors, the tannins in red wines can provide a comforting and fulfilling experience.

The Comfort of Red Wines in Winter

Psychologically, red wines have long been associated with warmth and coziness. The deep red hues evoke images of crackling fires and cozy blankets, creating a sense of comfort and relaxation. The act of sipping on a glass of red wine can be seen as a form of self-care, allowing us to unwind and indulge in a moment of tranquility amidst the cold and hectic winter days.

Moreover, red wines are often enjoyed at a slightly warmer temperature than white wines. This temperature difference further enhances the warming effect of red wines, as the heat from the wine is transferred to our hands and body when holding the glass. The sensation of a warm glass in our hands, combined with the rich aromas and flavors of the red wine, adds to the overall experience of coziness and comfort.

In addition, red wines are commonly paired with hearty winter dishes such as stews, roasts, and rich cheeses. The robust flavors and textures of these foods complement the bold characteristics of red wines, creating a harmonious and satisfying combination. The act of enjoying a glass of red wine alongside a comforting meal adds to the overall sensory experience, making it even more appealing during the colder months.

Exploring Varieties of Cold Weather Red Wines

When it comes to red wines for cold weather, there is a wide array of options to choose from. Let's explore some of the most popular varieties:

Full-Bodied Reds: A Winter Favorite

Full-bodied red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Malbec, are the go-to choices for many wine enthusiasts during the winter months. These wines offer intense flavors and robust structures that can stand up to hearty winter dishes.

Medium-Bodied Reds for a Lighter Choice

If you prefer a lighter red wine option with less intensity, medium-bodied reds like Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Sangiovese are excellent choices. These wines still have complexity and depth but tend to be more versatile when it comes to food pairings.

Unconventional Reds for Adventurous Palates

For those seeking something unique and out of the ordinary, unconventional red wines like Carmenere, Petite Sirah, or a rustic Tempranillo can provide an exciting twist. These wines offer unexpected flavors and can be a delightful surprise during cold winter evenings.

Pairing Red Wines with Winter Foods

Pairing red wines with winter foods is a culinary adventure. From festive holiday dinners to everyday comfort foods, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the perfect combinations.

Classic Pairings for Holiday Dinners

For traditional holiday meals, such as roasted turkey or prime rib, opt for red wines with bold flavors and firm tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux blends complement these hearty dishes and enhance the overall dining experience.

Everyday Pairings for Comfort Foods

When it comes to everyday comfort foods like stews, braised meats, or pasta dishes, medium-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir or Sangiovese can be excellent choices. These wines offer a balance of fruitiness and acidity that pairs well with these comforting flavors.

Unexpected Pairings to Try

For those seeking more adventurous pairings, don't be afraid to break away from tradition. Explore the combination of unconventional red wines like Petite Sirah with rich chocolate desserts or Carmenere with spicy Mexican cuisine. You might discover unique flavor profiles that pleasantly surprise your taste buds.

Storing and Serving Red Wines in Cold Weather

Properly storing and serving red wines during the cold winter months is crucial to preserving their quality and ensuring an enjoyable tasting experience.

Ideal Storage Conditions for Red Wines

To keep your red wines in optimal condition, store them in a cool and dark place, away from fluctuations in temperature and humidity. An ideal temperature for long-term storage ranges between 50-59°F (10-15°C). Avoid exposing the wines to direct sunlight, as it can damage the wine and accelerate the aging process.

Serving Temperatures for Optimal Taste

When it's time to serve your red wines, take into consideration the ideal serving temperatures. While room temperature is often suggested, this recommendation originated in a time when rooms were cooler than modern centrally heated spaces. For full-bodied reds, aim for a serving temperature of 60-65°F (15-18°C) to enhance their flavors and soften their tannins. For medium-bodied reds, 55-60°F (12-15°C) will allow them to express their nuances without being overpowering.

Decanting and Aerating: Are They Necessary?

Decanting or aerating your red wines before serving can help them open up and release their aromas. While it is not always necessary for every bottle, younger red wines with strong tannins can benefit from decanting to allow them to mellow. Additionally, aerating can be done by simply swirling the wine in the glass, exposing it to the air and enhancing its flavors.

As the cold weather settles in, make sure to embrace the warmth and comfort of red wines. Choose the right varieties, pair them with delicious winter foods, and ensure proper storage and serving conditions. With these tips in mind, you'll be ready to fully enjoy the delightful world of cold weather red wines.

More articles