With the time change, it's a good idea to not only check the batteries in your fire alarms, but use the extra hour to rummage through your wine cellar to make sure you're stocked for the winter.
Just like you take your sweaters out of storage, change the tires on your car and adjust your cooking methods to heartier, cold-weather fare, so should you swap out your lighter summer sippers, for more substantive winter wines.
Think about the things you like to eat during these blustery, dark, Canadian evenings. Likely stews, casseroles and roasts top your list of culinary go-to's. Those easy, breezy, refreshing whites aren't going to cut it with robust meals. Here's a few of our winter time wine picks, you are welcome to make them yours, or let us know what your go-to cold weather drink is in the comments below.
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Gamay -- We think Gamay, the main grape of Beaujolais, is one of the most under-appreciated grapes out there, and it if you're not drinking it, you're missing out. Juicy and complex with flavours of red berries, plum, earth, smoke and spice, Gamays also have low tannin and nice acidity, making them perfect for food pairing. Ontario makes some stellar examples of superior Gamay, and, because these wines are not exactly riding the popularity train, you can get fantastic bottles for less than $20. We really like 13th Street Gamay Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, ON 2011.
Rioja -- There are good buys to be found in this category, many worth more than they are priced. Riojas are typically medium bodied, lush and rich in texture and deep flavours of black cherry, plum, tobacco leaf, wild savoury herbs, and cocoa/vanilla oaky notes. Being from Spain, it's not surprising they pair really well with spicier dishes like chorizo paella, but also earthier fare like grilled lamb and rosemary. Try Campo Viejo Crianza, Rioja, Spain 2008. Priced well under $20 in most markets, it's a best buy to be sure.
Chianti Classico -- Made from Sangiovese grapes which are known for high acidity, this Tuscan red is a classic pairing for Italian-American dishes like spaghetti & meatballs or pepperoni pizza. But Chianti Classicos can go beyond being a basic "spaghetti wine." With flavours of chocolate covered cherries, black olives and sundried tomatoes with a leather earthiness, think of pairing them with cold-weather dishes like pot roast, beef stew or chicken cacciatore. Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2010 is modern and easy drinking -- perfect for Friday nights at home.
Cabernet Sauvignon -- No winter wine list would be complete without your big-boy cab. Rich, dense and succulent, cabs cry out for steak, but they can also pair nicely with mushroom based dishes, as well as game meats like venison. Because cabs are so hearty and generous, keep your dishes relatively simple. A fantastic value-driven option for lovers of New World Cab Sauv is Chile's Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, which is shows an elegance and complexity beyond its modest price tag.
Rosé -- Now hear us out. Pink wine has acquired a bit of a bad rap as a one-trick pony only good for springtime sipping at baby showers. But in truth, rosé is delicious anytime of year: its elevated acidity and food friendly structure means it goes really well with most holiday feasts, pairing nicely with everything from roast turkey to baked ham. We just added Ontario's Closson Chase Rosé 2011 to our cellars for sipping with cheese plates and festive dinners this winter.
Pinot Gris -- The alter ego of Italy's Pinot Grigio, this grape does exceptionally well in cool climates like Ontario & B.C., but arguably Alsace is the home to Pinot Gris, producing unctuous, honeyed wines that are refreshing without being crisp. Picture the classic, rich foods of Alsace: pork schnitzel, sauerkraut, foie gras, sausage, duck confit... all deliciously decadent, albeit calorie laden, dishes that do well with wines that will cut through the fattiness, and bring out the flavours. It could be our German heritage, but we salivate just thinking about it. One that's worth trying is Pierre Sparr Réserve Pinot Gris 2009.
White Rhône -- Seemingly always in the shadow of its Big Brother Reds, whites coming out of the Rhône are pretty, round and stylish, made from blends of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussane and Grenache Blanc among others. Weighty, oily and rich on the palate with apricot and peach, honeysuckle and jasmine, almonds and hazelnuts, the exact taste will depend what grapes -- and how much of each -- went into the blend. If you're new to this wine, try Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc, an inexpensive (less than $15), yet quality driven, white wine to drink on its own or with rich white meats like pork loin, roast chicken or lobster in cream sauce.