‘Wine is sunlight held together by water,’ Galileo

Winter Wine Drinking
What am I drinking this winter?
In the summer, I go for wines that are refreshing. I know I’m not alone in that. Cool, crisp whites made from high-acid grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino and clean fresh Rieslings and Chardonnays. When I drink Reds I go for a lighter style and Chilean Pinot Noir has been my find of the summer – great value yet still identifiable as Pinot Noir. Rosé is great when the sun’s out.

Then, at the end of September, I turn my back on those wines and barely encounter them for the next six months. Cold wet days; long dark nights; frost in the morning; ice in the evening. I need something to restore morale; and I go for the biggest wines I can find. There’s a scientific basis for this.  Galileo, one of the fathers of modern science said, ‘Wine is sunlight held together by water,’ he may well have been speaking metaphorically (in fact there’s no doubt that he was) but I don’t let that stop me when it comes to pegging out a theory.


So my philosophy is to go for wines from the warmest climates, packed with the most fruit. I go for Australian Shiraz; Chilean Merlot; Wines from the Rhone; the Pays d’Oc and occasionally Bordeaux. I love wines made from Primitivo in Puglia at the heel of Italy; Beautiful reds from Valdepenas burnished with oak and smoky South Africans plump with fruit. At the end of a meal a little Port is unbeatable, not just for the wine itself but for the memories it evokes of winters passed.

What about whites? In winter I like them to be delicious full of flavour – a good weight of fruit and judiciously oaked if from a cooler climate. White burgundy is the finest wine for sitting in winter sunshine sitting with your coat on. Viognier can provide the most vivid flecks of colour on the drabbest of days – look for south Australian; Southern French or Californian ones. My favourite winter whites, though, come from grapes which have been harvested late in the year. So late that a touch of botrytis has affected the fruit. This produces a wine which has a round, rich, ripe concentrated fruit flavour. Look out for wines from Northern Italy – Gavi; Lugana and Verdicchio di Matelica.

The exception to this ‘sunny wines’ theory is Champagne. Throughout the winter, despite that region’s marginal climate, I love to drink it for the obvious reason that nothing can so quickly make the world seem like such a brighter place.
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