Food & Drink

Need a winter warm-up? Try these wines

“Brew me a cup for a winter’s night

For the wind howls loud, and the furies fight.

Spice it with love and stir it with care

And I'll toast your bright eyes, my sweetheart fair.”

– Minna Thomas Antrim

In winter we recognize nature’s power over us and our need for sustenance against it — a warm sweater, a blazing fire, a hot drink — whether we’re in icy Minnesota or balmy Miami.

We need the warming wines of winter, for which there are many recipes:

▪ Mulled red wine: sturdy reds heated with honey, orange peel and such “mulling spices” as cinnamon, orange, cloves, star anise, cardamom.

▪ Mulled white wine: aromatic whites warmed with Poire William, the pear brandy, and those spices.

▪ Hot spiced wine: wine of either hue heated with Kirsch, the cherry brandy, and spice. Or simmered with sugar, cider and grape brandy. Or scotch and ginger.

In Germany there’s gluwein; in Romania, vin fiert; in Russia, Glintwein — all pretty much the same.

What, then, are the proper wines for such loving libations, you ask between chattering teeth. They can be such potent reds as cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, syrah or malbec. Or such scented whites as riesling, gewurztraminer, chenin blanc. Roses? Why not? Whatever warms your wattles. Bubbly? No point; the bubbles would bubble away.

The wines needn’t be expensive; their subtler qualities will be buried under the barrage of ingredients and boiled away by the heat.

They can be heated gently in a pan over a low flame, never boiled to lose their alcohol. Serve them in mugs, not fancy champagne flutes. Leave in a peel of orange, a stick of cinnamon. Be careful not to swallow such wayward objects as cloves or star anise.

Now cuddle up with a friend, and sip a cup of warm kindness. Enjoy the winter.


▪ 2015 Cigar Box Old Vine Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (100 percent malbec): soft and rich and hearty, with aromas and flavors of black cherries and chocolate; $20.

▪ 2015 Urban Riesling, Mosel, Germany (100 percent riesling): off-dry and crisp, with floral aromas and flavors of white peaches and minerals; $15.

▪ 2015 La Crema Pinot Gris, Monterey, Calif. (100 percent pinot gris): aromas of camellias, flavors of golden apples and citrus, crisp; $20.


▪ 2015 Concha y Toro “Casillero del Diablo Reserva” Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Valley, Chile (91 percent cabernet sauvignon, 3 percent syrah, 2 percent malbec, 2 percent cabernet franc, 1 percent petit verdot, 1 percent petite sirah): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black plums and coffee, mellow and rich; $11.

▪ 2014 The Cleaver Red Blend, California (74 percent zinfandel, 21 percent petite sirah, 5 percent syrah): aromas and flavors of black raspberries and espresso, full-bodied and rich; $20.

▪ 2015 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc, Wilson Ranch, Clarksburg, Calif.: intense floral aromas, flavors of peaches and tropical fruit, smooth texture; $13.

▪ Montes “Cherub” Rose of Syrah, Colchagua Valley, Chile (83 percent syrah, 17 percent grenache): aromas of red flowers, flavors of tart cherries and red plums, full-bodied and crisp; $16.

▪ 2015 Gundlach Bundschu Estate Gewurztraminer, Sonoma Coast, Calif. (100 percent gewurztraminer): aromatic, crisp and dry, with perfumed aroma and flavors of ripe apples and citrus; $22.

▪ 2014 Dark Horse Chardonnay, California (87 percent chardonnay, 5 percent viognier, 3 percent gewurztraminer, 5 percent other grapes): toasty oak aroma, exotic flavors of peaches and pears, smooth finish; $10.