White wine in winter?
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At first thought, red wine seems to pair better with wool sweaters and fireplaces and flannel sheets. White wine, on the other hand, is reserved for the bottom of the picnic basket. The one you sip at the park on a sunny June afternoon or on a patio in late Spring.
However, white wine can be just as satisfying during the winter if the right kind is chosen.
Sabina Magyar, beverage manager at Glorioso's Italian Market, 1011 E. Brady St., recommends a variety of winter-friendly whites.
"It seems the body craves red wine in winter, but a fuller-bodied white wine can be just as satisfying," says Magyar.
She suggests wine made with Vermentino grapes – which are late-ripening, white Italian grapes – along with Chardonnays or anything from Campania (the Italian region that is home to Naples) which she describes as "fuller-bodied, honey, nutty and great in winter."
Mulled wine, which can be made with red or white wine, is also a great winter beverage. Maygar recommends a fruity, yet full-bodied white. Making mulled wine is simple: warm it up on the stove top along with a little hot water, sugar, all spice and / or a cinnamon stick and serve.
Pinot Grigio, she says, can make a good winter wine if you pick the right one. She recommends the full-tasting Jermann Pinot Grigio.
Katie Espinosa is the general manager of Bacchus, 925 E. Wells St., and a certified sommelier. She says that because winter has colder weather, people don't usually desire chilled beverages like white wine; however, Champagne, which is usually half chardonnay and half Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier (blanc de blanc is made entirely of Chardonnay), is a popular wintertime beverage because of its association with New Year's Eve.
"The toastiness and yeastiness of champagne goes really well with dishes that might otherwise pair well with red wine," says Espinosa.
Because of the food served in winter, including heavier stuff like casseroles and lasagna and hearty soups and stews, a lighter wine sometimes pairs better than a heavier red, which could be overkill.
"Any cream-based dish is suitable for white wine, too," says Espinosa.
Espinosa suggests white wine, particularly chardonnay, with pork dishes. She says chardonnays have changed over the years and made what she calls an "elegant comeback." Whereas the chards of the past were more oak-y and buttery, today many are more balanced between the oak and the fruit.
According to Espinosa, Rieslings are extremely food friendly because they range in taste so much. She pairs Rieslings with dishes that are anything from heavy to light to mild to spicy, depending on the taste of the wine.
Espinosa believes that, in modern cuisine, there are no hard and fast rules. She suggests to diners that they focus less on what is recommended to pair together and instead just combine whatever sounds good to them. When people ask her to recommend the "right" wine for their meal, Espinosa says she starts by simply asking the person what he or she likes.
"The rules are a lot looser. If you're drinking something you like and eating something you like, you're going to enjoy it," she says.
Espinosa agrees there's good reason for craving red wine in winter and white wine in summer, but sometimes it's fun to shake it up and be more adventurous.
"Just give it a try," she says. "White wine pairs really well with a lot of winter foods you wouldn't want to necessarily eat in the summer time."
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