With winter comes the desire for richer, more robust food and so too it is with wine. Who doesn’t want something rich and luxurious to temper those chilly nights and for many people, hearty reds will be the go to. Malbec is a great cold weather pleaser, perfect for meat driven dishes. Shiraz will bring big, robust, fruit dense flavours to your fireside and though lighter, Pinot Noir’s earthy undertones will capture the essence of winter dining.
In recent years, a wine style which has become very popular for winter drinking due in no small part to the unique process used in its making is Ripasso. Receiving its own DOC designation in 2009, Ripasso della Valpolicella is crafted by passing (hence the Ripasso name) the best quality Valpolicella wine over the still warm grape skins of the dried grapes used to make the rich and more expensive Amarone. This causes a second fermentation to begin, which gives a higher alcohol content and a richer wine style. Located 15 kilometres west of Verona on the shores of Lake Garda, The Zenato Winery produces a flagship Ripasso. After fermentation, aging takes in French oak for 18/20 months with a further 6 months resting in bottle before release. The result is an extremely soft, refined and concentrated wine. Ruby in colour, it exudes opulent ripe cherry aromas with good acidity and smooth tannins that will tenderise meat dishes. A perfect full bodied, mellow and warming winter wine style to pair with roast meat, rich stews, risotto and strong cheese like aged parmesan.
While reds often steal the show, aged whites also pair beautifully with weightier food and it is well worth parking the crisp and refreshing styles we enjoy in summer for the rich and more full-bodied styles that can provide the warmth and bold character we seek in winter.
Though out of favour with many in recent years, the rich, buttery qualities of Oaked Chardonnay make for perfect food pairing, think creamy pasta sauces, fish dishes and indeed warm, dense bread. Looking to Spain for something a little different, Rioja offers the kind of white to drink in cooler weather with the most important grape of this region, Viura. Oak ageing is something of a tradition in Rioja, adding weight and complexity to this already creamy grape variety. Younger Viura wines pair well with Asian food like coconut curries. Aged Viura pairs well with roast meats and stews. Located in San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Hacienda López de Haro Blanco has ripe fruit, dates and banana notes. It is fresh and fleshy, leading to a long, balanced and satisfying mouthfeel and finish. With 3 months French Oak aging and a reasonably low 12.5% ABV, it will make a perfect winter white dining choice. Stay warm!
Zenato Ripasso Superiore: A full-bodied, rich wine best served with food or aged cheese.
Hacienda López de Haro Blanco: Straw yellow in colour, ripe fruit, this is a lovely expression of Vuira from old vineyards in the heart of the Rioja region.
Zenato Ripassa Superior Valpolicella 2015 75cl
After the dried grapes are pressed, the Valpolicella wine is passed over the still warm marc of Amarone. A second alcoholic fermentation begins which increases the alcoholic content and the wine becomes richer in colour, bouquet
The grapes are de-stemmed and macerated in stainless steel fermenters for 10-12 days. Once the alcoholic fermentation is completed, the new wine is separated from the skins by light pressing and conserved in large oak casks of 54 and 75 hectolitres until February; this is the period in which the dried grapes are pressed to produce Amarone. At this point, the Valpolicella is passed over the marc of the Amarone for a period of 7-8 days at a temperature of 25-28°C. The wine is aged for 18 months in 500 lt. oak casks and barrels.
Excellent companion to game dishes, grilled meat and roasts, salami and aged cheeses.