Winter is a time for burrowing in all the throw blankets, getting cozy by a fireplace (or maybe just sitting next to (or on) your central heat vents, whatever works), bundling up in hygge-style attire, watching too many shows on Netflix, but hopefully balancing an abundance of screen time with some thought-provoking reads and hours getting crafty in the kitchen. Yes, the frosty season is a time for soul-warming meals and indulging in some cold-weather loving wines. It was challenging to narrow down a list of winter wine and food pairings, but we think we have some classics here that you’ll hopefully nod enthusiastically in agreement with.
1. Barolo and Truffle Risotto
We know, we know, we’re starting a little extravagant, but it’s winter! The time to indulge! Who cares if some risotto calories end up on your thighs and your bank account yelps a little in pain, details, friends, details. You already are probably quite aware of our Nebbiolo obsession, and we don’t just squarely focus on Barolo, we give love to the Langhes, Barbarescos, those from Alto Piedmonte, etc. But, when it comes to Barolo, this sour cherry, rose petal, peppery, leathery elixir of love works best with more delicate, yet rich and earthy flavors, hence the risotto and the truffles. Maybe throw a few porcinis in there for good measure.
Risotto with White Truffles from NYT Cooking
2. Champagne and Popcorn
It should go without saying that Champagne should not be reserved just for special occasions or just on New Year’s Eve, but enjoyed as a year-round pleasure on any ‘ol day of the week. No “day” necessary, just a, “hey, I want some bubbles because it’s Tuesday,” type situation. And sure, you can have fancy canapés and caviar with crème fraîche on exquisitely toasted baguettes, but have you had Champagne with a bowl of buttery, salty, popped on a stove popcorn? Cozied up with some binge-worthy TV? Trust us on this one if you don’t do this already.
Perfect Popcorn from Food52
Bonus: Seasoned Popcorn Recipes from Martha Stewart
3. Chardonnay and Dungeness Crab
As Napa residents about 40ish miles the way the crow flies from the Pacific Ocean, the start of Dungeness crab season might as well be its own holiday. When November 15th rolls around (the “official” start to commercial crab fishing, though in recent years, much to our dismay, there have been delays for various reasons), we’re all giddy with excitement for the first delivery of our favorite, succulent sea bugs. People are incessantly calling the seafood counters, asking when the crabs will be in. Once available, everyone is lining up, impatiently elbowing their way to the front to snag the best looking crustaceans. It’s a right of passage as a NorCal resident. Get yourself a fresh loaf of sourdough and call yourself a local. And while you can pair fresh cracked crab with many, perfectly suitable wines like dry Rieslings, Albariño or even a more robust style of Pinot Grigio, somehow, a nice, modestly (not overly) oaked California Chardonnay is still a classic, go-to selection, especially if you’re enjoying your crabs with melted locally-made butter.
Dungeness Crab Recipes from Sonoma Magazine
4. Burgundy and Roast Chicken
Ah the roast chicken. Minimal fussing required (unless you’re super fancy), perfect for leftovers and making stock once most of the meat is picked off the carcass, yes, the roast chicken is one of our favorite winter wine and food pairings. The house is warmed from the oven and smells like a rotisserie. Patience is required, but get a puzzle or a board game going and you won’t notice you’ve been waiting nearly two hours to eat. The best meals are sometimes the simplest, the ones with minimal components, but that do require some temperature management and keeping an eye on the progress, making small adjustments as needed. For us, we like an earthy, funky Pinot to pair with our bird, hence leaning towards Burgundy vs the new world, but don’t get us wrong, a New Zealand or cool-climate California Pinot will totally put a smile on our faces too.
Roast Chicken Recipe from The New York Times
5. Rioja and Tortilla Soup
Spicy, hearty, definitely soul-warming (and face warming because #spice), tortilla soup is like a hug. It wraps around you giving you warmth from all sides. Chiles, corn, strips of tortillas, paprika, cumin, maybe a little shredded chicken, beans, topped off with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese and maybe a dollop of crema, it has all the makings of a soup that will last for a few days and is perfect for lunch the next day (all your office colleagues will be major jellz). The thing about spice is that it can be a little challenging from a wine perspective – do you go white for the refreshment or try to counteract it with a bit of heft and spice (at the end of the day, do what feels right to you at the moment obviously). We really like Rioja, specifically Rioja Reservas in this role. They have a bit more age where they’ve softened around the edges, but have lovely fruit and earth notes that balance the complex flavors of the soup. If you prefer whites, try a Grüner Veltliner.
Tortilla Soup with Chicken from FOOD & WINE
Vegetarian Tortilla Soup from NYT Cooking
6. Brunello and Lasagna
Lasagna. Yes, the dish loved by Garfield and all sound-minded humans with a need to indulge in carbs, dairy and protein in one contained, yet messy dish. You couldn’t possibly think we’d have a winter wine and food pairings roundup without some pasta, do you? Blasphemy. Lasagna is the perfect Sunday dinner with family and friends. Spend some time in the kitchen getting the sauce together, then assemble and bake until bubbly and the cheese is crispy. Slice it up and serve while sipping Sangiovese and discussing the latest developments in office drama. For classic lasagna with red sauce, meat, béchamel and all the things, there isn’t anything better than Brunello. You need a wine that can match the rich, acidic flavors and Brunello’s earthy, red fruit forward, tomato-flavored undertones do just that. You can go with Chianti Classico or Riserva, but hey, live a little and share that Brunello!
Grandma’s Lasagna from FOOD & WINE
7. Riesling and Everything Else
Ok, ok, this is cheating a little bit. But seriously, Riesling, on any side of the dry to sweet spectrum, is such a perfect go-to for those days you just want to order in Chinese or Thai, or whip up a healthy grain bowl with all the super greens or maybe you just want to cozy up with a cheese and charcuterie plate. After a rigorous day of skiing, enjoy it as an aperitif! We don’t care what season it is, a refreshing, tongue-tingling glass of Riesling is just a happy place.
What are your favorite winter pairings? Let us know in the comments!
Check out our other wine and food roundups here.