Winter Whites (or Wines to Drink in a Snowstorm)

by Jeff Harding
Antoinette Bruno
January 2014


Having successfully referenced the "Sound of Music" in a Scotch staff training, I'm gonna take my chances and be the Juror #8 of the wine world. You CAN drink white wine after Labor Day. Let's follow the fashion world, and call it Winter White. But don't tell Jancis Robinson, or she may call it a trend. Let's see what the pros say.

Jill Zimorski of Hotel Jerome

Wine Director Jill Zimorski of Hotel Jerome – Aspen, CO

For winter whites, I look for wines that are a little richer and a little "fatter." Sometimes this can translate to whites that are naturally a bit lower in acid.  In the summer, you need high acid to refresh your palate, but in the winter you want something a little more unctuous. I would never want white Rhône (Viognier in the north or Hermitage/Crozes Hermitage Blanc or Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc) in the summer, but in the winter? Sure.

One of my favorite winter whites is a total oddball, but I love it. It's an Italian white called Monastero Suore Cistercensi "Coenobium." It's VdT from Lazio, Italy, and while Giampero Bea from Paolo Bea in Umbria oversees the viticulture, it's made by a convent full of nuns. It's a blend of Grechetto, Trebbiano, Malvaisa, and Verdicchio. And it has a couple days of skin contact. It's not an orange wine by any means, but it has some structure that a lot of other whites don't (without the oak). It rocks with our kabocha squash soup, king crab, cranberry compote, and crumbled amaretti cookie.

Sommelier Brooke Sabel of Ninety Acres Culinary Center - Peapack-Gladstone, NJ

Wine Director Brooke Sabel  Natirar and Ninety Acres Culinary Center – Peapack-Gladstone, NJ

Winter whites, to me, mean rich and comforting—elegant and complex to have on their own in front of a fire or stand in line with hearty dishes. One of my favorites is Cassis Blanc 2010, Clos Sainte Magdeleine, with ricotta cavatelli, speck, broccoli, walnuts, brown butter, and parmesan.

Sommelier Mollie Battenhouse, DWS of Maslow 6 - New York, NY

Director of Sales and Business Development Mollie Battenhouse of VOS Selections – New York, NY

For me, a winter white is usually a fuller-bodied white, but it can also just mean a more full-flavored wine to pair with the full-flavored foods that I tend to eat in winter. Northern Rhône whites work well with veal, pork, and heavier fish dishes. I also like Clairette blends from the south; Chateauneuf Blanc from Saint Prefert is a favorite, and the Crozes Hermitage Blanc from Domaine des Martinelles or Courbis Saint Joseph Blanc. Vouvray and Montlouis too—can't forget my Chenin!!! While I like Chenin all year round, the richer styles that are full and dry are nice in winter. Sweeter ones are great with a cheese plate. (And who doesn't like a little extra cheese in the winter?) If I could, I'd drink Szepsy's dry Harslevelu every day. It's a GREAT cold weather white; it's rich, dry, lots of extract ... and bubbles. They work all year round. In the winter, give me Krug, Bolly, or Dom. I'm a sucker for oak-aged and solera-style Champagnes. They're toasty and rich and warm me right up! Roussette de Savoie is a new favorite. I had one recently with the dumpling knots with spicy pork sauce at Fung Tu. It was perfect! It really went with the whole meal, which was full of umami and rich flavors. Alsace Pinot Gris and Riesling works really well with rich winter flavors. I had the 2004 Grand Cru Sommerberg Riesling from Boxler with turkey dinner, and it rocked.

Wine Director Belinda Chang

Wine Educator Belinda Chang of Moët Hennessy

To me winter whites are the white wines that envelop your palate like a cozy blanket or a warm winter coat. They are also the wines that we want to drink with the vegetables, meats, and flavors of winter: truffles (black and white), root vegetables, braises, and stews. At this time of year, I reach for whites with voluptuous texture and richness; barrel aging and/or extended lees aging; and everything that makes a white decadent, full, and wonderful. My favorites are Roussannes, luxurious Chardonnays, ripe Alsace whites made from Pinot Gris, Gewurtztraminer and of course, vintage Champagnes!

Wine Writer Stuart Pigott

Stuart Pigott of Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

There are so many possibilities here it's hard to know where to begin. One would certainly be the Schieferterrassen Riesling from Heymann-Löwenstein on the Mosel. Reinhard Löwenstein created the new (or possibly new-old) style of richly textural, spicy-minerally Mosel Rieslings 20 years ago, and this remains the classic. It would be a great combination with all kinds of food, but I think I would serve it with spicy Italian sausage and some winter vegetables (e.g., finely chopped Brussels sprouts slowly browned in olive oil).

Beverage Director and Restaurateur Joe Campanale of dell'anima, L'Artusi, Anfora, and L'Apicio – New York, NY

Beverage Director and Restaurateur Joe Campanale of dell'anima, L'Artusi, Anfora, and L'Apicio –  New York, NY

A winter white has weight, texture, and personality. Wines like the COS Pithos Bianco, Paolo Bea Arboreus, and Foradori Nosiola are whites that have fullness and texture but it doesn't come from alcohol. It comes from concentrated healthy fruit and sometimes some skin contact. These are wines with a personality that can stand up to winter dishes like game birds, clam chower, and Chef Gabe's famous Pizzocheri pasta. But I also drink them in the summer.

Sommelier Jen Sgobbo

Wine Director Jen Sgobbo of Perla and Chez Sardine – New York, NY

Winter white means a white that will satisfy someone looking for fullness, warmth, and comfort. My favorite winter white is a nutty, rich Meursault to pair with chicken saltimbocca.

Sommelier Orr Reches formery of <em>Corton</em> – New York, NY

Sommelier Orr Reches formery of Corton – New York, NY

I think winter whites are wines that don't “laugh in the glass” as a colleague of mine once said. Hence, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or feather-light Mosel Riesling.

Winter whites for me are whites I don’t want to drink in the summer. Heavier and less acidic, higher alcohol whites are great for casseroles and heavy winter dishes. These styles are found in Northern and Southern Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon, old Rioja Gran Reservas, and, although not my style, heavily oaked Chardonnays. Also, these whites benefit from higher serving temperatures and even decanting. My personal favorites are Domaine de l’Horizon Blanc, Chateau Maris Blanc (100 percent Grenache Gris), and Clos de Papes Blanc. Usually these wines will have a light smoky note that is fantastic with Brussels sprouts and bacon, turkey, and duck.