Time is always right for an ideal white Cold, wintry months don't have to mean hearty reds

There’s a tendency to associate certain wines with particular seasons.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/11/2018 (1591 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There’s a tendency to associate certain wines with particular seasons.

Our lengthy deep freeze over the winter months, for example, leads to many wine drinkers turning to heavier, robust reds; similarly, on sizzling summer days a crisp, fresh white or rosé is certainly top of mind.

Probably the most seasonal wine of all is Beaujolais Nouveau, always released on the third Thursday in November (Nov. 15 this year).

But not everyone wants to pop a Prosecco in August, nor does everyone need a big heavy Nebbiolo in November. The beauty of wine is that there are no rules as to when you should be drinking what.

And as the mercury begins to plummet for the foreseeable future, there are all manner of white wines that suit the season spendidly, while pairing nicely with heartier winter and fall fare.

Sparkling wine is a must over the winter months, especially as New Year’s Eve draws ever closer. Richer, more robust bubblies are great for holiday parties as well as all manner of finger foods/hors d’oeuvres that might be served.

The Moët & Chandon NV Impérial Brut (Champagne, France — $68.50, Liquor Marts and beyond) is a medium gold, non-vintage French Champagne that blends Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. On the nose it brings vibrant bread dough, green apple and peach notes, with a modest chalky, smoky component lingering in the background.

On the light-plus bodied, brightly effervescent palate a fresh lemon zest note joins the green apple and dough flavours, with that subtle smokiness wafting around in the background that exudes style and complexity.

If Champagne’s not in your price range, try a bubbly made from similar grapes or at least in the same method used in Champagne (typically called the “traditional method”). ★★★★

A stalwart go-to white wine for cooler months, Chardonnay — especially those that spend time aging in oak barrels — brings richness and depth of flavour that’s tough to beat.

The La Crema 2016 Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast, Calif. — $29, Liquor Marts and beyond) is deep gold in colour, and comes from a relatively cool region of California; on the nose it offers intense red apple and stone fruit (peach, apricot) as well as more subtle butterscotch and spice notes thanks to eight months aged in barrels.

It’s medium-bodied and fairly creamy on the palate, with apple, peach and lemon meringue notes fleshed out by understated spice and vanilla bean flavours from the wood, but with enough focused fruit thanks to modest acidity. It’s a stylish example of Sonoma Chardonnay. ★★★★

Another white wine grape that often works well in winter is Chenin Blanc — at least those outside France’s Vouvray region; in Manitoba most examples we see are disappointingly simple.

But South Africa in particular is making some really complex, compelling Chenin Blanc that offers depth of flavour and incredible texture.

The Testalonga 2017 Baby Bandito “Keep on Punching” (Swartland, South Africa – around $20, private wine stores) is medium gold in colour, sees no oak and is made with natural yeasts, no added sulfites and minimal overall human intervention — it’s a natural wine.

It brings intense ripe (almost bruised) apple, biscuit, lemon meringue, pear and woolly notes on the nose. On the medium-bodied, viscous palate the apple and pear flavours are fresh and juicy, with added complexity coming from secondary biscuit and lemon-candy notes.

Despite there being just 12 per cent alcohol, the finish keeps on punching — it’s long and lingering. A delicious example of a grape that’s not your average wine buyer’s first choice. ★★★★½

Aromatic white wines tend to do well in winter months, especially when pairing with root vegetable dishes and your typical Christmas dinner.

Riesling and Gewürztraminer both tend to bring some sweetness to the table, the former delivering fresh apple and lemon notes and a splash of acidity while the latter offers more stone fruit and spice notes.

Grüner Veltliner from Austria falls into a similar wheelhouse, albeit on the drier side.

Then there’s Viognier — a more viscous variety than those the above three, but with plenty of similar characteristics.

The Pennautier 2016 Viognier (Pays D’Oc, France – around $17, private wine stores) is made in the south of France, is medium gold in colour, and delivers loads of tropical fruit aromatically — think pineapple, mango and papaya — with almost-overripe peach and apricot notes and a hint of spice.

On the light-plus bodied palate the intense tropical/stone fruit flavours are ripe and rich. Despite being just 12.5 per cent (low-ish for the grape variety) this wine seems a bit hot on the finish; that’s not entirely a bad thing, as it means it could handle bigger, bolder winter dishes. ★★★½

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If you’ve got a hankering for rustic reds that winter white wines simply won’t tame, mark Friday, Nov. 30 on your calendar.

We may still be months away from the Winnipeg Wine Festival — whose theme region in 2019 is Spain — but your first chance to take a deep dive into the country’s wines comes on the final evening of this month, when Kitchen Sync (A-370 Donald St.) hosts Fiesta del Vino from 7-9:30 p.m.

A wide range of Spanish wines will be poured alongside tapas-style bites. Tickets are $50 and are available via winnipegwinefestival.com.

uncorked@mts.net Twitter: @bensigurdson

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