Hygge (hue-guh), a Danish word used to describe a cosy, warm feeling of contentment, conjures up a picture of steaming heart-warming soups and stews, comforting puddings, cosy fires and soft darker colours. It also suggests aromas of vanilla, spices, dark berry fruit, stewed plums – all of these experienced in Winter warming wines. But how to know what to buy? Many things influence the choice and purchase of wine: the food we plan to serve, the number of guests at the meal, the time of year and more!
“Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilised pleasures” – Michael Broadbent
A simple suggestion is to think of food and wine as musical instruments; for example, a beautiful violinist would have their performance destroyed if accompanied by the beating of loud drums and the crashing of cymbals. Relate this to food – a delicious serving of sole would be overwhelmed by a robust tannic red wine. Equally, highly flavoured foods such as hearty beef stews or spicy tandoori chicken will engulf a delicate white wine!
To appreciate a little more about the influence of food on wine and how to make the best pairing choices, a knowledge of the food characteristics and their positive and negative effects on wine is a valuable tool. Foods can be sweet, salty, acidic, highly flavoured or hot spicy. Wines can be described as sweet, dry, acidic, tannic and have high, medium or low alcohol levels. For example, sweet foods can make wines more bitter/tannic so better to finish with the robust red wine before having dessert. Salty foods, on the other hand, make the same style of wine less bitter hence the practice of having salty crisps or salty cheese or crackers when having a red wine without food.
When buying wines, it’s good to support your independently owned wine shops, they are highly knowledgeable and will give you lots of advice on wines to buy for specific occasions. They also have a handpicked, eclectic range of wines, they buy from smaller, artisan winemakers and wineries and may deliver a box order of 12 wines free of charge!
So, what to include on your 12 wines of winter list, by grape variety?
For the whites, there are such options like Chenin Blanc, lightly oaked Chardonnay, Soave, Falanghina, Grüner Veltliner, Alsace Pinot Gris. As for the reds, Beaujolais, Carménère, Nebbiolo, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo are our top picks.
But that’s leaving out whites such as Viognier, Gewürtztraminer, Verdejo, delicious dry Manzanilla Sherry, and reds like Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and a naturally sweet, luscious Pedro Ximinez Sherry! What to do? – a second box is the only solution!
Máirín Uí Mhurchú Dip WSET
WSET Certified Wine Educator
Fáilte Wine Education, @FailteWineEducation