It’s time to engage the fireplace, get out the comfy sweaters, and switch gears when choosing a bottle of wine—something fuller-bodied with a warming fruit character to embrace the new season of winter.

DeLoach Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2016

LangeTwins Single Vineyard Estate Jahant Lodi Petite Sirah 2017

I actually do not drink red wine without food very often. I usually enjoy a glass of red when it is alongside a dish or even a charcuterie board. On a chilly night in January, however, a fruity red wine low in tannin envelops me like a blanket. Think of grapes like Zinfandel or Malbec or Petite Sirah—fruit-driven wines that exhibit less tannin and acidity. These reds can be enjoyed by themselves almost in the way you would enjoy a warm cup of coffee or tea.

When considering your wines choices, they should also adapt as the style of food changes with the season. Winter calls for heartier dishes, and heartier dishes call for bigger wines.

When pairing wine with food, we need to pay attention to the fat content of a dish. Tannin and fat go hand in hand. Why is a Cabernet Sauvignon thought of as a perfect pairing with a ribeye? The tannin in the Cabernet Sauvignon wipes the fat off of the tongue, effectively cleansing the palate for another delicious bite.

If a roast of lamb is the main dish, however, the fat content is not as high. You will also find more accompanying herbs and spices. A wine with less tannin may be enjoyed. At the same time, you may start thinking of the flavor profile of a wine in order to match the dish you have chosen. For example, a Chateauneuf-du-Pape may elevate this dish nicely by adding herbs de Provence to the equation in addition to dark purple fruits. It almost adds a compote to the dish while complementing the herbs.

Andre Brunel Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Cuvee Centenaire Red Rhone Blend 2015

Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2017

I know in the winter, I often look to soups and stews to keep warm. Again, putting some thought into fruit character and spices can go a long way in pairing. One of my favorite pairings, for example, is a pot of heart-warming chili with a Napa Valley Merlot. The plush fruit of the Merlot elevates the developed spices in the chili while adding a layer of dark fruit and chocolate.

Just because it is winter does not mean white wine must be banished from the table. You’ll simply look to fuller-bodied white wines to match the heartier flavors of winter dishes. A butternut squash soup and a slightly buttery Chardonnay is a beautiful match.

Often, we get used to buying the same “go-to” wines. Use this winter season to play around with some grape varieties you haven’t tried before. Use this winter to broaden your horizons, matching heartier dishes with heartier wines. Happy pairing—and have fun!

About the Author

Allyson Gorsuch is Young’s Market Company’s Wine Educator for West LA. She feels fortunate to have a role that allows her to enjoy all her favorite aspects of the business – wine, writing, and teaching. She grew up in St. Louis, spent several years in Sonoma County, and now calls Los Angeles home. She’s been running wine and beverage programs for years, and enjoys travelling and exploring different cultures in her free time.