A full-bodied white is just the thing for a winter's night

Rich opulent white wines are very comforting at this time of the year. Picture: Shutterstock
Rich opulent white wines are very comforting at this time of the year. Picture: Shutterstock

Many regions are still in the grip of winters icy fingers, so the obvious comfort is often a full-boded red in front of a roaring fire. Red wine lovers turn their eyes to shiraz, durif, cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, Barolo and Bordeaux. And of course, these wines do go very well with the style of foods we tend to eat during winter - heavy comfort stews and roasts.

But if you happen to only like white wines, there is no reason to hold off on a glass of your most satisfying white wine, which could also hold up against winter and what's on your plate.

Personally, after a month of Dry July, my thoughts turned to a creamy Chablis (chardonnay) for my first glass of wine on August 1. If your palate also needs a reset - then a glass of two of a richer white wine is often the trick.

There are a myriad of great, full-bodied white wines, and some newer varieties that could be an exciting addition to your wine repertoire as winter serves up her last few months of chilly weather. Bolder white wines such as chardonnay, viognier, oaked sauvignon blanc, an aged pinot gris, chenin blanc, aged riesling, fiano, Champagne, and Sauternes pair even better with some traditional winter foods than red wines do.

Rich opulent white wines are very comforting at this time of the year, and you don't have to serve them as cold as you would in summer. Choose a wine that is concentrated in flavour, (usually one which has had some oak treatment or has been fermented in oak), high in alcohol and acidity and is brave enough to stand up to a dense winter dish like casserole or soup or any of the comfort foods we all crave when it's cold.

It's true many of us were put off a few years ago, by the style of chardonnay that was doing the rounds. That trend has passed and now chardonnay arrives in various styles from golden and creamy to light and zesty. Go for the former if you want that satisfying warmth from a wine.

Why not try to start off a meal with an aged riesling. Picture: Shutterstock

Why not try to start off a meal with an aged riesling. Picture: Shutterstock

Oak treatment can add some sumptuous layers to white wines, which is why chardonnay blossoms after a few months in oak barrels. If the label reads "fermented in oak barrels/casks" or similar, then the winemaker is telling you they added wine to the barrel and not the other way around. It also helps you love the wine more, if it goes through a secondary malolactic fermentation. This is a process in winemaking in which tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid.

If you haven't tried a viognier before, then this is an ideal situation to seek one out and see if it agrees with you. They are aromatic wines, but rich and medium-bodied with some palate-hugging viscosity to fill the mouth.

Fiano is another white that can be made in a full, generous style and with its origins in Italy and along the Mediterranean coast, it's fabulous with richer seafood dishes. I find fiano to be so versatile throughout the year and it can be quite strong flavoured with stone fruits and spicy notes. It's an excellent food wine.

Your wine doesn't have to match the climate so you can serve your white wines at room temperature if you like, or somewhere between 11 and 16 degrees. In fact, chilling wine often "shuts down" the flavour profiles and can destroy the aromatics.

If you are able to entertain at the moment, then why not try to start off the meal with an aged riesling from a cool climate such as the ACT, Southern Highlands or Orange. These wines maintain their acidity and become viscose and gorgeously sumptuous as they age. Riesling is not always sweet, in fact most of our own Australian examples are dry. In some years, producers will add a slightly "off-dry" riesling style to their wine menus, to satisfy those customers who like a sweeter style.

Sparkling wines or Champagne are a delight any time of the year. In winter, look for a version that has aged or shows some of those brioche, "autolytic" characters from additional aging on lees (dead yeast cells).


All of these wines would hold up to a range of great winter-warming dishes. Heavy, fried foods and comfort foods such as macaroni cheese, potato gratin, pumpkin ravioli and roast chicken or duck are wonderful with an oaked chardonnay or chenin blanc.

If you are craving curry, or spice, then choose an aromatic riesling, chenin blanc or gewurztraminer.

Fiano is your choice for shellfish and especially bouillabaisse or a crab bisque.

Pork sausages, and glazed or pork belly are also great foods to match with riesling, chardonnay, verdelho or an oaked sauvignon blanc.

This story Winter white wines that warm you up first appeared on The Canberra Times.