When it's the middle of winter and the only thing I really want to eat is cassoulet (or short ribs, or a massive steak), what I want to drink is a bear-hug wine. That’s how I think of them: big, unabashedly luscious reds, the kind that grab you and won’t let go, lifting your body temperature and your spirits at the same time.
I don’t mind if they’re on the high-octane side, either. These days, sommeliers tend to recoil in horror at alcohol levels over 14 percent, but look: It’s snowing, and you’re not going anywhere. Who needs a lean, steely Muscadet in January? You’d be better off trying to drink an icicle. No, what you want is warmth, and until the local store starts sending out Saint Bernards with barrels of brandy around their necks, that means Zinfandels from California, Shiraz from Australia, and Italy’s great Amarones. All you need now is a roaring fire.