Top 10 Winter Wines for $20 or Less
Brawny reds are customary in cold weather, but it's tough to make it through a whole season on one style of wine. Thankfully, there are plenty of other options.
When it's cold out, conventional wisdom says to turn to brawny reds, which often pair well with rich winter dishes (not to mention roaring fires and cozy blankets). But it's tough to make it through a whole season on one style of wine. Thankfully, there are plenty of other options, from lively, super-pairable light reds to whites from cool regions, which are built to go with the hearty foods of northern latitudes. Here, 10 wines that are perfect for getting you through to spring.
1. NV Patrick Piuze, Val de Mer Crémant de Bourgogne Non Dosé ($20)
This excellent sparkling wine is made just like Champagne, but in the region of Chablis. It's high in acid and bone-dry (non dosé means no sugar added), so it's perfect to cut through rich, creamy winter soups. Piuze is a Canadian making wine in France, and he apprenticed with some top producers before setting out on his own in 2008.
Drink It With: Cream of Carrot Soup with Ginger and Curry
2. 2012 Weiser-Kunstler Riesling Feinherb ($19)
Weiser-Kunstler has packed an impressive flavor punch into this Riesling from Germany's Mosel region. With an attractive floral scent and just enough acid shining through the fruit-filled palate, it's refreshing and light without being the least bit boring. If you enjoy Riesling and don't know this one, get on it. It's ideal for après-shovel, or après-ski, if you're so lucky.
Drink It With: Sautéed German Sausages with Bacon and Apple Sauerkraut
3. 2012 Montinore Estate Pinot Gris ($12)
In Alsace, the locally produced Pinot Gris is the perfect match for hearty dishes like choucroute garnie, but this sturdy bottling from Oregon is an excellent alternative. A cool year allowed this biodynamic producer to make a lively wine that can appease Chardonnay drinkers and excite wine geeks at the same time.
Drink It With: Choucroute Garnie
4. 2012 Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti Tami Frappato Sicilia IGT ($14)
Sicily is known for hot weather and big wines, but this light- to medium-bodied red, which has a good lift of acid, occupies a great place between rosé and heavy red. Tami is a Frappato-based wine made by the young force Arianna Occhipinti.
Drink It With: White Bean and Ham Stew
5. 2013 Tahbilk Nagambie Lakes Marsanne ($12)
Though this bottling is from Australia, its grape is the basis for the whites of France's Northern Rhône Valley, hefty wines known for their ability to work with a variety of rich winter foods. Tahbilk was founded in the mid-19th century and is the oldest family-owned winery in Victoria, where it has been growning Marsanne since the 1860s (and has the largest single holding of Marsanne vines in the world). Though it's more difficult to find, the winery even produces a Marsanne from vines planted in 1927.
Drink It With: Crisp Salmon with Avocado Salad
6. 2012 Schoenheitz Gewürztraminer ($18)
It's hard to think of a pairing more decadent than fatty foie gras and sweet Sauternes. For the experience without the price tag, I make chicken liver pâté and pair it with Alsace Gewürztraminer. This one has the intense tropical-fruit nose of a sweet wine without being cloying.
Drink It With: Chicken Liver Paté
7. 2009 Quinta do Noval Cedro do Noval ($16)
For lovers of velvety and rich wines, this red from a legendary port producer is a great introduction to the dry wines of Portugal. The grape blend is 90 percent native Portuguese varieties with Touriga Nacional leading the bunch, but the last 10 percent is Syrah, lending some trademark earth and meatiness.
Drink It With: Pot Roast Smothered in Bacon and Onions
8. 2008 Triennes St. Auguste Cab/Syrah ($13)
Founded in 1989 by Burgundy legends Jacques Seysses (of Domaine Dujac) and Aubert de Villaine (of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) with their friend Michel Macaux, the Triennes winery makes this elegant red wine in a place typically known for rosé: Provence. As you'd imagine from Burgundians, there's tremendous emphasis on elegance and pure fruit flavors.
Drink It With: Pork and Wild Mushroom Daube
9. 2009 Forgeron Cellars Blacksmith Syrah ($19)
A rich American red is the right wine for game day. Instead of turning to California, though, look for Syrah from Washington state. Forgeron's Syrah has classic notes of black pepper and smoked meat, so it just begs to go with a bowl of chili (and a Giants win).
Drink It With: Game Day Pork and Black-Bean Chili
10. 2010 Louis-Antoine Luyt Clos Ouvert Primavera ($19)
Made by Burgundian ex-pat Louis-Antoine Luyt, the Primavera defies Chile's reputation for high-volume wines. Luyt sources fruit from independent farms and aims for his wines to represent their specific terroirs. One of his mentors was the famous Beaujolais producer Marcel Lapierre, a proponent of the natural, noninterventionist winemaking methods that Luyt employs to make this blend. It's an elegant wine, but it has just enough pleasant rusticity to make it work with a hearty winter stew.
Drink It With: Stout-Braised Short Ribs