Top 5 Wines for the Winter

When the mercury drops, it means hiding indoors in front of a very warm fireplace, preferably cuddled with someone you love. That scene's pretty fantastic, isn't it? Make it more so with a glass of wine, appropriate for the season - this means choosing something hearty, chewy and full-bodied. Full Disclosure: I'm not a sommelier but I love a good glass and have tasted a lot in my travels. It was very tough to pick just five, but here they are - selections worthy of consideration (and yes, I've tried them all - too many times to count):

2011 Pirramimma Petit Verdot (Australia)

This is one of my go-to bottles. It's quite difficult to find a winery that can match the brilliance of Pirramimma's petit verdot, their signature bottle since 1994 when they produced Australia's first bottle of such a grape. Tremendous, intense colour with blackberries, hints of floral and tobacco. In your mouth the spice crackles then softens with a rich yet subtle oakiness, smooth tannins and finish.

2006 Segla Margaux (France)

I stumbled upon an older vintage of this bottle a few years back in Paris when I was rushing to a dinner party at a friend's apartment and stopped in a Nicolas - a very popular chain of wine shops. I politely asked the owner (in my best broken French possible) for a decent wine of good value and he pointed me to the Segla 2004. This bottle of bordeaux is Chateau Rauzan Segla's second growth and it's spectacular in your mouth and not supremely expensive when compared to many of the other second-growth Margaux. The Margaux appellation in the Bordeaux region produces more perfumey wines predominately made from cabernet sauvignon (and less merlot). Super smooth, with riper fruits than what I'd normally expect from a bordeaux but also beautifully floral. Let it sit in your mouth so that it finishes nice and long.

Enjoy it. It's my favourite bottle of red wine, hands down.

2011 Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District (Napa Valley, CA, USA)

If you want big, bold and juicy, go California. This time around, we head straight to Stags Leap District in Napa Valley, an area surrounded by two peaks that are visible from any vineyard in the district. This area is all about the cabernet and Chimney Rock does not disappoint. Like many of its Stags Leap neighbours, this one packs a wollap in the fruit department, as you can taste the blueberries and black currant. It's pure sunshine in your mouth. It's also elegant and structured and that's where the beauty lies with this one - you can pick up the vanilla and floral notes and end with a silky, elegant finish. Yummy.

2009 Nichol Vineyard Syrah (Naramata, BC, Canada)

I don't drink a lot of syrah in general, but when I do, I reach for this bottle. Nichol Vineyard is a tiny winery and like most of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada, it's also relatively young compared with the rest of the world. But oh, does it yield some spectacular juices. The potential of BC's reds are quickly catching up to its already reknown whites, thanks to this shining example of layer-upon-layer of intense fruits, herbs and spices. Lots of tannins in this one but the 2009 should be fine after a few hours of decanting. Serve this with lamb or venison and you're in heaven.


2009 Chateau Mongravey Margaux (France)

Back to France for my last bottle. I met the co-owner, Karin Bernaleau, in person the first time I attended Les salons des vins des Vignerons Indépendants which is a gigantic wine show with over 1,000 independent wine makers under one roof, allowing the public to sample and purchase their current (and some older) vintages for a very small entrance fee. Totally unfair, I know. Try walking to the metro after 5 hours of wine tasting, juggling 12 cases of wine on a dolly - and it's only a Thursday. 

This bordeaux is a very sexy wine of perfumed spice, heavy floral notes and rich, blackberries and currants. Considering this is a well structured Margaux, its elegance lends itself to a smooth finish after some time in a decanter. Absolutely delicious and a perfect way to end an evening in front of a fire.