With temperatures falling well below freezing this weekend it’s a timely reminder that matching drinks is not just about flavour but temperature and alcohol levels too.
A glass of crisp Mosel riesling for example may be a great aperitif and a fine match for smoked trout or a spicy Asian salad but it just doesn’t feel right in this type of weather, just as a 14.5% Shiraz can be overwhelming in the middle of a heat wave.
Obviously it still depends on the food you’re eating and that itself tends to be robust at this time of year but there are subtle changes you can make to make your drinking frostproof. Here are my top 10 tactics
1. Serve your whites a degree or two warmer. We do have a tendency to serve whites overchilled, particularly if you leave a half-open bottle in the fridge.
2. Carafe your fuller whites. Oak-aged whites such as barrel-matured chardonnays benefit from decanting just as much as a full-bodied red
3. Bring out those blockbuster reds! Just as January is the time of year to be eating hearty roasts, stews and casseroles so it is for drinking what the wine trade loves to call ‘winter warmers’ (and the Australians ‘grunty wines’) Think big Cabs, Aussie and South African Shiraz, Zinfandel, Pinotage, Jumilla, Madiran, Amarone and big porty Douro reds.
4. Drink warming nutty amontillado or palo cortado sherry with your tapas instead of chilled manzanilla or fino.
5. Drink malt whisky instead of champagne with your smoked salmon. (And Lagavulin rather than Sauternes with your Roquefort . . .)
6. Treat yourself to a Whisky Mac. And go to bed with a hot toddy - even if you haven’t got the flu.
7. Rediscover (if you’ve ever forgotten them) the joys of ‘brown’ spirits like Cognac, Armagnac and Demerara Rum. Delicious with dark chocolate or rich, dense fruit cake
8. Learn how to make a Blazer. Or - perhaps a safer strategy - go to a bar where they know how to make one . . .
9. Drink porter, stout and other hearty winter brews with your stews and pies. (Possibly even make them with them too). Smoked beers are also a great pick when it's cold outside.
10. Drink iced vodka shots. Sounds chilly but the alcohol will make you feel warm inside as any Russian or Pole I’m sure will tell you. Invite friends round for zakuski (Russian-style tapas) and make a party of it.