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Seasonal guide: winter wines

The vines are bare right now, but wine never goes out of season. Give your sled dogs the night off and let Drizly bring you some winter wines!

Seasonal guide: winter wines

Winter can be a chilly season for wine. Between hot toddies, mulled cider and big boozy stouts, it’s easy to overlook wine’s influence on this dark season. Not so fast, though; nobody puts wine in a corner and we’re here to prove it.

What are some good wines for winter?

There’s holiday prosecco, apres ski cabernet, Mardi Gras riesling and warming fortified wine to name just a few. We’re confident you’ll have plenty to stock the cellar this winter. Let’s crank the thermostat, get cozy and get into some winter wines.

What wine do they drink at the Christmas market (Christkindlmarkt)?

A proper European holiday market has to be smelled to be believed. Competing aromas of waffles, chestnuts and fried dough are ultimately no match for that spicy scent of hot, mulled gluhwein and glögg. These spiced wines would be worth a try simply for their pronunciation, but they’re too flavorful to pass up during winter.

What’s the difference between gluhwein and glögg?

Not much, really. Gluhwein and glögg are similar riffs on a basic idea: piping hot wine with spices. Gluhwein originated in Germany and glögg in Sweden, but there’s no formal recipe. Ingredients include feature cloves, star anise, orange, sugar with the option to add brandy or port for extra “punch” (pun intended).

No glögg available? DIY mulled wine is easy.

If neither gluhwein nor glogg is available in your area, don’t fret. Check out our mulled wine recipe here.

Champagne and sparkling wine: the life of the party

Who doesn’t love some bubbly? Champagne and sparkling wines are usually your very first taste of the year. That’s a big responsibility, so let’s see if we can’t get it right.

What’s a good reasonably-priced champagne or sparkling wine?

You don’t have to be sipping Cristal to feel bougie. Roederer, the family behind Cristal, makes a great Brut that has Cristal-esque quality and character, but at a more recognizable price. Freixenet Brut Cordon Negro Cava is a lively, citrusy and affordable option when you know your New Year’s party is going to go through multiple bottles.

Prosecco vs Champagne at brunch

Hopefully you don’t overdo it on the NYE champagne, because you wouldn’t want to miss New Year’s Day brunch. The food is up to you, but let us bring the prosecco. Generally creamy, fruity and less carbonated than champagne, prosecco is a more food-friendly option for your brunch. It’s also less acidic than champagne, so it’s a laid-back option for a chill New Year’s Day meal. One affordable, quality prosecco we enjoy is Jeio Brut. It’s fruity, citrusy and slightly creamy. Luckily, most prosecco is pretty affordable, so you have license to explore a bit.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec: The Big Reds

Cabernet Sauvignon

You might have figured this one out on your own, but don’t dismiss cabernet sauvignon as too mainstream to be cool. This robust red worked its way to the top, and it’s got the punch to warm you up after any January day. Cab has cherry and black currant flavors and aromas that pair remarkably with toasted oak aging casks, creating a woody, cedar synergy that is one of wine’s great love stories. Its formidable body, deep red color and assertive tannins are well suited for cozy fireside (real or digital) sipping and swirling.


Born in France and embraced in Argentina, malbec grows in the hot South American sun but excels at chilly winter dinner tables. Malbec flavors are more on the chocolatey, plum-like side than Cab and it isn’t quite so oaky. Less wood means more fruit flavor shines through. It has thick skin, so it pours a deep reddish/purple color - and it isn’t easily offended. Malbec’s body is full enough for winter, but the finish isn’t as drawn-out as Cab, so it pairs better with lighter, mid-week meals.

Mardi Gras Riesling

Mardi Gras is our yearly chance to really cut loose and play some hot jazz while the weather outside is still frigid. Along with that comes great food like gumbo and jambalaya. Riesling’s subtle sweetness and lively acidity pairs splendidly with that rich, spicy cajun/creole fare. In fact, it’s a great match for most shellfish and pork dishes, so you might want to invest in more than one bottle. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with bringing a German wine to a French party like Mardi Gras.

Fortified/Dessert Wines

Pour it on! Port on your ice cream

Port needs a bit of a PR makeover. This intense, mysterious wine has unfairly been maligned as “too sweet” for too long now. True, we’ll probably never drink it at the ballpark, but it’s a wonderfully luscious fortified wine for cold winter nights and a delight with dessert. We seriously recommend drizzling a bit of port on your vanilla ice cream before you dig in.

Is port really sweet?

Port is sweet, but it’s a well-structured wine in the sense that its other elements - body, acidity and tannins - are turned up to 11, too. Seriously, a good port won’t seem cloyingly sweet.

What kinds of port are there?

Ruby port gets a short barrel aging period, and as a result it will retain more fruity flavor from the original grapes. You can expect plums, blackberries and some chocolate.

It gets more interesting with “tawny” port, which ages from 3 to 40 years. That’s quite a range, we know. In addition to giving the wine a burnt-orange, “tawny” color, the long aging period yields nutty (almonds and hazelnut), leathery, dried fruit flavors. You’ll be able to taste the age on different bottles and pick the right port for you.

Ice Wine

You can’t wrap up winter without trying ice wine - or eiswein in German. This is a really likeable style that showcases the can-do spirit of the Canadian wine industry.

How is ice wine made?

Farmers wait until an early frost freezes their grapes right on the vine before harvesting. The freezing concentrates and intensifies the sugar and acid in the grapes.

What does Ice wine taste like?

The high sugar and acid content leads to a wonderfully sweet wine with a balancing acidity. For a wine from such a chilly climate the flavors are surprisingly tropical, with notes of pineapple, citrus and melon.

Don’t let the dark nights dim your creativity. Find your new favorite wine this winter right here on Drizly!