Winter's bone-chilling weather, pitch-black commutes and never-ending gloom can feel a little depressing. Fortunately, the remedy to seasonal sadness can be as simple as a glass of something delicious to accompany a night of box-set bingeing and mainlining chocolate digestives while the cold rages outside. But if a blockbuster red is your usual go-to for pairing with hearty seasonal dinners, it's time to think again. With root veg and sumptuous spices making their annual pilgrimage back to the dinner table, it's time for seriously grown-up whites to enjoy a spell in the spotlight. Rosie Allen explores four or her favourites - including gewürztraminer, white Rhône, English sparkling wine and eiswein - plus comforting food suggestions for each.
Winter White Wines
Reds seem to have a monopoly on the colder months - just try and imagine a fireside scene without a gleaming glass of something dark and inviting. But the flavours of a richer white are uniquely enticing enjoyed by the glow of candlelight; think baking-spice smells (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves) and stewed-fruit flavours (apricot, pear and peach). Flashes of sleek minerality and steely structure seem to echo the chill of the wind and rain whistling down chimney and hammering at the door - the perfect excuse for pulling the blankets a little closer and enjoying another spirit-warming glass.
Winter White Wines and Food
Voluptuous winter whites make the best dinner partners: think roast chicken, molten cheese, unctuous sauces and spicy dishes which all love the food-friendly structure here. And a cheeseboard laden with tangy cheddars, soft cheeses and punchy blues match a fragrant white far more than a bolshie red; try honeyed Sauternes with the umami deliciousness of rich blue cheese and you'll see what we mean.
Here's our pick of wintry white wines and food matches to get you through the season;
Gewürztraminer is the closest you'll get to a fairytale forest in a glass, bursting with botanical scents of rose and honeysuckle and backed by creamy fruit flavours of lychee and peach. Hints of cinnamon, ginger and white pepper add a warming hint of spice and razor-sharp acidity counteracts the sweetness.
Eat with: Its affinity with rich seasonal meats such as roast goose or strong creamy cheeses make this a versatile Christmas standby, but gewürz is truly amazing with the rustic mountain cuisine of Alsace, such as flammekueche – a thin pizza-like base topped with crème fraîche, onions and bacon lardons.
White Rhônes possess an opulence that makes them just as comforting in the winter months as their better-known red counterparts. Usually made from a blend of viognier (loved for its buttery, peachy and blossomy notes), marsanne and roussane (adding body and aromatics), white Rhônes are made in small quantities but are well worth seeking out for matching with bowls full of anything creamy or buttery.
Eat with: The smoked, salty fish and light spice of a kedgeree are beautiful with the fragrance and body of white Rhône. Spiced squash is another great match – try roasting chunks with fennel seeds, ground coriander and cumin until meltingly soft and serve with olive oil and garlic rubbed slices of toasted bread.
Explore white Rhône
The hedgerow scents of English sparkling wine aren't just reserved for manicured lawns and cricket on a summer's day - they make an vibrant alternative to Champagne or Prosecco or a seasonal toast. No, they aren't rich and warming like the other wines listed here, but the vibrant notes of tart gooseberry and herbaceous elderflower are like a refreshingly cool blast of country air in a hot room.
Eat with: Fish and chips aren't reserved for the seaside; crisp batter and melt-in-the-mouth fish are sublimely comforting on cool evenings, and the whistle-clean finish of an English sparkling will slice through the salt and oil like a knife.
Explore English Sparkling
This is the ultimate winter treasure, made from still-frozen grapes picked early on an icy November morning. Where most sweet wines are affected by noble rot (a fungus which dehydrates the berry of water, therefore concentrating sugar) eiswein is made sweet by frost-freeze, which intensifies the sugars in the fruit. There's no denying it's expensive, but the risky method of production and luscious flavour make this a rare treat for lovers of sweet wine. Club in with family or friends to make this a more affordable Christmas day extravagance.
Eat: Appley desserts are the soulmates of eiswein, with its plump white-peach and honeysuckle sweetness. An authentic German twist is Krummeltorte - stewed apples with vanilla, cinnamon and an irresistible buttery crumb topping.