Winter has made its first serious appearance of the season. Daytime temperatures that hover near freezing, a coating of ice on the patio, and a chill wind that carries the smells of wood fire are all sure signs that Jack Frost has arrived. Though the humans are willing enough to venture outside, we felines prefer something warm and cozy. That applies to both our sleeping spots and our beverages.
Now, wine may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of warm beverages, and no, warm wine doesn’t mean emptying a bottle into a pan and turning up the heat. Some wines are, by nature, warming to both tongue and tummy. Take a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. What better way to bring back memories of summer days than the fresh scent of grass and luscious richness of white flowers. Or perhaps a tasty rose? Surely nothing says summer like a fruity, flavorful rose. Something like the Macari Rose from Long Island, New York, which packs watermelon and raspberries in every sip with a bit of salty bite at the end, just to leave you craving more. For those who want something a bit deeper, a lovely and aged bottle of Valentini Cerasuolo will provide a layered sip full of dark berries and spiced nuts. Now that’s a fabulous way to warm up those cold digits.
For many people, however, cold weather demands a red wine. We humbly suggest that the perfect red for these chilly evenings is something big and bold from a hot vineyard. After all, it’s not just the soil that shapes the flavor of the grape, but the weather as well. Surely, no red wines taste more like liquid sunshine than those from the dry vineyards of the Iberian Peninsula?
There’s the ever popular Tempranillo, whether young or aged. Younger versions are tart lip-smackers, a bit sassy like youngsters tend to be. Ah, but an aged Tempranillo will give you a drier spice with a bit of savory fruit. Garnacha is also typically split into either young or old. Young Garnacha is juicy, sweet, and far too easy to sip. Aged Garnacha is dark and bold and full of licorice and dried fruit.
If you want something truly unusual and full of summer heat, try a bottle of Bobal. Not as well-known in the U.S., this is an old-timer from the central region of Spain. It produces a wine that is an incredibly dark purple color – you can practically see the depths of flavor just by admiring the liquid in your glass. The color doesn’t lie either – wines from the Bobal grape are bold blackberries with undertones of dried mint and rosemary, hearty tannins, and for those aged in oak, a hint of vanilla to soften the blow.
Of course, if you insist on something that is, in fact, hot, something you can place in a big mug and wrap your fingers around, we have a few suggestions. Spiced apple cider is always a great way to fight a bit of winter frost. And the soothing flavors of cinnamon and cardamom enhance the comfort factor by a factor of ten.
Our favorite is a round of hot chocolate, made with milk, of course. Hot water just doesn’t provide that lovely, creamy texture and doesn’t supply that real sense of warmth. Chocolate also has the advantage of being a great partner to almost any flavor. Peppermint, marshmallow, a dash of whipped cream, extra chocolate, whatever your favorite snack or treat, it will only be improved by adding chocolate, or in the case of hot chocolate, adding your favorite.
Strangely, we only recently became friends with egg nog. It seems like such a natural for felines – eggs, cream – but it’s taken a few years and a few experiments with various recipes, to find the one we really like. A dash of brandy rather than rum proved to be our winner but for those still unimpressed with the nog, we suggest you keep looking. Somewhere out there is that perfect blend that will keep you going as the sun slips below the horizon and the temperatures begin to dip once again.