Winter conjures images of bear-skin rugs, fireplaces and hands stuffed deep in parka pockets, but the reality is, most of Australia is far from such deep-chill iconography. Sure, our colder regions come with days where breath appears in puffs of fog, but we’re not shovelling snow from our front doors or enduring double-digit sub zeroes through winter.
As such, I’m not sure the brutish, warm-climate red wines so readily associated with Australia – locally and internationally – are the best match for our drinking environment. Moderately alcoholic, less full-on drinks will do the trick without weighing you down with fatigue or bringing on a sweat. Try these five, which still provide some internal combustion while pairing nicely with the slow braises and more generous flavours coming out of the kitchen.
1. Gentle Folk “Tiersman” syrah 2018, Adelaide Hills, SA ($36) – Using the word gorgeous next to the word wine always feels a little icky, but this recent release from considered winemaker Gareth Belton is just that. Fine, silky, dark-fruited, lightly spicy, ideal to cut through thick vegetable soup and brooding stews.
2. Partida Creus “MUZ” vermouth 2018, Spain ($65) – One of the world’s most recent, cult natural-wine producers comes from Catalonia, producing brilliant, sharply cut and energetic wines from local grape varieties. This is their vermouth and it’s brilliant. Warm with spice, fresh with bright fruit flavours, ruddy and savoury, it does so many wonderful things.
3. Brix Distillers “Gold” rum, Sydney, NSW ($85) – Brix is a Sydney-based, rum-focused distillery that opened to fanfare in mid-2018 and has moved at pace. Rum can be polarising, but ace distiller Shane Casey (ex-Archie Rose) is on a mission to make it less so. This rum is gloriously soft, honeyed, caramel-y and lightly spicy. A nip or three is an ideal cold spell antidote.
4. Two Metre Tall “Forester Farmhouse” wild amber ale, TAS, ($6.50, 375ml) – Say “beer” in winter and most people will reach for a stout or porter. But I wager a more sessionable and seasonal option is this malty, reddish ale that gives light sour characters a run through faint, leafy hops and mellow savoury characters. It’s a little hearty, but also quite refreshing.
5. Primitive “Redesdale” vermentino 2018, Heathcote, VIC ($28) – White wine in winter? Say what? Of course you can. And, importantly, those unfiltered, skin-contact whites (or “orange wines”) work a treat. This squeaky-textured, slightly-chalky wine features brown citrus and dried apple characters, and is delicious in this winter vein.
Mike Bennie is a wine and drinks journalist, presenter and co-owner of Sydney’s P&V Wine + Liquor Merchants.