The glitter and glow of the holidays have faded. The thermometer flirts with the frigid mark. And the weather in the northernmost regions is more suited to polar bears than people. These are the telltale signs that winter has settled in. The first impulse to the dreary days ahead is to stick close to the fireplace and/or TV and avoid unnecessary contact with the snow, ice and frosty disposition of January, February and perhaps March. (Learn more about holiday pairings in "Christmas Wines to Pair with Everything from Gingerbread to Goose.")

But such withdrawals can lead to an acute case of cabin fever, especially since we must endure weeks of white flakes, gray skies and blue moods. Helpfully, a proven antidote for surviving the arctic season is hearty dining matched with well-chosen wine that sends a come-in-from-the-cold vibe.

Though winter’s blasts often get frightful, a satisfying lunch or dinner paired with the right wine can be delightful. Whether you eat at home or in a restaurant, there are numerous wine-inspired dishes and compatible wines that promise to pacify both body and soul.

Light, dry varietals tickle the taste buds and tease the tummy for what’s to come. On the other hand, overly alcoholic wine can disrupt the palate and dull the appetite. An acceptable opener is Champagne or one of the other fine sparklers from Italy, Spain or the U.S.

Match Common Food, Wine Flavors

Try to match common flavors in the food and wine. For example, the characteristic citrus acidity of Pinot Grigio enhances seafood tempered with lemon. A peppery rub on steaks is complemented by the robust tone of Merlot. And the earthy tone of truffles and truffle oil is embellished with such lusty reds as Italian Barbaresco and Pinot Noir from Oregon.

Spicy Dishes

For dishes hot enough to feel like a mouthful of firecrackers – Chinese Sichuan hot pot, Indian vindaloo and spicy barbeque – choose a Riesling or other cool, dry wine that soothes the palate with sweetness. In general, wine from colder climates like northern France, Alpine Italy and New Zealand are high in refreshing acidity.

Soups and Stews

Soup is warming and filling as a first course or entrée during wintertime. It can be accompanied by crackers or croutons and topped with grated cheese, and fits nicely with the proper wine. For instance, minestrone brimming with vegetables and noodles is amicable with Chardonnay, Merlot or Pinot Noir.

The best wines to sip when the weather gets frosty are the rich, full-bodied ones. They warm you when you’re parked near the fireplace, watching a TV movie or chatting with family or friends. Here’s a partial list of the best wines for winter meals:


Dry on the palate, this aromatic blend of two grapes is fluent with notes of dark fruit and dried herbs. Its moderate oak finish matches well with oxtail ragu and other sturdy meat sauces.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a marquee red is packed with urgent flavors – cassis, cherry, bell peppers, tobacco, vanilla and marzipan – to become a treat when paired with meat. It’s a preferred partner of steaks, chops, prime rib, BBQ ribs, meatloaf, hamburgers and even venison.


The wine often considered when planning special dining is this dry, fruity French favorite. It belongs on the same table with mashed potatoes and warm chowder, along with assorted meat, chicken and halibut courses.


This husky, velvety red showcases spice, blueberry, blackberry and smoke notes with herbaceous undertones. It’s a good fit with grilled meats, swordfish, tuna and any dessert with a dark chocolate component.

Pinot Noir

This dry, medium-bodied red responds to S words like soft, smooth, supple and sexy. With a flash of flavors - cranberry, raspberry, cherry, clove, mint, mushroom – it leaves a lingering freshness in the mouth. It’s in good company with beef, poultry, game birds, lamb, turkey, duck and spicy dishes.


A standout among light whites, this smooth, full-favorite wine exudes traces of peach and honeysuckle blossoms. It’s a classic match with roast turkey, duck, veal and various Chinese cuisine. (Read on in "Perfect Pairings for German Riesling.")


A mainstay during spring, summer and fall, this pinkish pour can be a reliable partner in winter as well. Light and floral, it gets along with seafood, roasted chicken, pork and salads. (Learn more about Rosé in "What is Rosé Wine?")


Herbaceous and a bit smoky with notes of black raspberry, licorice and bramble, this Persian product goes down smoothly with braised lamb shanks with root vegetable puree.


With traces of cured meats, smoke, coffee, blueberry and iron oxide, it forms a good relationship with salmon. roasted lamb, game and other dishes prepared with mushrooms.


The crisp, ripe expression of this popular table red comes across nicely with Italian signatures such as spaghetti with tomato sauce, eggplant Parmesan and lasagna. The fresh, fruity notes likewise team with chocolate desserts.

Bottom line: During winter, a delectable meal served with a relevant red or white wine can help you cope with the winter blues.