Photograph by Buyenlarge/Getty Images
By Daryna Tobey
February 6, 2015

When the weather forecast resembles something out of The Day After Tomorrow, generally only two kinds of people are happy: Those who have a ski trip planned and would love two feet of fresh powder, and those who know that “polar vortex” is really just code for “stock up on snacks, shelter in place and open that Zinfandel, stat.”

To get you through this extreme mid-winter weather, we’ve put together a selection of fuller-bodied red, white and fortified wines—the kind of wines that we think are perfect for fireside conversation and comforting, slow-cooked meals.

A vintage illustration featuring a snowman drinking champagne with an elf at New Year's, circa 1922.

A vintage illustration featuring a snowman drinking champagne with an elf at New Year’s, circa 1922.Photograph by Paul Popper — Popperfoto Popperfoto/Getty Images

As we learned from wine professionals in some of North America’s most frigid climates, however, there are no hard-and-fast rules about what to drink when temperatures plummet. So what are they drinking in the dead of winter?

The answer is more about what they don’t drink. Rosés get no play this time of year, says Pablo Moncada, general manager of Lush Wine and Spirits in Chicago. Lighter-bodied reds like Beaujolais and Pinot Noir also fall by the wayside. Moncada notices his customers’ tastes shifting away from stainless-fermented wines and toward heavier, oak-aged wines. Otherwise, it’s kind of business as usual.

Franz Zimmermann, sommelier at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler in British Columbia, says that the resort’s wine-savvy guests “make a conscious decision to enjoy the wine they love” rather than follow the “Shiraz by the fireplace” cliché.

In Grand Forks, North Dakota, a place that logged more than 70 days of below-zero temperatures last winter, sales of comfort food-friendly, “more structured” reds tick up, but Rieslings and Moscatos still sell briskly, as they do year round. “You can’t not live,” explains Dustin Mitzel, general manager of wine retailer Happy Harry’s, which has locations in both Grand Forks and Fargo. “It’s cold, but…you do what you do.”


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