Erik Neilson on November 22, 2016 0 Comments Winter is a time of year to sit back and reflect, and also a prime opportunity to warm up by the fire at the end of a long day. Wine was built for relaxation, but there’s no getting around the fact that some wines just aren’t sturdy enough to stand up to the chill of winter. Others, however, are perfect choices for even the coldest of winter nights, just begging to be drunk by the fire. We call these Fireside Reds, and they’re sure to keep you warm this winter. Here are some of our favorite Fireside Reds, all of which show excellent quality-to-price ratio. 1. Santi Solane Valpolicella Ripasso Valpolicella is one of Italy’s finest wines, and one that collectors line up for year after year. Santi Solane Valpolicella Ripasso is a blend of 70% Corvina and 30% Rondinella grapes, the latter of which serves to bolster the wine and increase its aging potential (in many cases, Molinara serves the same role). The “Ripasso” method employed here sees the wine undergoing a primary fermentation, followed by a second fermentation adding Amarone grapes and their skins. The result is a rich, complex wine that comes equipped with one of the sturdiest tannic structures you’ll find out of Italy, largely based on the time it spends in oak casks before bottling. Showing intense notes of cherry, earth, spice box and hints of tobacco, Santi Solane Valpolicella Ripasso is loved for its strong bouquet that follows straight through to the palate. Elegant and dry, with crisp acidity — everything the fireside calls for on a cold winter’s night. 2. Moric Blaufränkisch Blaufränkisch may not exactly be a household word, but it’s one of Austria’s most unique and interesting grape varieties. Moric is one of the best producers of what has for centuries been a popular red wine grape, which creates a wine that is both spicy and intense while at the same time carrying a refreshing sort of tang. Moric Blaufränkisch showcases the terroir of Austria quite splendidly, giving off aromas of cherry, rosemary, cocoa and dark fruit. The sweet berry flavors combine with citrus hints in the nose, giving way to flavors that are reminiscent of sea minerals. The wine finishes dry, carried by its crisp acidity. While plenty sturdy enough to fight the winter chill, Moric Blaufränkisch isn’t a fantastic candidate for aging. This wine should be drunk now, and you won’t regret doing so. 3. Stag’s Leap Winery Petite Sirah While most of the best wines for drinking alongside a roaring fire take Old World leanings, there are countless examples of New World wines that fit the bill. One is Stag’s Leap Winery Petite Sirah — particularly the 2011 vintage. This Napa Valley wine feels bigger than it actually is, carried by intense spice flavors of dried chilis and cumin. Vanilla notes are certainly there, yet don’t overpower the wine and share space nicely with hints of fresh blackberries. At 13.9%, it’s got a nice tannic structure that is well-integrated and comes off primarily as being smooth and silky. At $39, this Petite Sirah is one of the more expensive recommendations on the list. Still, it’s one worth splurging on and saving for a winter storm. 4. Churchill’s Estates Douro Portugal’s Douro region is known very well by wine lovers the world over, primarily for its main export — Port wine. Port can be an epiphany, but no one would argue against the fact that it’s not exactly meant for consuming in the same ways as most easy-drinking reds. Luckily, the Douro region is gaining quite a bit of traction thanks to the excellent table wines that are being released by area winemakers. Churchill’s Estates Douro shows aromas of tobacco, pepper and plum, with a bit of cassis mixed in for good measure. Its cigar box qualities warm the wine, making it an excellent accompaniment to a winter fire. Perfect on its own, Churchill’s Estates Douro will fare even better when paired with a juicy steak or mixed grill platter. 5. Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Heading back to Napa Valley, we’re met with Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon — one of the “biggest” wines on this list. This red is extremely rich in dark berry flavors and practically bursts with the aroma of stewed currants. Notes of coffee, chocolate and toffee swoop in to create balance, and the medium tannins that support the wine keep everything in check the entire way through. There are few examples of Napa Cab that are quite as opulent as Clos Du Val’s, and if you look hard enough, you’ll likely be able to find a bottle for a very reasonable price. Vintages abound, but you’ll almost certainly do well with a bottle of 2013 Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon. Older bottles are worth seeking out, too, but you’ll definitely end up paying top dollar for them. 6. Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz It would be irresponsible to leave South Australia off of a list of winter wines, and for many reasons. Chief among them, however, is the fact that South Australian Shiraz is one of the meatier wines on the market. Loaded with peppery aromas and flavors of black plums, cassis and ripe blueberry, Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz is exactly what most people are looking for when Australian Shiraz comes to mind. The oakiness of this wine is also stellar and sets it apart as being one of the best examples of a Fireside Red. 7. Claude Cogne Cabernet Franc Anyone who loves pepper and other spicy flavors will not be able to get enough of Claude Cogne Cabernet Franc. A perfect compliment for spicy food, this fireside red from the Loire Valley of France shows notes of rich, ripe blackberries and an herbaceousness that makes folds around the fruit flavors rather elegantly. It’s certainly fruit-forward, but that’s not to say that it isn’t balanced, as the tannic structure is strong enough to support the wine’s fruitier elements. If you’re looking for an excellent example of Cab Franc that can be had for only around $14, look no further than Claude Cogne.