The best wines to sip by a fireplace

An expert's guide to choosing winter reds

When it’s cold and dark outside, there’s nothing better than curling up in front of a blazing fireplace with a large glass of red wine. The perfectly-paired tipple turns a night in into a velvety vibe. But which to choose?

If you’re in the mood for something elegant, perfumed and light- to medium-bodied, reach for a pinot noir. And think about buying local, because amazing quality, affordable pinots are made throughout Australia and New Zealand. Typical flavours include cherry, violet, mushroom, and hints of earth. With age, more savoury aromas of forest floor, leather and truffle often appear.
If you prefer a more powerful winter wine, explore the plummy, velvety softness of Mendoza malbec; the chocolatey, juicy blackcurrant of Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon; the ripe blackberry, peppery spiciness of Barossa Valley shiraz; or the red fruit, white pepper and fruitcake flavours of grenache and grenache blends such as GSM.
A personal favourite, cabernet franc (a parent grape to cabernet sauvignon), is an equally wonderful addition to your winter wine wardrobe. Producers all over the world are making beautiful wine from this grape, which originated in French Basque Country. More aromatic and delicately fragrant than cabernet sauvignon, it yields raspberry, strawberry and plum flavours alongside herbaceous notes of tobacco, green capsicum and dark spice – perfect in front of that log fire.
And old versus young? Most New World red wines (those from anywhere outside Europe and the Middle East) are delicious when young, and do not require years of patient bottle ageing before they can be enjoyed. For a rich wintry experience, however, seek out wines with 
a touch of age. As red wines age in-bottle, their primary fruit flavours give way to enticing tertiary characteristics of dried fruits, leather, tobacco, cigar box and dark chocolate. They’re definitely worth staying indoors for.

My Top Winter Warmers to get you started

Pepperjack Malbec, 2018
Mendoza, Argentina, $19.99, Dan Murphy’s
A nose of violets, blueberries and boysenberry, with a palate of raspberries, plums and redcurrants.

Gibson The Dirtman Shiraz, 2018
Barossa, South Australia, $34.99, Dan Murphy’s
Fine, silky tannins, with rich aromas of plum, blackcurrant, sweet spice and tobacco.

d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz, 2017
McLaren Vale, SA, $73.99, Dan Murphy’s
A superb, complex and powerful wine offering flavours of red fruit, plum and black olives, with hints of dried herbs.

Charles Melton Nine Popes GSM, 2016
Barossa Valley, SA, $87.90, direct from producer
Perfectly balanced, rich and plush; an amazing wine that will only get better with time.

Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018
Coonawarra, SA, $36, direct from producer
Elegant and full-flavoured offering characters of ripe cassis and blackberry, and woody hints of cedar and cinnamon.

Woods CramptonShiraz, 2019
Barossa Valley, SA, $19.99, Dan Murphy’s
This is a great value Barossa Valley shiraz that expresses rich dark berry fruits and sweet spice, with a finish of fresh acidity.

Best enjoyed with thick cashmere socks, cuddly blankets and no plans to leave the house.

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