What to drink in the snow.

We’re snowed in. I’m not complaining, that’s what we came to the mountains for. Over the last 4 days it hasn’t stopped and it’s fabulous. Fortunately the cellar is well stocked. I drove over here from Bordeaux and managed to find room, amongst all the ski kit, for a few bottles. You can take the girl out of Bordeaux……..


So what do you drink in the snow? Here are 10 suggestions, Bordeaux biased given the supply chain, but not only.

Having a snowdrift by the front door is really useful for cooling wine so we’ll start with some white. If you are wondering how a chilled white wine can be warming, try Sauternes. 2001 is a favourite Sweet Bordeaux vintage and we just happened to have a bottle of Doisy Daene 2001, which is drinking beautifully. These wines really benefit from some bottle age, giving lovely caramelised fruit aromas and the characteristic saffron spice notes that are a signature of botrytis. Dry whites from Bordeaux are also a favourite so I’ll include the lovely Semillante from Sauternes 1st growth Château Sigalas Rabaud, one of the few 100% Semillon from Bordeaux. I haven’t found another yet – but I’m open to suggestions.

Perfect cooling condtions
Perfect cooling conditions

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte also seems an appropriate choice for the mountains; the owners, Florence and Daniel Cathiard, were both national ski champions before buying the property. The white wasn’t included alongside the red when it was classified in 1953 nor in 1959 but it has outshone the red in several vintages. The Sémillon-Sauvignon blend and barrel ageing makes for a white that just gets better with a few years in bottle.

But let’s not ignore the local whites. The Swiss love their white wines and use all sorts of varietals you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. A couple of favourites sampled this week are The Chasselas from The Dutruy Brothers at Domaine de la Treille from vines overlooking Lake Geneva. Thibault Panas, chef sommelier at The Lausanne Beau Rivage Palace, selected this ‘Cuvée Spéciale’. He should know as he manages one of the largest wine cellars in Europe with over 750 000 bottles and 3000 references of which about 250 are Swiss.

Chasselas chosen by The Beau Rivage Palace
Chasselas chosen by The Beau Rivage Palace

Then chosen for the name (but I didn’t regret it) The Fendant from Charles Bonvin (that’s his real name) called Sans Culottes – no knickers – haven’t got to the bottom (sorry) of the name but I will try and find out. Worked really well with a little locally smoked salmon trout.

What's in a name?
What’s in a name?

Then of course there are red wines – just what you need to warm the soul after a long day in the snow and the perfect match for the hearty cuisine of the mountains. Swiss whites may be the traditional match for the cheese fondues, but I prefer the ‘Chinese Fondue’ a take on beef fondue but cooked in beef broth rather that oil as a lighter alternative. This merits a lovely red. We washed ours down with a Château Beauregard, Pomerol 2011, another example of over-performance in an under rated vintage. The fresh acidity coped with those lovely cream sauces we dunked the beef in – not so light after all. My other local favourite food is Rosti, a type of hash browns covered in different toppings – think potato pizza on steroids. We chose Château Monbrison, Margaux 2015, a lovely wine from a great appellation in a great vintage offering excellent value for money.

Perfect with fondue
Perfect with fondue

Then of course there’s the chocolate. The Swiss are famous for their milk chocolate – all those cows? But they make lovely dark chocolate too. I love red wine with chocolate, a cabernet driven Medoc from a ripe Vintage, Château Pedesclaux, Pauillac 2009 worked really well with warm chocolate cake, but in this cold weather what really works for me is something more fortified; port or whisky. A Taylors late Bottled Vintage 2010 would be a good place to start and whisky is the perfect winter warmer. I enjoyed a lovely glass of Glenfiddich 10 year old at the bar of The Palace hotel on Saturday night – fortifying for the rather slippy ride home (I wasn’t driving – just saying).

Perfect Port
Perfect Port

So the tenth? Well 2 options; either a bit of fizz to compete with the sparkly snow. A glass of champagne cooled in the snow is always a winner. I’m quite taken with the wines of AR Lenoble, a small family champagne house producing wonderful elegant champagnes worthy of a great name. The second option? Cuddling up with a warming tisane. The local farmers collect mountain herbs here all summer, dry them and sell them in the local village shop – not sure quite what’s in there but it tastes delicious and makes you sleep like a baby. I’m hibernating now until the snow stops falling.

Mountain tisane
Mountain tisane




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