When it comes to food and drinking wine, Winter tends to split into two halves - in the run up and during festivities and after. Whatever religious festival you celebrate, gatherings of friends and family will feature traditional meat dishes and no doubt new ones to embrace plant-based diets along with festive drinks of choice. And as we entertain, we need to be sure to have something for everyone! And then the New Year brings resolutions, Veganuary and the agonising decision whether to cut back on alcohol and the determination to eat a little more healthily. So we have tried to cover both phases of the season with our Winter selections and suggestions.
Dive in and enjoy - bon appétit !
What is going on in the Vineyard in Winter?
Winter is all about resting - both in the vineyard and the winery.
Once the vines have given their fruit at harvest, we don’t touch the them until the new year. The leaves drop off and the sap slowly recedes back down into the trunk of the vine. As tempting as it is to get out there and prune the vines before the harshness of Winter sets in, it is really important for them to recuperate. At Château George 7 we don’t touch the vines until March at the earliest for optimum rest and we also wait as long as possible to spare the cut wounds from harsh frosts .but large vineyards will have to start in January to be sure to be done by Spring.
In the winery (in Northern Hemisphere), alcoholic fermentation is done and once the malolactic fermentation (the second fermentation turning malic acid into lactic acid) has finished, the red wines of the most recent harvest are put into barrel to rest and age while the previous vintage is finishing its time in oak ready to be blended.
Seasonal Fruit & Veg
The idea of eating the colours of the rainbow seems easier in summer with all the lovely summer fruit and veg but it’s possible in winter too. A seasonal favourite is bright and colourful red cabbage. Others include beets, sweet potatoes, winter greens, carrots and bright red apples, there's plenty of inspiration when you start looking .
In the Spotlight: Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is part of the cruciferous or mustard family along with other seasonal favourites such as white and green cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, purple sprouting, bok choy, arugula, watercress and radishes. We have picked out red cabbage because of its festive colour.
Is it good for you?
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals including folate and vitamins A, C and K, folate and prebiotic fibre to feed our gut bugs. It’s also low in calories – a win win.
Red cabbage is really more purple than red, and we know these purple pigments mean antioxidants, the same anthocyanins we find in black grapes. It also looks beautiful and festive on the plate so both healthy and festive - even after the festivities are over and we need brightening up on grey days.
There are other cruciferous veg too - different colours and types of cabbage and Brussel sprouts - a seasonal favourite and so much more versatile than simply steamed or boiled - which leaches away a lot of the vitamins. Keep your vegetable water when steaming veg though - as it's a great base for a vegetable stock for soups.
Beets, Beans and Sweet Potatoes
Beets (or beetroot) also keep things colourful - boiled or roasted, hot or cold, in soups or grated into a winter salad. And they are good for us. They contain nitric oxide which increases blood flow to your muscles, great for improving sports performance, or just feeling well. They are also rich in folate (vitamin B9) and full of fibre.
Beans are another store cupboard staple, useful dried or tinned (although dried takes a little forward planning as need soaking before cooking). Mixed beans add colour, protein and fibre and are one of the super foods that pop up in the Blue Zones (now on Netflix - don't miss it).
Great in stews and soups, a favourite is minestrone with tomatoes, herbs onions, cabbage and veg stock.- Or try our Tropical Chickpea Curry for some warming winter spice.
Sweet potatoes are another excellent source of fibre and antioxidants - rich in beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A - good for the eyesight and immunity - important in winter. They are also delicious, easy to prepare and have a lower GI than potatoes - keeping blood sugar spikes low. Try the Moroccan Sweet Potato recipe.
What wines to serve with them?
Red veg and red wine? Yes it works! And braise red cabbage with wine. The earthy flavours of cabbage, beans and beets go well with red wines that are a little fruity. Even more so when you cook your cabbage with apple and red fruits.
It's about texture as well as flavour. Beans have a meaty texture (the perfect meat replacement) that marries well with more powerful and structured wines with a good acidity and some tannin.
Sweet potatoes with a sweet wine? It's tempting, especially with Moroccan spices but a ripe red goes really well, not too tannic with good acidity.
Wine, Wellness and the Party Season
We’re all about wine being part of a healthy lifestyle and enjoying moderate amounts of wine with delicious food. If we are drinking less, we really should drink better. Quality over quantity. We hope Wineand2veg is helping.
In the party season, it's difficult to stick to good intentions. We're having a good time and alcohol releases endorphins in the brain, which trigger satisfaction and pleasure - good feelings that encourage us to reach for another drink. The festive season can be stressful too, and alcohol can act as a social lubrication or a tranquiliser, so it's worth taking a moment to think why are we really reaching for that glass. Celebrating or soothing ?
Hopefully it's as part of a delicious mindful, tasty experience. We know food slows down the rise in alcohol in the blood stream so drinking with food is great but even then moderation is harder than abstinence
We need a plan!
Set yourself up for successful moderation with a little forward planning. Here’s some tips that might help.
Before you go
Eat something – alcohol is best consumed on a full stomach.
Drink water - if you arrive thirsty of course you’ll drink more.
Positive visualisation - picture yourself enjoying a small amount of lovely wine, saying no to a top-up before you’re ready, engaging in interesting conversation and putting the glass down between drinks rather than desperately clinging on to it—you know your triggers.
When you’re there
Take your time - if there’s an option choose quality over quantity
Be curious about your choice, take the time to explore and savour.
If you don’t like the wine, you don’t have to drink it, It’s a cliché but life really is too short, and our units too limited, to drink bad wine. No need to be a wine snob, you don’t want to be that person. Just ditch it!
Alternate a glass of wine with a glass of water: A well as keeping you hydrated, it gives you something else to do with your hands if you are in a social situation standing at a party..
Don’t let anyone fill your glass until it’s empty – that way you’ll know exactly how much you’re drinking
Choose a smaller glass – weird but it works
Don’t beat yourself up - Willpower is a muscle that tires easily. You might have used it all day long and have none left to resist that glass of wine. Be kind to yourself.
Milk Thistle and a glass of water are your friends before hitting the pillow.
If you have brilliant trips and tricks to help preserve your sanity and your liver, do share them with us
We're not medical practitioners. Before embarking on any major diet
or exercise change, please consult a doctor, especially if you feel your
drinking is getting out of hand.