As a die-hard red wine fan, this is my favourite time of year.
With the outside temperatures steadily dropping, many of us are moving away from the light Rosés and Pinot's Gris of summer, and instead sipping on those full-bodied reds that warm you all the way to your toes - even when snuggled outside under a blanket.
Now before I get a flood of emails informing me that alcohol doesn't actually warm you up, in fact, it actually thins your blood and makes you more sensitive to the cold - I know. But you have to admit, there's just something about sipping a rich, fruity red that feels like it warms you from the inside out.
Here are some of my current faves to help you battle the chill this week. A cozy blanket and cheese platter are not essential, but recommended.
Wither Hills 2018 Merlot
While you might correlate Kiwi winery Wither Hills with the Malborough Sounds, this drop looks a little different. That's because for the first time ever, these WH grapes are grown in Hawke's Bay, rather than the South Island. The result is a lovely, dense and warmly textured Merlot, which can be drunk alongside almost any hearty winter fare. The 2018 vintage in Hawke's Bay was one of the warmest summers on record, meaning superb conditions for ripening Merlot.
Grant Burge Barossa Ink Shiraz 2017
Ask many people, including my Aussie father-in-law, and they'll say drinking any Shiraz that's not grown in Australia's Barossa Valley is a waste of time. So Grant Burge has certainly conducted a marketing masterstroke by naming this popular drop Barossa Ink, my current wine of choice. It's bold and dark in colour - that's where the 'ink' part comes from - and rich with plum, raspberries and dark cherries. If you want a wine that's almost verging on Ribena, this is the one for you.
Hunting Lodge Expressions Pinot Noir 2018
If a Pinot Noir is more your thing, you can't go past a fruity Central Otago drop. The region has only five percent of the country's vineyard area but 20 percent of its wineries. But while the vines are produced down south, the Hunting Lodge is a stone's throw west of Auckland, so buying this wine supports two NZ regions. On cracking open this bottle, you'll be greeted with black cherry, red plum, vanilla bean and wild thyme - perfect for a mid-winter Christmas.