Cold weather pairing with food and budgets in mind
All right, the winter is here—it has invaded us! Do you know what this means? It means that our appetite grows in the opposite direction of the outside temperatures. It also means that pasta and risotto, ribs, beefy pies and stews, chilies, and soups appear on my daily menu at least twice a week. Let’s talk about some wines that work well with the hearty winter fare.
First, a few words about pastas and risotto with side vegetable dishes such as squash: because of the creamy texture of starches and earthy flavors of vegetables, some acidity is required to balance out the dishes. A sauvignon blanc, such as Clerget 2008, is an ideal choice. Another good pick would be an un-oaked chardonnay like a Chablis or any of the white Rhone wines. Made from un-oaked chardonnay, this wine is slightly oxidized, which gives it a hint of dry sherry on the nose and a nutty finish. The acidity and fruit are in balance, and the complexity of the wine marries beautifully with the flavors and textures of the dishes that mainly consist of creamy rice textures or pasta. The winemakers use exposure to oxygen as an additional flavor component with results that greatly compliment food.
Braised meat is one of the dishes to look forward to when temperatures drop into the single digits. The traditional approach to pairing heavier dishes like short ribs usually brings us to wines like Zinfandels or Cabernet Franc, which are high in alcohol and very full bodied. Well, I am sure you will enjoy this pairing, but remember that 16% alcohol combined with red meat will take only one full glass to…lullaby…lullaby. Try lighter reds, Gamays or Beaujolais, for instance. These reds are fruit bright, crisp with medium acidity and sparkling vitality. These wines will cut the fattiness of the meat and will compliment the herbs in the sauces.
Soups and cold weather are classically comforting, and if the soup is hearty enough it can make the meal itself. Traditional Italian White Bean, Pancetta, and Tortellini soups pair well with Chianti, of course, but don’t overlook regions such as Portugal and their masterpieces that are so affordable. My favorite and newly discovered wine—Ciconia, Portugal, the blend of Syrah and Arogonez, or LAB, from the area of Lisboa. Both wines are grown in sunny gentle slopes of clay and limestone soils, allied to the beneficial maritime influence—idealistic conditions for wine growing. Obtained through traditional fermentation, long maceration, and aged in Portuguese new oak barrels for at least four months, these wines pair well with soup. Also try pairing with hot open sandwiches, boiled potatoes and cabbage with gravy, pork chops and other uncomplicated dishes. These wines are about $10 per bottle, which means that the New Year resolution to give up booze for about month to save the household budget is completely unnecessary.
Resume your normal drinking patterns after the holidays and change your approach to wine consuming: discover new wine regions, explore a new grape variety, try blended wines or slowly start switching your taste from sweet to dry…drink less but of a higher quality. If you are not eating out, buy a special bottle of wine once a week, something you always wanted to taste, and invite friends to share the experience.
Here are some truly affordable wine gems for your winter dinner table:
Gnary Head Zin 2008, California
Ravens Wood Cabernet 2007, California
Concannon Cabernet 2008
Wente Sauvignon Blanc San Francisco Bay, California
Chalone Montery County, California
El Portillo Malbec 2008, Argentina
El Portillo Sauvignon 2009, Argentina
Campro Viejo Gran Reserva 2002, Spain
And remember, Life is a Matter of taste!