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Monday, December 30, 2019

Classical Winter Wine & Food Pairings

                                         Winter does not necessarily mean only red wine

With nearly three months of winter before us, it’s time to bring out the colder weather wines, as well as recipes for their accompanying foods.  Winter wines are bold and powerful, and the dishes served with them need to match the wine’s intensity.  For many this time of year means big reds, however, there are some formidable whites that can also work beautifully.   And, let’s not forget wines such as Port, both a perfect winter aperitif, as well as a gorgeous dessert wine for this time of year.

Below is my winter list, arranged in alpha order by grape varietal.

Barolo & Barbaresco
Both of these Italian red wines are made from Nebbiolo grapes grown at the base of the Italian Alps.  Nebbiolo harvested in the town of Barolo is called Barolo, while Nebbiolo harvested in the nearby commue of Barbaresco must by law be called Barbaresco.   Known for robust tannin and high acidity, these wines need equally substantial foods.   Julia Child’s veal with mushroom cream sauce, or a pasta with a cream sauce of porcini mushrooms and/or truffles are perfect matches.

Oaked Chardonnay
Winter is a time for full-bodied whites and an oaked Char fits the bill.  The oak barrel gives the Chardonnay structure by adding tannins to the wine’s profile, along with the addition of complex butter, caramel and nutty flavors.  Oaked Chars can support luscious cream sauces and rich shellfish such as crab, scallops and lobster.

Cabernet Sauvignon
It goes without saying that all Cabs should have some age on them.  Cabernet grapes are hugely tannic, thus time is required for this varietal to be drinkable.   A smashing wintertime pairing is either a prime rib or a rack of lamb.  But, another classical coupling is a Bolognese-sauced pasta, or even a pizza---no kidding, try it…you’ll like it!

Aged Riesling
With time in the bottle the Riesling varietal changes dramatically.  Young Rieslings offer a fruity profile----varying from lemon in cold growing areas to apricot nuances in warmer climates.   Aged Rieslings not only become fuller and richer, but the wine’s taste and aromatics morph into something with petrol nuances.  For some, aged Rieslings aren’t enjoyable.  However, for many, an aged Riesling served with the right foods can be nirvana.   Perfect pairings are a pork roast with braised cabbage, or duck and goose.

There are many types of Port and one size doesn’t fit all for matching them with food.  Tawny Port, which presents rich and nutty flavors, works well with salty items such as Parmiggiano Reggiano and/or nuts.  Vintage Ports (which are extraordinarily powerful with intense fruits, chocolate and spices), can stand up against a blue cheese such as a Stilton, or a well-aged power-house Cheddar.

If there’s ever a classical winter wine, it’s a Zin.  As most Zinfandels are a heavy alcohol wine, they must be served with a food of equal weight in boldness.   Think rich, unctuous wine-braised short ribs, or a hearty beef stew with root veggies.  But, beef is not the only match.  Chicken can work but it’s all about how it’s prepared.  My favorite method is a recipe marinating it for 24 hours with balsamic and aromatic herbs, then cooking it with onions, prunes, capers and green Olives.  Here the recipe:

Have a wonder-filled wine winter.

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