We all have our favorite winter comfort foods. Perhaps it's your special home-made chili or maybe it's the slow-cooked beef stew, prime rib roast or even the braised short ribs that fall off the bone with barely a touch.
Traditional winter meals aren't wimpy. These meals need wines that can stand up to them. That favorite Sauvignon Blanc with subtle lemongrass will get ploughed under by that spicy cheesey chili.
So think big.
Think rich, think powerful.
Think Syrah. Syrah is a great choice for a winter red. It's a flavorful wine with origins from France’s Rhône Valley. This wine is unmistakable, with notes of cured meats, smoke, coffee, blueberry and iron oxide. It needs flavorful food. Syrah is an especially wonderful pairing for everything sheep: leg of lamb, lamb stew or lamb riblets. If you're a vegetarian, try some braised Shitake mushrooms with a little savory and thyme. If you want a traditional Rhône Valley wine, look for a Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, or St. Joseph.
For an old world flavor try: Paul Jaboulet Aine St. Joseph le Grand Pompee 2009: Paul Jaboulet has owned vineyards in the Rhône Valley since 1834, and Le Grand Pompee is full and fruit-forward, ripe with raspberry, blackberry, and plum complemented by a dash of cracked pepper. The nose is rich and concentrated ripe red fruits, sweet spice and licorice. This delicious red has firm rounded tannins. About $30.
For something a little bigger and more in your mouth, go for a Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah is often referred to as a rich, big, dark, and brooding wine. The tannin content is very high given its juice to skin ratio, which means that this wine needs big food.
The wine itself is inky dark, it actually looks like ink. The dark purpleness looks like it will stain the glass (it will stain your teeth and anything is splashes on). All this color portends the luscious dark fruit flavors in the glass: plum, dark cassis, prune, hints of coffee and dark chocolate. It makes your mouth water.
Pair Petite Sirah with braised meats served in their own reduction stock, hearty beef stew or that hearty meal that’s been cooking in the crock pot all day. A handy cooking tip: this wine is perfect to use when you want to darken a sauce.
A great but inexpensive Petite Sirah just so happens to come from California’s Bogle Vineyards: Bogle Vineyards Petite Sirah 2010. This red makes a great companion to lamb, pork or game in rich sauces.
The nose exhibits aromas of ripe blackberry, plum and boysenberry with a dash of cracked pepper and fresh herbs. The full palate is runs rampant with ripe blackberries and plums highlighted by spice notes, supple leather and a toasty hint of oak followed by caramel and vanilla. This jammy wine offers layer upon layer of complexity. Around $12.
Most importantly, don't be afraid to try new wines. Don't be afraid to fail. You can't do perfect pairings all the time. But, learn from mistakes and move forward and you too will have an arsenal full of hearty winter wines for your winter hearty dishes. Enjoy!
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