Cold weather and snow make us hungry for heartier and full-flavored foods, especially meat and vegetable stews.
By Lou Campoli
Cold weather and snow make us hungry for heartier and full-flavored foods, especially meat and vegetable stews. These heartier meals beckon for heartier wines. For white wines, Sherry and full-bodied Chardonnay can be remarkable complements.
Most Sherry is made predominantly from the white palomino grape around the southern Spain city of Jerez de la Frontera. Of the many styles, the dry Oloroso will pair well with winter meals. It is richer in flavor and darker in color than the lighter-style Fino sherry. Oloroso can exhibit wonderful walnut and caramel flavors, and will pair well with any kind of heavy soup or stew you can devise. It is also a great match with flavorful cheeses, such as Spanish Manchego.
After dinner, try the eponymous Pedro Ximenez (PX), which is very sweet and very dark, almost black in color, although PX is a white grape. It is packed with flavors of molasses and toffee. Enjoy it by itself, with dark chocolate desserts and, over vanilla ice cream. In addition to flavor, the higher alcohol (15-22%) in Sherry also serves to warm your innards. Among the producers, Lustau is outstanding.
Full-flavored and, if you prefer, oaky Chardonnays are also excellent matches with winter meals. We recommend staying with fruit-forward, oakier New World Chardonnays from the United States and Australia, rather than the more elegant white Burgundies from France. Look for Acacia, Chalone, Château St Jean, Grgich Hills, Mount Eden Edna Valley, and Sonoma-Cutrer from California. From Australia, try Coldstream Hills, d’Arenberg, Grant Burge, Mountadam, and Rosemount.
With heavier dishes, red wines usually match up well, especially the fuller-bodied ones. Here, either Old World or New World wines will work.
From France, look for grenache-based wines, such as Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and their bigger brother and more expensive Châteauneuf-du-Pape. These red wines exhibit full flavors of plums and red berries, with an earthy quality on the finish.
Italian fuller-bodied red wines such as nebbiolo-based Barbaresco and Barolo are exceptional with heartier soups and meat-based risotto dishes. These wines show notes of dark berries and leather, with a lot of tannin on the finish. Amarone is another full-bodied wine that works well. It has a raisiny quality to it (because it’s made with dried grapes), with nice red berry and spicy flavors. On the less expensive side, look for Cannonau (Italian for Grenache), Nero d’Avola, and Nebbiolo delle Langhe wines.
More fruit-forward and powerful wines from the New World are also appropriate for these meals. California Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines tend to be fuller-bodied reds with flavors of currants and plums. Good examples are Clos Pegase. Coppola, Rodney Strong, and Trinchero.
Shiraz wines from Australia, with their berry and spicy notes, are great choices with these meals. Look for Penfolds, d’Arenberg, and Elderton.
We are also celebrating the beginning of a new year, and what better way to begin than with a glass of bubbly. Champagnes from France and Champagne-like bubblies from California (e.g., Schramsberg, Roederer, Chandon) are always good choices. These wines tend to be very effervescent and quite acidic. Cava from Spain is dry and effervescent and full of flavor. Softer and less bubbly alternatives are Crémant d’Alsace and Crémant de Bourgogne from France. Softer still, and sometimes a bit off-dry, is Prosecco from Italy.
Wishing all of you good fortune, health, and prosperity.