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Winter Eating and Big, Bold Reds

by Nelson Abreu

I consider myself a mood drinker, not a moody drinker, so during a relatively mild December, I still found myself thirsting for fleshy whites and light, savoury reds.  Generally speaking I am an optimist when it comes to weather but something is making me believe we are in for a deep cold snap this January and that has me looking forward to those hearty winter meals.

The winter practice of layering up aligns with the habit of filling up.  Akin to favouring bulkier fabrics we take to the oven to create heartier meals.  Roasting and braising has a way of filling the home with the kind of cozy aromas that encourage the decanting of wine.   No doubt sampling wine while cooking is exciting in any season but there is something to be said about the anticipation brought on by sneaking sniffs, and sips, of a sleepy dark red while the main event is being prepared. 

Red Wines for Braises

Slow cooking at low temperatures creates rich, caramelized flavours and softer textured foods that are complemented by bold flavoured reds with ripe tannins such as those from maritime regions like Mediterranean EuropeCalifornia and Australia.  Pair ‘slow and low’ cooking with:  
Deep ruby red. Shows concentrated red fruit and plum with mint and baking spice aromas. Full bodied and integrated this wine shows power and features finely grained mouth watering tannins.
This is a classic expression of Primitivo; dry, full-bodied, rich in flavour. Ripe and dark fruit drives the wine showing notes of black cherry, blackberry, plums and cassis. There is a warm, baked earth note to the wine with underlying notes of smoky cigar box, camphor, and sandlewood. The finish is long with finely integrated tannins and a lingering note of dark bitter chocolate.

Reds for Stews and Roasts

Whether it is stewing, or roasting, the use of aromatic herbs to kick up the flavour profile of food makes for some playful pairing options.  Aromatic dishes work well with complementary flavoured red wines as seen in the classic pairing of a herb rubbed Rib of Beef with spicy Bordeaux blends.  Rosemary and garlic seasoned Lamb Roasts seem to create magic with the dark fruit and black olive notes that tend to appear in Syrah from the Rhone.  Consider these:  
A deeply-coloured, fruit-forward expression of Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit is ripe and slightly jammy; blackberry, raspberry, cherry and blackcurrant. There is some fresh turned earth, cracked black pepper and savoury dried herbs; thyme, rosemary and sage. The wine is dry, full bodied with finely integrated tannins and refreshing acidity.
A pure expression of Sangiovese from the 2018 vintage which brought a great level of concentration of fruit; ripe and almost confected cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Enveloped in fresh turned earth, balsamic, roasted tomatoes, and cinnamon spice. The tannins are prominent but nicely balanced and the wine finishes long and fresh acidity.

Earthy and Spicy Reds

When the wine reflects the food there is a natural synergy.  Consider the earthly flavours of Root Vegetable dishes and how well an earthy red will bring out the core vegetal characteristics.  Wines with age show tertiary characteristics which are ideal with vegetables as the softer tannins and savoury fruit marry effortlessly with the texture and weight of roast vegetables.  Give these wines a try:
Intense and wildly spicy with layers of ripe dark berry fruit, herbaceous and dried earth aromas. Full bodied ripe and juicy with a hint of violet, earthy spice and swathes of blueberry and plum.
A fresh and youthful Mencía from Bierzo. Sour cherry, pomegranate, blackberry, and black currant drive the wine. The fruit is backed by notes of black licorice, cracked pepper, fresh-turned earth, and crushed rocks. The wine is dry, medium-bodied, with refreshing acidity and loads of juicy fruit. 

Rich and Savoury Reds

Another spectacular play on winter meals are the rich reductions and savoury sauces that we commit extra attention to in order to coat our roasts and help to kick up the starches. A thick concentrated reduction just might provide the incentive for you to reach for your favourite Cali Cab.  We recommend these two rich selections:
Aromas of blueberry, black cherry, vanilla, and pencil shavings with a rich, sweet mouthfeel and incredible length.  
A refined expression of Blaufränkisch, filled with tart and ripe dark fruit: boysenberry, blackberries, damson plums, and black cherry. The fruit fills the nose and follows onto the palate. Behind the fruit are subtle notes of black pepper, star anise and dried, dusty earth. The wine is dry, medium bodied, with finely integrated tannins and a bright, refreshing finish.