Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wines to Pair with Hearty Winter Meals

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Winter is my favorite time to use my crock-pot. These cold and rainy months you will find me slow-braising meats, making up different kinds of chili and cooking oxtail until it failing off the bone. These are among the richest foods in town and are a delight to pair with a wide range of wines.

While I am often drawn to intense red blends, from Bordeaux to California and Syrah-based gems, there is also room for some great whites here with these winter pairings.


Jason Alexander, managing partner at the two San Francisco restaurants The Progress & State Bird Provisions says that “Despite the season, we always seek to select wines that seek that elusive state of ‘balance’ with higher-toned fruit, moderate alcohol, bright acidity and tannins that are integrated.”

He adds that while, “The menus at both restaurants are intensely guided by the seasons and the team at our farm. Winter, though often associated with braises and hearty dishes, is really more driven by bitter greens, citrus and mushrooms [at the restaurants].” Given the dishes’ vegetal focus whites work well as pairings.

“For white wines we seek out grape varieties with texture and depth, but that shy away from wood and high alcohol [Chenin, Chablis]. For red wines we look for wines that are forceful and layered while also not driven by alcohol and wood influence [Nebbiolo, Syrah],” says Alexander.

In terms of red pairings, Alexander tends to choose “more savory red wines including Nebbiolo from the Alto Piemonte, Syrah from throughout the Rhone and cool-climate, thick-skinned grapes from California.” Twist my arm, they all sound delicious.

On his menu, he pairs dry, spiced BBQ lamb ribs with preserved lemon and curried ghee with a 2008 Nebbiolo, and Applewood-smoked squab with chili vinegar with a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley.

Day-to-Day Pairings
With fatty meats you will want to choose wines with generous tannins that will help to break them down as you eat. Cabernet Sauvignon is a great pick for meat-centric dishes, and those wines can be from anywhere from California to Chile.

South African blends are also favorites of mine, and I have great memories of enjoying them with Springbok, a local antelope. I tend to prefer those without Pinotage, South Africa’s unusual, signature grape. The South Africans are also making great, smoky Syrah as are many producers in Eastern Washington.

For pork dishes, without red sauce, you can do as they do in Alsace: pair some dry, aromatic Rieslings with your meal. Rieslings produced in Alsace tend to be drier than those from Germany, but feel free to experiment. Aromatic whites like Gewurztraminer, and esoteric ones like the Northern Italian Kerner, also go well with simple pork dishes.

Whatever you choose to pair with those big cozy meals make sure you enjoy them in good company.

Cheers from all of us at DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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