In unsurprising Irish fashion we warmly herald this week's coming of February with the coldest winter snap of the season- just in time to greet the earliest emergence of daffodil shoots I can remember. But so long as the snow holds off I thoroughly enjoy this crisp time of year. It gives me the impetus to dust off the slow cooker and make some hearty stews to enjoy in front of an open log fire (the fact I only have gas central heating does little to shatter my enthusiasm). In this blog I recommend warming red wines from the new February promo lineup here at O'Briens and match them with some of my favourite winter warming stews from around the world out of the slow cooker.
Indian Vegetarian Creamy Black Dhal & Crispy Onions with...
Aruma Malbec, Mendoza Argentina €12.95 (from €18.45 for February)
It can be difficult to match red wines with Indian dishes- many of us tend to play it safe and steer towards German white varieties. The lifted aromatics of spices such as cumin and cardamom, as well as the heat of chili can make the tannins in red wine taste bitter and metallic. But if you opt for a young, vibrant unoaked red wine the result can be a delicious match. The Aruma Malbec from Argentina would fit the bill nicely. This wine is the result of the collaboration between Château Lafite-Rothschild of Bordeaux and Nicolas Catena, one of Argentina's top winemakers. It's an unoaked and restrained style of wine- the bold Argentinian fruits tempered by a light European touch and good acidity. The tannins are soft and supple and the bright fresh fruits and textured palate of the wine would be delicious with the creamy texture of the lentils.
Spanish Chicken, Chorizo & Chickpea Stew with...
Altos de Luzón, Jumilla Spain €14.95 (from €19.95 for February)
For the past decade or so I have been lucky enough to visit Spain 3-4 times per year and it has firmly become my home from home. Although the welcoming people and endless UNESCO World Heritage sites are a big attraction, the varied gastronomy and wonderful wines are the main draw for me. I try to imitate many of the dishes in my own kitchen, with wildly varying degrees of success! One dish that rarely fails however, is a slow cooked Chicken, Chorizo & Chickpea stew.
To match this warming casserole I will generally reach for a ripe southern Spanish wine, such as the Altos de Luzón above. Coming from Jumilla in the southeast of Spain, this wine is a blend of Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. Aged for 12 months in French & American oak, it is bursting with ripe black fruits and a touch of oak spice that will stand up to the strong garlic and paprika flavours of the dish. The quality of this wine shows the value of Spanish wine outside the better known northern regions and offers a winning winter warming combination with this dish.
Italian Ragú with...
Tenuta Novare Valpolicella Ripasso, Veneto Italy €16.95 (from €19.95 for February)
As the late great Paulo Tullio would tirelessly espouse: an Italian ragú sauce is a sofrito and slow-cooked meat dish with tomato added to it. This is in contrast to the runny tomato-based dish we tend to cook here. Before a baby hoovered up my free time I would regularly make a large batch of Heston Blumental's 'In Search of Perfection: Spaghetti Bolognaise' recipe that took about 36 hours to complete! Very time consuming but the results were always worth the effort: a complex rich meat dish with a subtle sweetness and fresh acidity from the sofrito, caramelized onions and tomato sauce. Not to mention the strong umami flavours of a Grana Pandano or Parmesan cheese.
To stand up to such a dish I recommend reaching for a wine with a good backbone of acidity to cut through the rich meat, but also with enough body and fruit not to get lost in the varied robust flavours of the meal. A northern Italian red wine, such as the Tenute Novare Valpolicella Ripasso would be perfect. The grapes for this wine come from premium vineyards on the Bertani estate in the heart of Valpolicella Classico and are semi-dried before fermentation to concentrate the flavour of the wine. Silky smooth, rich and full bodied with lashings of dark fruits this wine is ideal for tomato-based Italian dishes.
French Beef Bourguignon & Dumplings with...
Whitehaven Pinot Noir, Marlborough New Zealand €19.95 (from €22.95 for February)
Although the classic match for Beef Bourguignon is a red Burgundy, there are no firm rules to food and wine matching so I'm stumping for this delicious New Zealander: the Whitehaven Marlborough Pinot Noir. This classic French dish is traditionally made with tougher, fattier cuts of meat that are slow-cooked in wine to tenderise, resulting in a rich warming dish. The bright fruit flavours of this wine and the fresh line of acidity will cut through the richness and fatty meat, while the savoury notes and tannin from 11 months aging in barrel will beautifully match the umami and savoury flavours of the beef and mushrooms.
Note: Beef Bourguignon is a similar dish to traditional Irish stew so this wine match would work just as well.
There are no concrete, inviolable rules for food and wine matching, so don't be afraid to experiment- oaked Chardonnay will match many of the dishes above, but fresher white wines such as Riesling and Pinot Blanc can work surprisingly well also. Drop in to your local O'Briens store where our friendly and knowledgeable staff will happily help you pick out that perfect bottle. Or shop online at www.obrienswine.ie.
Please note: All prices correct at time of publication. For the most up to date prices please contact your local store or online www.obrienswine.ie. Enjoy alcohol responsibly.