Comfort Wines for Comfort Foods
By Ryan Snyder
Category: Winegeeks Opinions
Now that the leaves are turning, the thermometer is dipping farther and farther each day, and nothing but football can be found on the tube over the weekend, we know autumn is officially here. I recently asked the Winegeeks writers what culinary items they use to cope with the cold weather, and although their responses varied they all agreed that autumn is a wonderful season for food and wine pairing.
Now that autumn is in full swing, what are the wines and foods that we're going to find on your dinner table?
E. S. Brown:
Hmmm. What pairs well with football watching and rabid fandom? While beer is the obvious choice, I find myself this time of year gearing up for red wine season. Just like pulling the sweaters out of winter storage, when fall rolls around and the foliage looks aflame I head for something big and brawny to warm my bones. During the fall season I can't help but to seek out things that are heavily spiced, be it pumpkin pie or apple cider with a touch of brandy in it, and the same holds true for wine.
So bring me a Syrah and don't get all-Aussie crazy with the fruit. The smoky and sensual feel of a well-made Syrah seems to cry out to me a level of warmth and spice that is like standing next to a bonfire at a pep rally. Plush by nature, big by tannin, spicy by soil and soul, what's not to like? The same could be said for any Rhône-style blend that contains Syrah, Grenache or Mourvedre, and the best part is that many fine examples of these wine are being crafted all over the globe and at affordable prices.
I also dig on Alsatian whites this time of year- again for the spicy aspect, but also because they often boast more body and texture than their brethren from across the ponds. And don't forget that it is almost Port season. Nothing better than a glass of Port by the fireplace on a cool fall evening while the leaves rustle at your door. To me that is enjoyable enough to tell Ichabod Crane to come back later.
My wife is a fantastic cook, usually planning her day and week around multiple trips to the grocery store. She rarely shops with a list; instead her meals are created while she stares at the fresh produce, meat and poultry. At this time of the year her food becomes dominated by a variety of wild mushrooms, squash, root vegetables and wild rice. It is not uncommon for my home to be filled with warm, fragrant and earthy aromas of a slow cooked roast or bubbling crock pot. The smell is almost as intoxicating as the wine. Almost unconsciously, I find myself pulling Barbera, Sangiovese, Nero D’Avola or Aglianico to enjoy with these full flavor dishes. These Italian comfort wines are relatively inexpensive yet pack a flavorful punch to compliment the deep earthy fall flavors. Italian reds are never shy on acidity, which keeps the palate fresh under the weight and richness of the dish. As well, the firm tannin found in these wines is neutralized by the roasted meat which accentuates the lush fruit of the wine and deep earthy flavors of the food.
Every imaginable shade of red and yellow is painting the tree-lined streets where I live. The air is crisp and cold at night, and the sun is setting earlier and earlier each day. It can only mean one thing: autumn, my favorite season of the year, is upon us. Time to clean the fireplace and cut the garden back. Squashes of numerous shapes and sizes have appeared in the markets, and apples tumble out of baskets ready for cider and pies. During the season of comfort food, I crave nothing more than pots gurgling away with lentil or split pea soup. Finish the lentil off with a cup of roasted tomatoes, a loaf of crusty rye bread and a breathing bottle of Nuits-St. Georges. As for a piping-hot bowl of my mother’s split pea soup, a bottle of viscous, spicy new world Gewurztraminer and fresh-baked baguette with salty butter settles me in for a night with my sweetie and a good movie.
There are a few meals that I really look forward to when the thermometer drops down low. Growing up back in Ohio, I spent a lot of time and worked a harvest on my grandparents’ potato farm. Nothing says fall to me like Mom’s fried chicken with mashed taters and gravy, and nothing pairs better than a bottle of Beaujolais. On a weeknight I look for simplicity, especially after a grueling “case of the Mondays.” That means picking up a pepperoni pizza on the drive home from work, coating it with red pepper flakes and cracking open an inexpensive bottle of Zinfandel, which is the one red that can match the spiciness of this ‘za. And when it comes to dessert, one ingredient single-handedly puts the C in Comfort – Chocolate. Give me a Mexican chocolate torte and a glass of non-vintage Port, and I’ll give you a big fat purple-toothed smile.