Few things make up for this time of year. In the UK it’s relentlessly wet, grey and occasionally blustery. Time to head for the kitchen and knock up a rich beef stew or casserole and leave it simmering for hours.
Then what to drink? Nothing too fancy for a start - this is comfort food remember and wine budgets have been blown over Christmas. Winewise we’re talking about red, the big issue being how full-bodied it should be.
There’s two ways of looking at it. Stews tend to be intensely flavoured with a rich thick sauce so you could argue that you need a big wine to hold its own. But that can be a bit overwhelming. I prefer a more rustic red - grape varieties like Syrah, Grenache, Malbec and Tempranillo hit the spot for me.
Of course it does depend what liquid’s in the stew. If it’s beer, as in a classic Belgian carbonnade then it’s almost wilful to drink anything else. Stews that have a savoury, meaty almost marmitey taste pair better with ales than with wine. If they’re made with wine however as in the classic French daube, it’s best to choose a similar style but slightly better quality of wine than you use for the dish. (Though not everyone agrees - see Marc Millon's argument in favour of cooking with Barolo)
If the stew is spicy as in my Medieval Spiced Pork with Red Wine and Orange then you need a slightly sweeter style of red such as an Australian Shiraz, Zinfandel, Pinotage or a modern Spanish red, wines that also come into play when you serve sweet flavoured veg such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash and corn alongside. But watch out for big, new oak tannins which can combine with spicy flavours to create a palate overload.
Best wines for stews
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