What wines and beers to match with meaty stews and casseroles
Few things cheer at this time of year. In the UK it's cold, grey and damp 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 stretched by 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 overwhelming. I prefer a slightly lighter more rustic red - grape varieties such as 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 the wine you used for the dish. (Though not everyone agrees - see Marc Millon's argument in favour of cooking with Barolo)
If the stew is spicy like a tagine 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 tannins which can combine with spicy flavours to create a palate overload.
Best wines for stews
- Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages, especially where an individual village name such as Cairanne or Vacqueyras is attached
- Lesser Rhône appellations such as Crozes-Hermitage, Gigondas and Lirac
- Languedoc reds such as Corbières, Faugères and Minervois
- Rioja crianza and similar Spanish reds from e.g. Navarra
- Reds from the Douro in Portugal
- Barbera from Piedmont - or elsewhere
- Argentinian Malbec (and French Cahors)
- Australian or South African Shiraz (though watch the tannins, as indeed you should do with the reds below)
- Zinfandel - especially for rich stews such as oxtail
- Pinotage (particularly for spicier stews)
- Classic British ales such as Young’s Special London Ale, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Theakston's Old Peculier
- Strong Belgian beers such as Chimay and northern French beers from the Pas de Calais region
- Brown ales (for simple, old-fashioned stews without too much seasoning)
- Stout or porter - if that’s what the dish is cooked in.
It's fascinating that when I wrote this post nearly eight years ago there were no craft beers around. What would be your pick from what's available now?
Image © Bart - Fotolia.com
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