Comfort Wines for Comfort Foods
These 10 warming food and wine pairs will take the chill off.
Warming Wines for Winter
Bare branches and bare gardens are in; bare legs are out. 'Tis the season for cozy blankets, thick novels, blazing fireplaces, and comfort foods that feed your body and soul. This winter, pair stick-to-your-ribs dishes with bigger, bolder wines that match the food and the weather. Try one of these pairings to warm up your next meal.
A rustic, beef-based dish like Shepherd's Pie, filled with savory herbs and spices, is a natural match for Cabernet Sauvignon with its own classic flavors of black fruits, black pepper, and hints of leather and earth. Try the 2006 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon ($16) from Paso Robles.
Recipe: Shepherd's Pie
Chicken Pot Pie
Originally a quick and easy way to use up leftover chicken, the pot pie has become a comfort food classic with its creamy chicken and vegetable filling and rich, flaky crust. A full-bodied floral Viognier that smells hauntingly sweet but tastes dry is a great match. Try the 2007 J. Vidal Fleury Cotes du Rhone Blanc ($16), a rich and fruity Viognier from France.
Recipe: Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie
Noodles and Cheese
Possibly America's best-loved comfort food, Mac and Cheese or its Italian counterpart, Fettuccine Alfredo, is the ultimate winter indulgence. Hot, creamy, cheesy, buttery noodles need a wine like Chardonnay, which has a complementary creaminess to match as well as vibrant acidity to cleanse your palate. Look for a Chardonnay that's been oak aged (rather than one fermented in stainless steel) for that creamy, heavyweight mouthfeel. Try the 2008 Gordon Brothers Chardonnay from Washington ($16).
Recipe: Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Full of flavor, easy to make, and able to fill the house with mouthwatering aromas, pot roast is a classic weeknight winter feast. An equally humble yet complex wine like Cotes du Rhone, a blend of red grapes from southern France, will round off the meal. Try the 2007 Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone ($13), a ripe and fruity wine with dark plums and a hint of spice.
Recipe: Classic Beef Pot Roast
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Salty beef and tender cabbage is the ultimate boiled supper for New Englanders and Irish lovers alike. This salty beef dish is best with a fruity white wine like Riesling from Alsace, a French region where whites are generally full-bodied, rich, and spicy. Try the 2006 Trimbach Riesling ($16).
Recipe: Corned Beef and Cabbage
A traditional Russian dish, Beef Stroganoff is a favorite of cooks around the world for its savory sauce that's a cinch to make. In the fall, the mushrooms in the sauce make beef stroganoff a good match with earthy Pinot Noir, but in the winter, choose a more robust red wine like Tempranillo, a Spanish red that tastes of ripe strawberries, wild berries, herbs, and spice. Try the 2004 Legaris Crianza from Ribero del Duero ($27).
Recipe: Quick Beef Stroganoff
For Italiophiles, a list of comfort foods isn't complete without a mention of lasagna, an ingenious layering of savory meat, creamy cheese, and sweet-and-pungent tomato sauce sandwiched between layers of wide noodles. A medium-bodied Italian red like Chianti or Barbera is a natural match for lasagna. Try the 2007 Cecchi Natio Chianti ($16), made from organically-grown grapes.
Recipe: Classic Lasagna
Chili is a great go-to dish for Sunday football or chilly winter weekends. Spicy, hearty, brash and brawny, chili meets its match in Malbec, the Argentine wonder-grape with dark fruits, hints of chocolate, smoke, and spice that complement the slightly bitter tinge of the beer-based chili. Try the 2007 Kaiken Reserve Malbec ($14).
Recipe: Chili for a Crowd
Hearty, filling, and a cinch to whip up even on a busy weeknight, meatloaf is a classic comfort food staple. With its layer of fruity ketchup on top, meatloaf needs an equally bold, fruity wine. Zinfandel is a luscious, rich, jammy red whose fruitiness will pair well with that fruity ketchup layer, yet stand up to the meaty interior with its full body. Try the 2006 Maryhill Zinfandel ($22), a rich, spicy, fruity and warm winter wine.
Recipe: Classic Meatloaf
Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie
A soft, gooey, cookie straight from the oven oozing with chocolate can cure even the worst of winter blahs. An inexpensive tawny Port like the NV Sandeman Tawny Port ($14) will make that cookie taste even sweeter and bring out its caramely, chocolaty flavors.