Rich Autumnal wines to pair with your midweek meals
Meet Our Connoisseur
Terry Kirby is a food and drink connoisseur who regularly writes for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. Having contributed to The Independent Online’s weekly wine column since 2011, Terry’s given us some expert advice on which bottles to pair with our warming midweek meals.
When most people think of richly flavoured meat dishes with beef or lamb as the main event, they automatically reach for the red wine bottle. All wine and food pairings are ultimately a matter of personal choice but in my view, red wine with red meats like beef and lamb is largely the right match to get the best out of both. White wines can easily be overwhelmed by the strong flavours of savoury, meaty dishes.
Autumnal recipes such as pies and tagines are all designed to nurture and sustain us through the cold months- a warming glass of red wine is as much a part of that as a roaring fire or a thick blanket. Nevertheless, the variety of red wine styles now available to us does mean that need to think carefully about matching the right kind of wines to the dishes we are eating, considering the vegetables, spices and herbs that accompany them as well as how and when the meat is going to be cooked and served.
William Thomson’s elegant Borders Lamb Stack needs an equally delicate red wine that’s rich enough to match the robust Mediterranean flavours of lamb, rosemary, peppers, tomatoes and aubergines. The south of France is the perfect place to find such a bottle, and this velvety, vanilla scented, blackberry Mourvedre-based blend, Domaine Bunan 2013 (£17.00), is ideal. From the Bandol in Provence, it makes a great partner for this lamb dish and is also perfect with a cheeseboard afterwards.
Just the thing to come home to on a cold winters’ night, Louise Robinson’s mouth-watering Scotch Beef & Ale Pie is a terrific midweek meal that needs, like the lamb stack, a robust red. In this instance, I’d plump for a French influenced wine from Chile like the earthy and intense The Flat Iron Carignan 2015 (£8.99). Open or decant well in advance to give the big flavours time to develop.
Light Asian spicing is always a tricky match for wine and normally a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer suffices. However in the case of Kym Grimshaw’s Asian Beef Noodle Broth, lighter reds such as Pinot Noirs can work well too. The Germans call Pinot ‘Spatburgunder’, so seek out the structured and mineral Weingut Gaul Spatburgunder Pfalz (£14.50). Try chilling it for half an hour before opening and think of it as a full bodied rose.
A warming bowlful of Sara Ball’s Slow Cooked Irish Stew needs a suitably full-bodied wine to match its deep meaty flavours. While a traditional oaky Rioja would be fine, try moving west into the Douro Valley of Portugal where Port producers are creating terrific red wines from the traditional mix of indigenous grapes. One example is the moreish and organic Altano Douro 2014 (£9.99 ) made by the Symington Port family. The autumnal blackberry, plum and dark cherry flavours with a touch of spice are just enough to cut through any fatty residues on the palate.
Another slowly cooked dish, Rebecca Goodman’s Scotch Lamb and Squash Tagine combines the sweetness of honey and apricots with cumin and paprika to create a subtle spicy flavour that can make wine matching tricky. Similarly, Chile’s Carmenere grape can be difficult to pin down, with complex notes of cherries, chocolate, spice and tobacco combining into a versatile wine that suits dishes from the tagine through to a simple steak. The Root 1 Carmenere (£8.00) is just fabulous value as well.
A lovely take on the classic Italian dish, Aimee Twigger’s Oxtail Lamb Ragu with Wild Mushrooms delivers even more flavour than the minced beef and veal combination. So why go anywhere other than northern Italy for a matching wine of real complexity and power? Ripasso wines are where fermented dried grape skins left over from Amarone wines are added to bring depth and concentration to the more fruit-driven Valpolicella grapes. Try the Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, La Casetta, 2013 (£14.99).