Review: Food-friendly Wines for Winter
PUBLISHED: 10:27 30 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:00 20 February 2013
February, and there's still a nip in the air and the chance of further snow falls and blizzards. We'll be craving old fashioned stews, dumplings and pot roasts for a while longer.
In winter it's the tougher, more flavoursome cuts of meat and game that we choose to slow cook tenderly, but wholesome vegetarian dishes also compete for centre stage - those lovely nut-roasts with winter vegetables, stuffed, steamed or baked, all crammed full of goodness to ward off winter ills. And wines for wintry fare? Well, time to fetch out the full-bodied, brimming with flavour, heady brigade - as if we needed an excuse!
Fish dishes are also more substantial, as in fish pie or kedgeree, so if matched with a white wine, this too will need to have a little more dimension.
Many excellent wines are available to accompany our seasonal cuisine, but I can particularly recommend the following from the grape varieties Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir. Chenin Blanc is the grape of the middle Loire (locally known as Pineau de la Loire) where it can make age-worthy, characterful wines of all levels of sweetness. It has also been successful in South Africa (known as Steen). Chenin Blanc has high levels of natural acidity and exhibits an interesting range of aromas - faintly floral with apple, quince and honey notes - making it an exceptional partner for fish and succulent white meat.
Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to cultivate and make into wine. The world's most prestigious Pinot Noirs come from a ridge of hills in Burgundy, the Cte d'Or, which is the most perfect place for it to grow. It is red Burgundy's hauntingly beautiful charm that winemakers everywhere try to emulate - its mid-ruby hue, flavours of red berries, violets and, when aged, game. It has travelled across continents but the resulting wines have often been poor imitations, although so far success has been achieved in New Zealand, Oregon and parts of California. In the last Pinot Noir has had a cult following since the acclaimed film Sideways extolled its virtues.
Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir are extremely winter food friendly and offer a whole range of wines to try, especially during the cold snap.
Savennires Val de Loir
Some of the greatest, longest-lived, Chenin wines come from Anjou and Touraine, particularly from within the Savennires appellation, just south of Angers. La Jalousie 2004 is ageing well, having lost its austere acidity it is pleasantly dry and delicately scented, with smoky mineral tones. It demands the very best seafood or, better still, try it for Sunday lunch with gently roasted organic chicken.
Saintsbury Pinot Noir Carneros
This Carneros Pinot Noir emphasises the bold fruit flavours and almost sweet-smelling style of Californian Pinots. Inclined more towards cherry as its main fruit flavour, there's a touch of strawberry crush and the odd whiff of game. But it's also richly textured, full-bodied and long tasting - a very fine yet hearty wine. This is best served with bold tasting dishes, certainly all manner of game and gourmet vegetarian.
Domaine Latour Beaune
From one of the most reputable wine merchants in Burgundy, this wine exudes quality. It is light in colour but has deeply complex aromas and tastes of fresh crushed raspberries, black cherries and spice. This wine is made for beef and makes a perfect partner to Boeuf la Bourguignonne, which is, to quote Elizabeth David 'a favourite among those carefully composed, slowly cooked dishes which are the domain of French housewives and owner-cooks of modest restaurants.'
Porter Mill Station
Steen (Chenin Blanc) is by far the most popular, well adapted grape variety grown in South Africa. It has dominated the vineyard scene since the late 17th century, although other varieties such as Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz are catching up. This South African Chenin is a good reliable wine, fruity with distinctive floral notes and honey tones. It's dry, racy and best suits fish cakes, spicy Thai dishes or, most importantly, a traditional fish and chip supper.