It is time to invite the Big Bad Boys of wine to the party! Cold weather is when these wines really shine. I call the wines with the big earthy flavors, beefy tannins, and smoky notes the Big Bad Boys of wine. And, on a cold January night, I cannot think of anything better than a big bold red wine and a beef burgundy stew, complete with carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and onions. For me, it is obvious to pair a beef burgundy with a hearty robust red wine, one such as a burgundy (well, it’s in the stew, it should go well with it). But these days, with so many “outside the box” options, I like to try pairing a wine with something that isn’t in the stew.
For baby steps, walk to Italy. Italy makes beautiful red wines, I have never met one I didn’t like. Look for a brawny red wine such as a Tuscan Sangiovese, nice and earthy, one of the primary red varieties in Italy. Sangiovese wine often gets labeled as a Chianti. Either a Chianti or a Sangiovese would go very nicely with a beef burgundy stew. Another Italian red wine would be a Brunello di Montalcino. The difference between a Sangiovese/Chianti and a Brunello di Montalcino is confusing because Brunello wine is made from Sangiovese grapes. The difference is where the grapes are grown. The Sangiovese/Chianti wines are usually higher in tannins, with a more unsophisticated feeling to the wine. A Brunello di Montalcino wine will typically have more finesse and complexity to it, and a higher price tag. Brunello di Montalcinos also cellar longer. Don’t keep your Sangionvese/Chbianti wines more than four years, you can usually keep the Brunellos at least five to seven years.
If you want to go a bit more international, try an Irish Stew with a Spanish red wine. A lot of Irish Stews are made with Lamb and/or Guiness Beer. A Spanish Monastrell would add a nice blend of pepper and black fruit flavors to pair with an Irish Stew. Spanish wines are getting better and better, and there are many very good Spanish wines with a decent price tag. A Monastrell should have a price of $10 to $15. If you want to go a little higher in your budget, get an aged Tempranillo, which will have a price of $25 to $35. If you want a Tempranillo with a smaller price tag, you could try a young, Tempranillo but open this wine about 30 minutes before you want to serve it because you won’t get the nice round tannins and you won’t get the notes of vanilla and cedar (which come from more years in the oak barrels and the bottle). By opening a hearty red wine 15 – 30 minutes before you serve it, you will round out some of the stronger notes and tannins in it.
Finally, to go completely continental with your big bad boys and your hot stew, consider pairing an Australian Shiraz with a Melting Pot of Beef Stew made from Beef Chuck, Spanish Paprika and Sicilian Marsala Wine. Look for an Australian Shiraz that is lighter in color than you would typically equate to a Shiraz. The primary difference between a Syrah and a Shiraz is the Shiraz typically comes from a hotter climate, usually an Australian hot climate. Lately, I have been impressed with the beautiful light colored Shirazes that I’ve seen at wine festivals and I really do enjoy them over the darker Syrahs, but for a beef stew with spicy Spanish Paprika and a flavorful Sicillian Marsala Wine, you need beautiful light Australian Shiraz that won’t compete with your stew, it will just bring out all of the beautiful flavors and nuances in your meal.
So….which Big Bad Boy will you bring to the table tonight?