Wines to Drink With Hearty Winter Fare

Frozen Vineyard“Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root so that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger.”

So wrote religious writer Hugh Macmillan in “The Ministry of Nature,” a 19th-century work. It was an observation with which even agnostics could not disagree… even today. Grapevines usually come to my mind when that quote is cited, leading to further conjuring over the types of wine we gravitate toward during the cold winter months.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, this winter is cold. A few forecasted highs for today:

  • Boston — 22
  • Albany — 19
  • Chicago — 18
  • Buffalo — 14
  • Milwaukee — 14
  • Minneapolis — 9

Boston is suffering through one of its worst winters on record — more than 350,000 miles of roadways have been plowed to date — and more snow is expected today. Many federal workers are seeing their three-day weekend extended as the nation’s capital is having a snow day.

It has been said that February is the price you pay for July, but there are ways of dealing with this most cruel of months — beyond keeping in mind that it will be over before all other months, even in leap years.

When looking for ways to counteract the short, cold days of not just February, but winter in general, we tend to gravitate toward rich, hearty dishes such as stews and casseroles. To match this heart-warming, belly-filling fare, we reach for big, hearty (and almost always red) wines.

A big, spicy bottle of Zinfandel need not be relegated to accompanying barbecued meats during the hot summer months. Zin also pairs perfectly with stews. And, if you don’t care to cook, it also matches nicely with a home-delivered pepperoni pizza.

Other than perhaps sizzling bacon or in-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, nothing makes a house smell better than a slow-cooked roast. Once the meat is no-need-for-a-knife tender, it’s time to open a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

With cheesy casseroles, one white wine — Chardonnay — is a possibility, but a nice Merlot or Malbec would be even more satisfying.

When cooking with wine during the wintertime, the same basic rule applies: Cook with the wine that you intend to drink with the meal. This will help ensure and even elevate the complementary flavors.

Soon, the winter of 2014-15 will be but a memory. Until then, the wines of winter can help us get through those cold, cruel days that remain before the arrival of spring and the reawakening of the grapevines.

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Tomorrow: A heart-warming (and wine-friendly) dish to prepare on a cold winter day.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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