As the holidays grow near, big dinners out or sophisticated dinners in become a large part of people’s social calendar. If that’s the case for you, figuring out how to enhance each dish with the perfect wine can elevate these meals and help everyone have the best experience possible. You don’t speak wine? Fear not, below we take you through seven red wines and how to pair them perfectly this season.
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Our first wine, though not technically considered a red wine, does have a bit of red colouring and may come in handy for certain holiday dishes. For instance, Rosé, whether it comes from Spain, Portugal or Italy, pairs well with cheesy dishes. Although some cheeses pair better with a pure white or red wine, Rosé is a safe bet and generally matches a wide variety. Try pairing it with a quiche, garlic bread or soufflés.
There are a number of different factors that contribute to smart wine and food pairing, but some of the major things to keep in mind are weight, flavour intensity, acidity and tannins. For a wine like Pinot Noir, which is light bodied with a depth of flavour, the ideal pairings include mushrooms and truffles. The earthy nature of the food matches that of the wine and some great examples include squash soup, pork chops or Portobello burgers.
Malbec is a grape variety known for its dark colour and robust tannins. It was originally made famous by French growers near Bordeaux, but many Malbecs now come from Argentina. Malbec is typically a full-bodied wine and pairs well with fatty foods. Duck, steak and strong sauces like sweet and sour BBQ aren’t intimidated by the high tannin content of Malbec wines.
Another general rule of wine pairings is that if you can describe both the food and the wine using the same adjectives, it is more likely that they will taste good together. This is especially true of Zinfandel wines, which often have bold fruity flavours and finish with spice or smokiness. If you can pick out the flavours in the wine, try adding those same flavours to a sauce. For the holidays, choose Zinfandel for sauces like BBQ or curry, light meats like pork, turkey or quail and flavourful veggies like red pepper, roasted tomato or caramelized onion.
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This wine is most often sourced from France, Chile and the United States, but the grapes can be grown in a variety of climates and regions, giving it a wide range of flavours. In general, it has medium tannins, medium acidity and is full-bodied. The bold, dark fruit flavours of Cabernet Sauvignon mix with pepper or tobacco flavours toward the end. The wine works well with dishes like mushroom stroganoff, marinated ribeye or braised short ribs.
Merlot has a similar level of acidity to Cabernet, but tends toward easier tannins and a soft finish. Between these characteristics and its position in the middle of the red wine spectrum, Merlot pairs well with a lot of different foods. Ideally, pair Merlot with light meats like chicken or a dish like beef bourguignon, but keep it away from fish or leafy vegetables.
Syrah is one of the trickier wines. It vary in body depending on whether it’s grown in a warm or cool climate. Wines from Northern California or Washington in the US tend to be lighter in colour and full of more fruity flavours while those sourced from Australia, Napa or Spain are darker and have stronger flavours like cocoa, mint, and tobacco. Syrah does well with highly-spiced foods and especially works with cumin and pepper, though it also helps Asian cuisines flourish.