Even though it’s summertime, I continue, as do many people, to drink red wine. While some folks think it’s a bit heavy for the warm season — and I agree with that sentiment as it applies to sippers, at least for me — I still really like red wine with red meat.
I’ve gotten into the habit in the last year or two of having a glass of white — with me, that usually means Chardonnay — before dinner as my treat for having survived the day. And if we’re having fish or chicken, I’ll stay with white for the duration of the evening.
But if we’re having a steak or other red meat, I’ll usually switch to red. In fact, just a few days ago I’d have written I ALWAYS switch to red. But I had a bit of a surprise when I tried pork cutlets with white wine — the lovely 2012 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay from New Zealand had been the pre-dinner drink, as has been the norm in our household since I discovered it. With a tinge of citrus along with peach, pear, and a hint of pineapple, I love this wine, even though its $19.99 price tag makes me wince, especially with our new increase in provincial sales tax on top of the taxes we already pay. But that, sadly, hasn’t stopped me from buying it. I’m a sucker for a great wine.
Anyway, I can’t even remember what red I’d decided to pair with the pork cutlet — I do it Wiener Schnitzer-style (I guess, technically, then, it’d be Schweine Schnitzel) — pan fried and topped with parsley and lots of lemon. And the red simply wasn’t cutting it. I said to my hubby, ‘You know — I bet the white would go better with this meal than the red.’ Pork, after all, is the other white meat.
We tried it, it did, and I’m now a convert — at least in this one case. That’s not to say I’m not open to trying white with red meat again, but I’ve done it lots of times, and it hasn’t ever worked for me before. So to say I’m skeptical would be an understatement. But never say never, I guess.
And as usual, I digress.
While I firmly believe nobody should drink anything they don’t like just because somebody else or some outmoded ‘rule’ says they ‘should,’ I just prefer white wine with white meat, and red wine with red. I’ve tried some interesting reds over the last little while, which are mostly reasonably priced and certainly vary in taste and intensity.
As I promised a while back, I’ve been trying to move a little more toward Old World wines to change things up a bit — get me out of my rut, so to speak. So I was pleased to discover the 2009 Castillo de Almansa Reserva from Spain.
"Mmmm," I said after the inaugural sip. It’s nicely tannic, and boasts tobacco and cherry aromas and flavours. A blend of Tempranillo, Monastrell and Garnacha, this is a typical Old World wine with that earthy mustiness that’s so much a hallmark of the centuries-old wine-producing countries. But it was elegantly so, in my opinion — that is, it wasn’t barnyardy, which I can rarely get past. It was a bit soft — that is, despite its tannic quality, it wasn’t really edgy, and I liked it for that reason. And another plus — it sells for $12.99.
Back to the New World now, with a South African wine recommended by my friend Phil. The 2008 Africa Bomvu Red Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend is somewhat similar to zinfandel. And so is, positively or negatively, depending on your perspective, the alcohol content — 14.5 per cent. Spicy, with herbs, juniper, and a brambliness coming through, this wine finishes with a touch of cocoa, which is pretty nifty. The Africa Bomvu Red sells for $14.99.
And to top it all off, there’s the 2009 Santa Julia Magna from Argentina’s famed Mendoza region. Fifty percent cabernet sauvignon, 40 per cent malbec (you’ll always know when there’s malbec involved because of the telltale and distinctive lilac tinge to the cork) and 10 per cent syrah, the Santa Julia Magna offers red berries — I got raspberries and currants, I think — a hint of raisin and touches of nutmeg, vanilla and tobacco.
That said, my impressions of it differed substantially on two separate occasions. The first time, it seemed very pleasantly smooth, which made it fine on its own and great with food. The second time, it seemed quite chalky, dry and edgy — and this is what makes it so interesting, because I know some folks like soft wine while others prefer the tannic bite. I happen to like both! On the second outing, the Santa Julia Magna really benefited from some aeration, though. And another note: Don’t pair this wine with anything sauced — while it’s got plenty of backbone, it doesn’t hold up well with gravies or hearty additions such as barbecue sauce. But for grilled meat — we had ours with steak simply seasoned with garlic powder and steak spice — it was lovely. And it’s not out of the way cost-wise at $17.93 a bottle.
So as summer — what tiny bit of it we’ve had — starts to wane, keep grilling. All of the above-mentioned beverages go beautifully with steaks or burgers or whatever cut of animal flesh you choose to consume.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 17, 2013