Winter has set in and the weather has turned cold so to warm my bones this month, I thought I'd look at some good wine pairings for some of my favourite winter foods--good old beef stew. Be it the famous French Bouef Bourguignon beef stew or something slightly more exotic, or more basic, there are some great red wines to handle the occasion.
Beef stews and casseroles are almost without exception strongly flavoured dishes (if yours isn't, I suggest finding a new recipe!), so they need a wine with a decent amount of body and flavour. With steaks I would suggest something with firm tannins like a Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine (the East Bank wines from Bordeaux are a great match), but with a stew, where slow cooking has broken down the fats and tenderised the meat, something rich and full, but not overly tannic, is the order of the day. Here are a few quick recommendations.
1. Zinfandel from California: No, not that pink watery stuff they call "white zinfandel". I mean the real stuff from a decent quality producer. At it's best, it is a full-flavoured, weighty wine with berry-fruit and liquorice notes. Look out for Ridge Vineyards.
2. Shiraz from Australia: Look out for wines from Barossa Valley, Western Australia or South Australia. Typically, Australian Shiraz is full of ripe, rich blackberry fruit flavours with dark chocolate, sweet spice, black pepper and vanilla. McPherson's Chapter 3 (available from Wine Connection) is the best example I've tried recently and definitely available in Taiwan. It actually follows a Northern Rhone Valley tradition of adding a slight touch of the white Viognier grape to the Shiraz, providing a perfumed complexity to the aroma.
3. Malbec from Argentina: These wines are now very easy to find in Taiwan and although they can be high in tannins, most are made in an easy-drinking fruit-driven style. I'd look out for something that has had some time in oak barrels. In Argentina, these are often labelled "Reserva"; although this term doesn't strictly mean anything, it usually just indicates that it is at least one step up from the winery's basic entry-level wine. A great-value option that I used to sell a lot of in the UK is Trapiche's Oak Cask Malbec. Now available in Taiwan, Trapiche's size means they can keep costs down while maintaining pretty consistent quality.