Four Wines to Sip with Any Braised Meat

March 28, 2013

We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone. 

There are two things I like to keep in mind when I bring wine to the table. 

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1. Wine is a food -- it’s another layer, an additional component to play off the dishes and flavors that are already there. 

2. Most important: I drink what I like. I trust my palate, just like I do with food, and that will be your saving grace when it comes to wine, too. The flavors and textures that you like is what matters most, and it’s what should drive your wine choices.

That being said, for the best pairings, aim for wines that have a similar feel to the meal you’re eating. Today, it’s all about the deeply caramelized crusts and slow-cooked meats of braised dishes. In wine speak, that means we should go for deeper, fuller-bodied wines with just as much character as what you're cooking. Take a category from below, and run (or walk, if you want to be casual) to your local wine store. And just like you would at a farmers’ market, chat with the staff about your choice. 

If You Prefer Red: Australian Shiraz
The warm Australian climate combined with a late harvest most often leads to very ripe grapes. Those ripe grapes will infuse the wine with deeper, sometimes savory flavor, and a higher alcohol content can also result. Fun fact: Shiraz is how the Aussies say Syrah, but the grapes’ historical home is in the Northern Rhône region of France. We love this bottle -- check out your local wine store for similar picks. 

If You Prefer White: California Chardonnay
California Chardonnay and Australian Shiraz often share the same characteristic of very ripe fruit, which is why both can work with the same dishes. That creaminess you know and love in a good Chard? It's from time spent on the lees, or deposits of yeasts that occur naturally in the winemaking process. Still, these wines can vary widely, due in part to aging and flavoring techniques like oak barrels (which we like!) and oak chips (not so much). To switch it up, ask your wine store for an unoaked bottle, which will carry less of those trademark toasty, vanilla notes. Learning your preferences of these three factors – ripeness of fruit, lees, and oak – will help you find even more favorites. (Look here for one of ours!)  

If You Want to be Like Tamar Adler: What You’re Braising With
But really, it makes sense -- if your braise happens to have called for a little bit of wine, pour the rest in your glasses! It’s the most foolproof method for a harmonious pairing.

What We Pour: Oregon Pinot Noir
For something a bit atypical, look to history; for centuries, red Burgundy has been poured into the most classic of braises. (Boeuf Bourguignon, anyone?) The Bourguignon, or Burgundy, in effect means Pinot Noir: by law, red grapes grown in Burgundy have to be Pinot Noir. 

I reach for Pinot because it has nuance and personality and I’m always curious to see what mood it’ll be in. Usually, it’s a little spicy, redolent of black cherries, and typically lower alcohol -- this makes it fruity but not overpowering. It’s lighter in color than other red wines, as though it doesn’t want to be too obvious. Pinot Noir from Oregon, like this bottle, will run you slightly less than the same grape from its Burgundy homeland. If you want to be fancy about it, by all means, reach for a red Burgundy.

What’s in your glass when you sit down to a slow-cooked meal? Let us know in the comments! 


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • retiredtaxpayer
  • Cathy Huyghe
    Cathy Huyghe
  • AntoniaJames
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
Cathy Huyghe

Written by: Cathy Huyghe

Best advice I've ever heard regarding wine? "Just drink the stuff."


retiredtaxpayer January 31, 2014
Cooking with wine just gives you reason enough to open a bottle. True, because I don't see a lot of "leftover" wine in our house!
Cathy H. March 29, 2013
I definitely will! What recipe(s) do you recommend for a doenjang newbie?
AntoniaJames March 28, 2013
On the advice of someone at the store where I was hunting for a my usual (but out of stock) Cotes du Rhone, to use in a hearty stew I made recently, I bought a California Merlot (made with organic grapes) instead. I was a bit skeptical but it turned out really well! And of course it paired perfectly at the table. The wine had mild vanilla notes, and very light tannins. ;o) P.S. It was for a vegan mushroom, grain and winter vegetable stew, made with all of the aromatics and herbs that I would use in my beef stews (plus a hefty dose of doenjang, for a richer flavor overall). I am certain that the same wine would work well with braised meats, too.
Kenzi W. March 28, 2013
I love this, it's very helpful -- thanks for sharing!
Cathy H. March 28, 2013
Here's what I love about your comment:
1. That you sought advice from someone at the wine store.
2. Their recommendation worked!
3. That you served the same wine at the table that you used in the recipe.
4. That you bought organic.
5. That you were skeptical and tried it anyway.
6. That I now know what doenjang is.
7. That your ingredients were hearty, yet you balanced it with a wine with light tannins.
8. That (I'm guessing…) there were no leftovers!
Thanks so much for sharing.
AntoniaJames March 28, 2013
Thanks, Cathy and Kenzi. Actually, Cathy, there were some leftovers, but only because I generally cook at least twice what we need, especially when it involves a dish like this, because (a) the leftovers have a way of tasting even better the next day, as these did, and (b) we eat home-cooked foods for lunch almost as often as we eat home-cooked food for dinner, i.e., nearly always. And do get yourself some doenjang and use it. (I use it in any recipe calling for miso, and in about a dozen other non-conventional ways, as well.) You'll wonder how you ever cooked without it. ;o)