Tips on pairing older wines with braised and roasted meats
Since ancient times, good wine has been a fundamental staple for a great cuisine experience adding depth and dimension in food making and also in its tasting quality that no other ingredient can provide. For example, the recipes of Apicius, the well known Roman chef showcase its use of wine in sauces and other dishes. To this day, a successful wine and food experience is insurance of an emotional outstanding gastronomical moment. A successful wine pairing optimizes the dining experience creating awareness to the taste and texture of the food and wine being examined. Exceptional wine pairings with roasted and braised meats are built on the bridge principle, taking into caution overpowering flavors of the dishes in relationship with the secondary and tertiary aromas of the wine and the cut of meat being paired.
The Bridge principle in older wine tasting
Successful wine pairings are based on the “bridge” principle. In simple terms, this technique consists of tying common flavors and textures of both the food and wine being experienced. As wine ages it develops complex secondary and tertiary aromas shedding their fruit of their youth. Wine aging is akin to the braised meat cooking process where the low oven temperature develops an inexpensive fibrous cut of meat into a nobler richer one. In addition, like wine oak ageing, the aromatic ingredient combination of your braise will set the flavor undertone of your dish. For instance, aged Syrah based Northern Rhone wine blends develop balsamic flavors alike with hints of meat and black tea. An aged Cornas is a great pairing with roasted lamb chops and lentils, where the balsamic notes of the wine expand the gamey notes of the lamb.
Do’s and Don'ts-Balance is key and strong condiments are at bay!!
Another approach to pair mature and older wines is to stay away from overpowering flavors in your roast and braises. Excessive condiments such as strong Asian spices and sauces can overpower the delicate flavors and nuances of older wines. This principle is cumbersome when pairing mature and expensive fragile mature wines. In such cases, the pairing is based exclusively on the wine and the rest will follow suit. In most cases, the simpler the dish, the more enjoyable the experience of an older wine. It is very important to remember that food has a huge influence on wine, rather than the other way around. For example, the addition of tomatoes in a stew can accentuate the sweetness of your braise changing the character of your wine pairing.
The taste of the braise with mature white and red wine
Older red wines are better paired with tough cuts of meat prepared in the braise and stew method. Both methods tenderize the muscle fibers of the meat while accentuating their moist flavors developed by vegetable or other meat prepared stocks. Like mentioned above, since braising involves the use of several spices and aromatic liquids, it makes a bridge with the secondary and tertiary aromas of wine. In addition, the rounded tannins of the older wines enhance the texture of the tender cooked meat in the palate. Classic French braises such as Beef Bourguignon are magical with older Burgundy wines such as Nuit St Georges or Pommard while braised short rib stews are just comforting with mature Barolo or Bordeaux wine. For a perfect pairing, use a small amount of the wine you are drinking to braise the meat dish.
In the case of aged white wine, the meat pairing will revolve around the secondary aromas and acidity. The primary aromas of fresh fruits and flowers will evolve into a contemplative bouquet where more secondary notes of dried fruit, savory earth, honey and nuts will emerge. The perceived high acidity of the wine giving the wine its angular texture in its youth will fade out with age and the wine texture will pleasantly mellow out. However, two elements that will influence your food pairing is the oakiness of the wine and of course its age of the wine. Oakier wines like Meursault or White Hermitage can handle heartier dishes such as roast chicken or the ubiquitous French veal stew Blanquette de Veau. With reference to fish, it is better to pair aged whites with textured white fish such as halibut and haddock. The hardier flake texture of their flesh will complement very nicely the subdued notes of aged white wine.
Fatty versus Lean meat in braising. Does it make a difference with older wines?
A common mistake is pairing older red wines with fatty cuts of meat in lieu of lean ones. Fatty cuts of meat such as Ribeye steaks or duck need a young tannic wine to absorb all that richness. A young red wine with rich tannins takes the role of palate cleanser with the fatty meat cut, something that the older wine does not possess. In contrast, a lean meat cut dry out faster in the cooking process since the fat is located on the exterior and a young red with abrasive tannins will overpower its delicate flavors. For instance, quails with their particular complex flavors, similar to chicken, are more intense and woodsy in nature. Roasted quail has a wild game taste that other domesticated poultry do not have. It is best served with older red burgundy wine displaying forest floors flavors or older Grenache based wines with their enticing lead shaving aromas.
The case for aged rose wine with braised and roasted meats
Young rose has a worldwide reputation for being extremely food versatile with a variety of cuisines. Aged rose of 2-3 years pairs extremely well with red meat roasts prepared with the traditional garrigue rub from the Rhone Valley cooked with the dry roasting method. The combination of wine and meat creates a delicious peppery sensation preparing the palate for the next wine sip. Dry roasting is done in an uncovered pan, in the oven, with the meat suspended on a rack with the purpose of keeping the roast from sizzling in its own fat.
In conclusion, pairing a mature and sometimes fragile wine should not be an anxious experience provided that you find some common grounds between the ingredients of the braise/roast dishes and the wines you are pairing to create a complementary organoleptic experience . In addition, one should stay away from very strong condiments in your meat dish since they could overpower your dish and ruin the tasting experience. To add, the success of your wine tasting experience will depend on what cut of meat you are using. It is important to remember that fatty cuts of meat are better with young tannic and acid wines. On the other hand, leave your older wines for the dishes that require patience and love just like wine ageing. To close, remember to have fun and experiment in your future matches.
Author: Marco Giovanetti
1-“Apicius (De Re Coquinaria).” Apicius - Roman Cookbook | Know the Romans, https://www.knowtheromans.com/sources/apicius/.
2- “Food & Wine Pros | Using “Bridge” Ingredients to Create a Perfect Match.” Matching Food & Wine, www.matchingfoodandwine.com/news/wine_pros/building-bridges/. Accessed 31 Oct. 2022.
3- “Braise & Stew Preparation.” The Culinary Pro, www.theculinarypro.com/braises-stews.
4- “The Nasty Bits: Quail.” Serious Eats, www.seriouseats.com/the-nasty-bits-quail. Accessed 31 Oct. 2022.