Here’s another installation of Quick Pairings — this time featuring dessert wines for summer, a few more pizza wines, and then some really outstanding splurge reds. Cheers!
Summer Dessert Wine Pairings
Summer is a perfect time for dessert wines for me. In part because I much prefer them alongside something simple, like cheese or a piece of chocolate or a biscotti — rather than the more complicated cakes and pastries and puddings that are typically recommended as pairings. I’m American enough to prefer a cup of coffee with most of those cakes and pastries and puddings anyway. And besides, if I am ever inclined to make some more complicated dessert, it’s certainly not in the heat of summer. Here are three summer dessert wine pairings that pack a lot of flavor with very little effort:
Bacalhôa 2009 Colheita Moscatel de Setúbal ($20). From the country that brings you some of the finest fortified wines in the world, here’s an example of a sweet, fortified Moscatel. The Setúbal peninsula is just across the river from Lisbon, and the wines produced there are concentrated and rich. This example from Bacalhôa offers all the classic flavors and aromas — white flowers, lemony citrus, citrus zest, honey, pear and date. It’s lovely with a simple pairing of toasted walnuts, dried apricots and a creamy blue cheese like Stilton or Fourme d’Ambert. Find it!
St. Supery 2012 Moscato Napa Valley ($25). Pretty and light, with aromatic white floral, peach, apricot, and tangerine zest flavors that linger on the finish. Sweet but balanced with bright acidity. This is an easy summer dessert wine — serve it chilled alongside a platter of ripe peaches, McVities Digestive Biscuits (or similar) and a fresh chevre. Find it!
Graham NV 20-Year-Old Tawny Port ($60). Tawny port in warm weather? You bet. Particularly when served at cellar temperature. This is heady stuff — complex, concentrated, intense flavors of orange marmalade, dried apricots and pineapple, peach skin, rich caramel, brown spices and cream — a rich spectrum of flavors balanced beautifully with bright acidity. Long, long finish. Outstanding paired with a rich triple cream cheese like Saint Andre smeared on slices of toasted pecan-raisin bread. Find it!
Pizza Wines (Again)
Is there a better quick-pairing than pizza and an affordable Italian red wine? I think not…
Cantina di Soave 2011 Corvina Venezie Re Midas ($11). Bright, fresh, loads of red berry fruit with notes of marzipan, spice and mineral. Reminds me of a dolcetto, but less tart. Terrific with a classic pizza margherita. Find it!
Da Vinci 2011 Chianti ($15). A reliable, everyday Chianti, with pleasantly ripe red berry and cherry notes, along with dashes of black tea and pepper. A good choice for one of my favorite pizza combos — black olives and anchovies. Find it!
Rocca delle Macìe 2011 Chianti Classico Famiglia Zingarelli ($16). I have to confess that I completely fell for Rocca delle Macìe’s family patriarch Sergio Zingarelli years ago at a wine dinner. So it’s difficult for me to say for sure whether that little giggle I get when I see one of their wines has overly influenced my opinion of it… Would it be going too far to say this is a perfect Chianti Classico? Ripe but not overly so, with juicy red cherry and berry fruit, classic almond accents along with warm spices, a touch of mineral, a bit of spiced tea. Balanced, medium-bodied, nice finish. Affordable. Excellent partner for just about any kind of pizza you could name. I last paired it with a seriously garlicky pizza marinara topped with plenty of grated Parmesan. Could drink this every. single. day. Find it!
Time to Splurge: Bordeaux Blends (not from Bordeaux)
I have a small collection of really nice red wines stashed away, happily developing in their bottles until that moment I decide “it’s time” for a bit of a splurge. Recently, I’ve popped the cork on a few Bordeaux blends — mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with varying degrees of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and/or Malbec added into the mix. As for pairings, it’s run the gamut from a “simple” grilled steak to a unique takeout burger and an artisanal cheddar. Delicious meals, all. Further supporting my deeply-held belief that you don’t have to create a complicated, special occasion meal to justify opening a really good bottle of wine!
Antinori 2007 Bolgheri Superiore Tenuta Guado al Tasso ($102). A Bordeaux blend from the Bolgheri area of Tuscany (also home to Sassicaia and other famed “super-Tuscans”), this is a spectacularly gorgeous wine. Intensely flavored layers of black currant, ripe black cherry, violet, plenty of distinctive herbal notes and picking up mineral, espresso, tobacco and bittersweet chocolate notes through the complex, lingering finish. I cannot overstate how much you will love this wine. In cooler weather, I might suggest something slow-cooked or braised, but this time of year — it was a grilled grass-fed ribeye with a tangle of watercress salad. Find it!
Alexander Valley Vineyards 2008 Cyrus Alexander Valley ($60). Also a Cabernet Sauvignon-driven Bordeaux blend, with rich, ripe blackberry, black currant and black cherry fruit that maintains elegance and structure from beginning to end, picking up vanilla, toast, sage and tobacco through the finish. Dusty tannins. Very nice. I paired this with one of my favorite local indulgences — the Lamb Mint Burger from Pondicheri. Find it!
Cade 2009 Napa Cuvée Napa Valley ($60). Sleek and focused, with tightly-wound currant and blackberry character. It’s still just a baby, but as it opened up in the glass, softer red cherry, toast, baking spice and stony mineral notes began to emerge. Probably best to let this one age a few more years, but I enjoyed it immensely with a Cabot clothbound cheddar and green salad. Find it!