Wines to Warm the Soul: Who Doesn't Love a Big Red Wine on a Chilly Day, Especially When Sipped with a Steamy, Slow-Cooked Stew? Here's How to Pick and Pair Them

By Schneider, Sara | Sunset, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Wines to Warm the Soul: Who Doesn't Love a Big Red Wine on a Chilly Day, Especially When Sipped with a Steamy, Slow-Cooked Stew? Here's How to Pick and Pair Them


Schneider, Sara, Sunset


Give it some glass

In their youth, reds can hold their stuff tight to the chest or show off their tannins a little too enthusiastically. Decanting helps on both fronts. Splash wine into a decanter to expose it to oxygen, and the wine will open up and soften up. By the same logic, use glasses with big bowls so you can swirl the wine vigorously. It will get better with every sip.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

What is a big red?

Cabernet Sauvignon is a big wine. But Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and even Merlot can be too. More than the variety, it's a wine's textures and flavors that make it a big red: hearty tannins and flamboyant fruit and spices like dark plum and berry, black cherry, cedar, smoke, herbs, and black pepper.

Big red regions to watch

Hot days are essential for producing big reds, but so are cool nights, to keep acidity high. Here are three regions that have the right combo.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Give it some glass

The Sierra Foothills

Zinfandel, especially, packs a punch from the warm hills on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Some century-old vine-yards were saved (ironically) by the late-last-century popularity of white Zin, and they've now been reclaimed for concentrated red versions. But look for great Spanish, Italian, and Rhone varieties too.

Eastern Washington

With its northern latitude, Washington gets about one more hour of sunlight a day during the growing season than the Napa Valley does, giving grapes the chance to develop intense flavors. …

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