Wine Myths: Bold red wines need big meaty food

Katie Mather debunks common wine myths


There’s a common misconception among many wine lovers that bold red wines, with all their complexity and depth, require big, meaty dishes in order to show their truest colours. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to abide by this rule. It’s not even a rule—it’s just passed-down half-truths from the days when red wine was all thumping great Clarets in crystal and dinner was all meat and potatoes. 

Italian reds have complexity beyond their deep colour and bracing tannins. Wines like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo have layers—yes, they are rich, but they are also garnished with floral and herbal aromas, illuminating their depths and adding interest and levity. They also have welcoming washes of acidity, giving them dexterity when it comes to pairing them with food. You just have to be brave, or failing that, stubborn. What do you want to eat?

I mean, of course you can drink your Negroamaro with meatballs al forno, your Valpolicella with a roast dinner. Why not? I like a chianti with sausage and mash, especially if I can be bothered to make a zingy, mustardy onion gravy. Alls I’m saying is—don’t feel obliged. When a red wine has aromas that make you think of bouquet garni and Tudor gardens filled with chamomile lawns, sage borders and violets (thank you National Heritage for opening up historic gardens so I can sniff them) you can afford to be creative. What works with woody herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme?

Tomato. Rich, smooth, unctuous tomato sauce oozing over your cannelloni. Spread lovingly over pizza dough and fired until the crust blisters and blackens. Stirred into spaghetti with a blizzard of pecorino, baked with gnocchi and basil. A glass of bold red wine can work wonders with these dishes, and it’s canon too. I mean, how Italian do you want to be? How authentic does that sound?

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