There are three Tuscan red wines to try with different price points and complimentary food pairings of comforting winter dishes. January seems to be the month where we do more cocooning in our homes to avoid the snow and cold outside. Tuscan red wines lend themselves to those seasonal winter dishes like pizza, bolognese, or slow-braised beef brisket. Who doesn’t love a glass of Tuscan red wine to chase away the winter blues?!
My Tasting and Food Pairing Notes
Disclosure: The wines were provided to me as media samples. All opinions are my own.
Medium ruby in color. Aromas of red fruit, cherries, tobacco, herbs, spices, and earth. On the palate, medium(+) bodied, medium(+) tannins and acidity. Flavors of cherry, spices, tobacco, and earthy notes. A nicely balanced wine and perfect for every day.
Food Pairing: Pizza and Chianti for a can’t go wrong pairing. The acidic tomato sauce, earthy mushrooms, fresh herbs, pork sausage, and cheese heighten the shared flavors found in the wine. Two easy favorites for any day of the week. ((My favorite pizza dough recipe)
Medium garnet in color. Aromas of cherry, dried herbs, cedar, vanilla, clove, and licorice. On the palate, medium-bodied, medium(+) tannins and acidity. Flavors of cherry, raspberry, plum, dried herbs, cedar, licorice, and leather. The wine has a good structure and a lingering finish.
Food Pairing: I went for a bolognese with a minimal amount of meat (leftover pork sausage from the pizza), earthy lentils, and canned tomatoes. The wine’s herbal and licorice notes, acidity, and body were a lovely match with the lentil and sausage bolognese. The finishing addition of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the dish elevated the umami (savoriness) of the pairing. (recipe below)
Deep ruby in color with a hint of purple at the rim. Aromas of dark fruits, vanilla, oak, licorice, and spices. On the palate, medium(+) body, tannins, and acidity. Flavors of blackberries, bramble, black cherries, black plums, vanilla, licorice, and coffee. The mouthfeel is soft with a velvety texture and an overall good balance, structure, and a linger finish of dark fruit notes.
Food Pairing: The richness of the slow-braised brisket needs an equally full-bodied rich wine with a velvety texture. The cranberries in the sauce add a nice flavor component to match the fruit notes in the wine. The wine’s acidity and tannins keep the pairing in balance. (recipe below)
Sweet & Sour Braised Beef Brisket
- 1 4-lb beef brisket, flat cut
- 2 large onions, sliced
- kosher salt and pepper
- 1 12-oz bottle of lager-style beer
- 1 14-oz can whole cranberry sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 star anise
For the Sauce
- In a large bowl mixture whisk together the beer, cranberry sauce, ketchup, and star anise.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F
For the Brisket
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy dutch-oven ( I used a 5.5qt cast-iron Le Creuset) over high heat. Season the brisket with salt and pepper. Add the brisket to the dutch-oven and sear it on both sides until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a large plate.
- Add the sliced onions to the pot. Stir and sauté until they are softened and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Place the brisket on top of the onions. Add the sauce. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and transfer to the preheated oven.
- Bake for 3 hours. Let the brisket cool for 30 minutes before slicing. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and thinly slice across the grain.
- Spoon any fat from the sauce.
- To serve: place meat slices on a large platter and spoon the sauce over the meat.
Lentil & Sausage Bolognese
- 5+ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. mild Italian pork sausage
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 medium celery stalk, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped
- 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1½ tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 28-oz can whole plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano San Marzano are worth the extra cost for their sweet and tender flavor
- 3/4 cup French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)
- 1½+ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 13 oz. campanelle shaped pasta
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- fresh parsley, chopped as a garnish
- In a 12-inch sauté pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and onion, stirring and breaking up the sausage until the onions are just softened. Add the carrots and celery, stir to combine. Continue to cook until the sausage is browned and the vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add more olive oil if the pan gets too dry.
- Stir in the rosemary, sage, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 1 minute and then stir in the tomato paste. Continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes to slightly brown and incorporate the tomato paste.
- Add the can of tomatoes and 1½ cups of water. Using a wooden spatula break up the tomatoes. Stir in the lentils, 1½ teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue to cook at a low simmer for 40-60 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add more water if the pan gets too dry.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta and cook 1 minutes less than the package directions. Reserve a cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a large shallow serving bowl. Toss the pasta with the butter and add the lentil & sausage sauce, and cheese. Sprinkle with some of the pasta water to achieve your desired sauce consistency. Drizzle with a finishing touch of extra virgin olive oil and chopped parsley. Serve with extra cheese and freshly ground pepper.