Some people have food cravings; wine lovers, well, we have wine cravings, and what's for dinner depends on what goes best with our chosen wine.
Let's say it is the perfect day for a glass of Claret. While this style of wine can fall under the general category of red wine based on Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot, it is more specifically a red wine from Bordeaux, France. These wines can be fairly straight-forward in dark fruit and big tannin structure, or have more complexity in perfume and finish. This may depend on the age of the wine, its vintage, and the specific region of Bordeaux where it is made. So to cover these Claret styles, we'll categorize food pairings for each of them.
Food Pairings for Young, Simple Claret
Young and simple Claret wines are going to be easy on the wallet as much as they are on your palate. They can be medium to full-bodied. Merlot-based wines will be medium-bodied, and Cabernet-based wines will be full-bodied. They are typically full of fruit nuances both in aroma and taste, with some earthy undertones. The texture of the wine can be fairly smooth with slight tannin structure and short on the finish for those made with Merlot or big on tannin if it is made from Cabernet Sauvignon. So what do you pair with these wines?
For the Merlot-Based Claret
It's that time of year when everything is coming in season straight from the garden like zucchini, sweet red bell peppers and even some root vegetables. Roast these up with some onions and pancetta alongside a chicken seasoned with good olive oil, rosemary and thyme. If it is mid-week and you want an easy meal, just make your favorite burger, relax and recharge for the rest of your week. Your favorite meatloaf recipe will also make for a gratifying meal.
For the Cabernet-Based Claret
As mentioned, Cabernet-based wines will be fuller in body and texture, so you'll want to match that with your food. Just keep in mind that this is a wine from Bordeaux. While it is full-body, it's not the same as your California Cab, but slightly lighter. Just as with the Merlot-based Claret, you can still go for that burger. However, if you've got some extra time, how about roasted lamb? For pasta lovers, while you might automatically think of Bolognese sauce, try Stroganoff instead or even Carbonara. The cream will pair better than the acidic tomato-based sauces found in Bolognese and marinara.
Roasted veg with hearty mushrooms like Portabello and grated Parmesan make a great pairing for both Merlot and Cabernet-based Claret. If you like to go out when it is the season for mushroom-hunting, try a wild-mushroom cream sauce sautéed with onions and garlic and a touch of butter over pasta with some Claret.
Food Pairings for Complex, Aromatic Claret
Whether a complex and aromatic Claret is from a Merlot or Cabernet base, they will both pair with similar foods. For a great wine such as these, you might pay a little more, but it will be worth it. The best recommendations for food and wine pairing in this case is to have a historical glance at the region of Bordeaux. What are the traditional dishes served there? Food and wine of the same region are more than often a successful match!
A famous dish from this region is called entrecôte marchand de vin, which is a rib steak served with shallots sautéed in butter with herbs that is then made into a wine gravy (Use the same wine you will be drinking to cook with.). Lamb will also pair well, as will mushrooms, roasted, baked or made in a pan. Or try venison and other game meat with seasonal vegetables, lentils and other legumes.
Cheese and Charcuterie Pairings for Claret
While sometimes you may want to go through all the fuss of making a great dinner for a great wine, it can be just as pleasurable to make a cheese and charcuterie platter. Here are some suggestions if you're just looking for an excuse for a lovely picnic spread with fresh bread.
For cheese, the options are not all that complicated. Find a good Cheddar or Gouda. Even a smoked Gouda would be interesting. Look for cheeses that are aged and slightly dry. A creamy cheese does not pair well with Claret. The saltiness which comes from aged cheeses is what makes it work together. You can even try an Asiago or Parmesan if you're a little adventurous.
As for Charcuterie, try rillettes, a traditional French snack made from meat slow-cooked in stock and its own fat. It's best atop some toasts. Try some dried salami and thin slices of cured ham. All of these will go well with the cheeses too. Add some olives, figs and other favorite dried fruits and you'll have a great Saturday or Sunday afternoon picnic.
Food pairing for Claret can be as simple or complex as you want. Just go with what you might be craving using these suggestions as your guide.