Chianti Classico. Originally a medium to light-bodied red for every-day dinners. Now a somewhat finer wine experience after years of upgrading quality in these vineyards and wineries in Tuscany. Chianti Classico is now a medium-bodied red with great aromatic components and lovely, rounded flavors backed by just enough structure to make you want to drink more –with food, of course. What vintages? You can find 2008 on the market along with 2009. It’s OK to hold either one for a few years, but start sampling them now. (Many are under $20.) Food pairings include lightly sauced pasta, game birds and plain roasted meat.
Alsace wine for everyday: Remember these are the dry, white wines that are made to go with winter foods: pork, poultry, beef dishes, mild sausages, potatoes and other foods on the hearty (but not spicy) continuum. Whites include: Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Gewurztramer. Had dinner with Anne Laure Helfrich this fall, and was reminded how much I like this region. Her family’s wines are affordable, too, in the $15 range.
Chateau Musar: Lebanon’s most famous winery is more French in style, whether they use Bordeaux, Rhone or Lebanese grapes. Their vintage-dated Red “Musar” tends to be cabernet sauvignon with cinsault and carignan, ranging from spiced herbs to silken earth when you taste from 2005 back to 1999 ($50-$65). Or start where Musar begins: with their red “Hochar” wine ($28), a similar blend, with fruit and spice on the palate; 2009 is the current vintage. Not having had this in Lebanon, I’ll stick to foods I know for pairings: herbed stews and winter soups, perhaps lamb and poultry too.