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Apr 18, 2006
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Wine With . . . Meatloaf

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas

 

"For really 'tis so fine," wrote the English poet, John Keats, praising wine's comforts:  "it fills one's mouth with a gushing freshness--then goes down cool and feverless.  You do not feel it quarrelling. . .no, it is rather a peacemaker."  That comforting quality is precisely what makes wine such an amiable companion for comfort foods.  To Keats in 1819, those included "the breast of a partridge [or] the back of a hare."  But for Americans nearly two centuries later, nothing is more of a comfort food than meatloaf.  So we wondered--which wines prove most "fine" with it?

 

We made our meatloaf with ground beef and pork.  Using about a pound of each, we blended in about half a cup of Pepperidge Farm bread stuffing, which we find a satisfying alternative to more traditional bread crumbs.  Our favorite meatloaf spices include rosemary, oregano, cumin, and garlic, along with a splash of Worcestershire or A1 Sauce.  We like to cook it in a commercial roasting bag, not only because of the convenience, but also because the bag keeps the meatloaf--as well as the potatoes and carrots we added--exceptionally moist and flavorful (these foil or heat resistant plastic bags are made by McCormick and Reynolds, and are available in most supermarkets).  Our loaf did, indeed, turn out moist and tasty--in a word, comforting.  With the meal, we sampled thirteen different wines.  All were red, and all came from recent vintages.

 

To our surprise, none of the wines was a poor match.  The lighter reds, including a couple of Pinot Noirs and a Chianti, proved sufficiently hearty, while the more robust ones did not seem overpowering.  The very best matches, though, were those with wines characterized by fresh (rather than dried) fruit flavors, and subtle rather than overt secondary characteristics.  That was because the satisfying juiciness of the dish emphasized the fruit in the wines.  It didn't really matter whether that flavor resembled cherries or plums, red or black berries; all that counted was its vitality, a quality accentuated by the sweet taste of the tomato catsup we served as a condiment.  (Only one of us used the catsup; the other, a purist, preferred the unadorned loaf.)  So at the end of supper, we concluded that Keats was right.  At least with this particular comfort food, "gushing freshness" is exactly what you want in a wine.

        

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

 

Grant Burge, Barossa (Australia) Shiraz "Barossa Vines" 2004

(Imported by Wilson Daniels)

 

 

 

 

  $14

 

Grant Burge, who comes from a long line of Australian winemakers, has crafted an intense, lush Shiraz bursting with plums and berries, spice, and oak.

To one of us, the wine accentuated the sweetness of the tomato catsup; to the other, the wine's ripe fruitiness was itself a kind of condiment.

 

 

Haras, Maipo Valley (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon "Character" 2002

(Imported by Remy Amerique)

 

 

 

 

 $20

 

From Chile's upper Maipo Valley comes this ruby red Cab whose enticing aromatics, rich flavors, and supple tannins are a good fit with the herbs, spices, and chunky texture of the meatloaf.

 

 

Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands (California) Pinot Noir "Twelve Clones" 2004

 

 

 

 $30

 

The relatively cool temperatures and low rainfall of California's Santa Lucia Highlands seem to be well suited to Pinot Noir cultivation--at least in the hands of the winemaking team at Morgan.  With delicious black cherry flavors and barrel spice, the wine's silky texture finds a winning counterpart in the soft, moist, fragrant meatloaf.

  

 

Quara, Cafayate Valley (Argentina) Tannat 2004 (Imported by A. V. Imports)

 

 

 $12

 

From vineyards located 5000 feet above sea level in Argentina's beautiful Cafayate Valley, this Tannat (a relatively obscure grape native to Southwestern France) yields a wine with spiciness and bursts of blackberry fruit.  Its uncomplicated character and affordable price tag are as comforting as the meatloaf itself. 

 

 

   

 

Two Angels, Lake County (California) Petite Sirah "Shannon Ridge Vineyard" 2004

 

 

 

 

  $26

 

Our taste buds were flooded with the essence of blueberry jam and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate; then equilibrium was restored with the satisfying swoosh of acidity so typical of Petite Sirah.  The grapes come from vines growing on steep slopes in rough volcanic soils, and the wine is packed full of fruit flavor.