The best wines for casseroles
December 2nd, 2011
03:17 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

There’s something about cold weather and large Pyrex baking dishes full of steaming stuff that just natively goes together, and while “large dishes full of stuff” isn’t exactly the most compelling way of describing, say, lasagna, I’m just going to go with it.

Plus, December is holiday party season and though that often mean hors-d’ouevres, once in a while it means dinner for 50. When that’s the case, if you’re the host, baked ziti (or moussaka, or forty blackbirds in a pie) starts to sound mighty appealing. Of course, those freezing, ravenous people you’ve invited over are going to want some wine to go with their dinner, right?

When it comes to cooking for a big group and making everyone really happy, the Italians nailed it when they came up with lasagna. That whole noodles-ragù-béchamel (or noodles-ricotta-tomato sauce-sausage, if you want to Americanize it) combo is hard to beat. The crispy edges at the sides of the dish are addictive, and the stuff is just dead-simple to make. And it goes great with red wine, ideally one with reasonable acidity and tannins to cut through all that richness.

Any substantial southern Italian red could do the trick, but a couple of good bargains are the plummy 2010 Cusumano Nero D’Avola ($11) and the powerful 2010 Feudi di San Marzano “Sud” Primitivo di Puglia ($12).

Moussaka isn’t all that different from lasagna as a pairing proposition, but it does give a nice excuse to delve into the world of Greek wines. Over the past decade or so there’s been an exciting boom in both quality and ambition in the Greek wine world, and some of the bottles coming out of the country right now are truly terrific. Plus, the Greek economy could use your help.

With this dish, and really with lamb of any sort, red wines made from the spicy, full-bodied Agiorgitiko grape are a great choice, like the peppery 2010 Gai’a Agiogitiko Notios ($13) or the robust 2009 Palivou Agiorgitiko ($15).

Turkey Casserole
Turkey casserole is by nature largely anonymous - at least I’ve never had one that made me jump up and say “Wow!” - but it also has that Zelig-like ability to turn up everywhere. That being the case, why not pair it with a wine that can supply some personality; as with some married guests, the lively, fun half will make the bland, boring half actually seem rather tolerable.

I lean toward the Rhône white varietal duo of Marsanne and Roussanne, with their stone-fruit notes and subtle florality. Two too look for: the vibrant 2010 Qupé Marsanne ($15), from California’s Santa Ynez Valley, and the juicy 2010 Mas Carlot Marsanne-Roussanne ($12), from southern France.

Taco Casserole
By which I mean the classic King Ranch Chicken Casserole, which is required eating for all Texans at some point during their lives; but let’s just say any casserole involving classic Tex-Mex ingredients. That means peppers (poblano, for instance), chopped green chiles, chile powder, cumin (it ain’t Tex-Mex without cumin), tortillas, jack cheese, sour cream, and so forth.

What you want is a wine that doesn’t mind a bit of heat from the spices, and that can handle the fat from the cheese/sour cream/etc. And you want red, because white with Tex-Mex just seems wimpy. Babcock’s spicy 2010 Under the Radar Syrah is a great choice ($14), and so is Bonny Doon’s complex, aromatic “Le Pousseur” Syrah ($20)

More from Food & Wine:

Fantastic Casseroles

America’s Best Tailgating Cities

Value Wines

Christmas Cocktails

Best Burgers in the U.S.

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Holidays • Sip • Thanksgiving • Wine

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Jay in Florida

    Nothing beats cold soup with warm beer. NOTHING!!!

    December 4, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  2. hamsta

    Didnt mean to get just pissed off that im stuck with ramen noodles and boones farm while the welfare nation has steak lobster and don perrion.

    December 4, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  3. Chet

    Mogan David Concord Grape wine has always been my favorite wine. Served well chilled goes with any food!

    December 4, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  4. OldBuffaloGuy

    Comments on here are amazing. It's a FOOD article, for heaven's sake. Not about politics, or the economy, but FOOD. Historically, casseroles are "peasant food" – using the ingredients at hand to create savory, satisfying food for people who worked hard and had limited means. But there's nothing low-class about it – some of the best-tasting food on the planet (like Boeuf Bourguignon) is from a casserole.

    December 4, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  5. hamsta

    i seriously doubt any of them were gay.they were all married with kids but leave it to california to claim elton john and liberache invented everything that makes ur life convenient.has anybody read the story of sodom and gammorra?ive been to the spirit world and back.the bible is fact.u can believe what u want to believe but i know what i know and there is a difference between fact and opinion.

    December 3, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  6. hamsta

    Just to prove my point they are teaching the kids in school today that a gay black man invemted the cotton gin and that a black man invented the light bulb and the sorry to say but white people invented all three even though they argue that it was either alexander graham bell or thomas edison that invented the telephone.wrong answer.eli whitney invented the cotton gin and thomas edison invented the light bulb.none of them were black.they must be washington carver a black farmer invented 300 things with peanuts but none of those three contain peanuts.

    December 3, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  7. hamsta

    Just to prove my point they are teaching the kids in school today that a gay black man invemted the cotton gin and that a black man invented the light bulb and the sorry to say but white people invented all three even though they argue that it was either graham

    December 3, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  8. The_Mick

    "That whole noodles-ragù-béchamel (or noodles-ricotta-tomato sauce-sausage, if you want to Americanize it) combo is hard to beat." +++++ Actually, the original -little more than a fancy mac-and-cheese- was easy to beat: that's why we have the Americanized version. And for many of us, replacing the sausage with ground beef-meat sauce and the ricotta with cottage cheese is a winner, too!

    December 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  9. hamsta

    hey bob if u google the name kelvin kaigler u will find im not the liar the main stream media including cnn lies to u on a daily basis.

    December 3, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  10. hamsta

    no kristen theres nothing off point.i can only afford mad dog 20-20 while nero is tickling his toes in marthas vineyard.bush knew how to live in his means and drink beer at home while on vacation.cnn mustve been talking about obama with the headline that reads end welfare for the wealthy cuz the rich man who employs me is drinking natural light while the welfare recipients drink crown royal.and my friend kelvin is guilty of being black and having a job.hes innocent of murder.they convicted him cuz of his hair.the media gave him the name dreads.everyone else called him kiwi.

    December 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  11. Kristen

    I think these posts have gone quite off point."ForReal" makes an excellent point. Interesting article and interesting wine suggestions. And everyone, please remember, eatocracy is supposed to be a relaxed, fun section that never takes itself too seriously. Some folks need to lighten up.

    December 3, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  12. tamara reina

    Wow let's all join you in the meeting room to eat of course.

    December 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  13. hamsta

    if u want proof that the mainstream media including cnn lies to u on a daily basis just google the name kelvin kaigler.

    December 3, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  14. hamsta

    i know why they named this blog eatocracy.its cnns attempt to spin the should be named hypocracy cuz they are hypocrites for teasing me with wine for dinner while im so broke i can only afford beer.seems kind of strange i see that guy buying merlot after paying for his steak with food stamps.after im done buying ramen noodles and beer for myself he gets steak with food stamps and merlot with unemployment while section 8 pays his rent and i pay for all of it.are u so sure his name is obama or is it nero cuz his welfare nation is spending me into the dark ages.

    December 3, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Bob

      From the looks of your posts, you have more than enough to drink.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  15. heather

    you have had enough

    December 3, 2011 at 7:18 am |
  16. Sam Rupani

    Good Morning.

    Some comments on Maharishi and Brahma about Parley ( End of time ).... there is no such time today.

    No Earth quakes, flood, water, poverty or anything else....

    Everything is a dream.... a bad dream.

    Life will go on and bills will paid. There will be poor and Rich. but I don't air will be gone and plane will fall from sky.

    Trains and Electricity will continue.... there is nothing wrong here...

    Everything is Constant in nature..... MIT will tell you. I gurantee you for 200 years there is no problems here.

    Planet will have tall buildings, Beautiful transportation systems, no problem. Everything was fiction.

    All photographs were illusion.

    There is last thing here in real is German invasion of America...... nobody knows what is going on here.

    But I promise you nature will not betray this planet.

    Now Again Germany.... till today it is fiction.... I don't know.

    I stop here.




    Sam Rupani

    Houston, Texas

    December 3, 2011 at 6:02 am |
    • Bob

      Do everyone a favor and get some help.

      December 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  17. hamsta

    This article is just cnns attempt to downplay obamas vacation at marthas vineyard.maybe thats why i can only afford mad dog 20/20 cuz i was able to enjoy merlot with bush drinking beer at home while on vacation

    December 3, 2011 at 5:24 am |
  18. ForReal

    Unfortunately, there are many people here who scoff at casseroles, yet remain uninformed as to what they are.

    If you like things such as cassoulet, Texas chili, or beef bourgignon, then you like casseroles. If you like Coq au vin, or mac 'n like casseroles. If you like slow cooked polenta or Boston baked beans, then you like casserole.

    See a pattern? Before you think of tuna surprise, you should probably define a casserole as 'a kind of food cooked slowly in an oven (usually in a dish with the same name)'. Or you can act like a 3 yr. old and say "casserole...eeew" .

    December 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Dorothy

      Like like like like like.

      December 3, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  19. Elisa

    I want to know what the casserole in the picture is!

    December 2, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Keirxi

      Ditto! Looks delicious!

      December 3, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • RuralTexas

      That's Frito Pie. One of the Major Food Groups in Texas.

      December 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
      • Steve - Dallas

        Right. And everyone knows you drink beer with Frito pie.

        December 3, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
      • Denise- RGV

        Frito Pie!! <3 It is a necessity for Texans. Yummy...

        December 6, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  20. awesome

    that's what i'm talkin' about

    December 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  21. marty

    casserole ? Next tile I dine in a trailer park I will remember this article. I am guessing the price limit for these wines is $3 / bottle. My dog eats better food than casserole.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Dave in Indy

      When you're going for an elitist vibe, you may want to check carefully for typos before clicking "post". Then again, I'm reasonably sure you can't be elitist when named "Marty".

      December 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Kasey

      Wow, what a stupid comment. You might want to learn what a casserole really is before you post something ignorant like this again. Grow up.

      December 4, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Denise- RGV

      Well next " tile" you are at the trailer park, try the frito pie! its' awesome

      December 6, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  22. jim

    If your unsure of which wine to serve for any given meal, don't serve wine. Better yet, have a variety and serve your guest what they themselves would like to drink!!

    December 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  23. Chris

    That's like what kind of diamonds to wear to match your skateboard.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  24. Edmund

    Casseroles–are you serious?

    December 2, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  25. Willow

    This whole idea that there are certain wines that should be consumed with certain foods in nonsense. You eat and drink what you like and ignore food connoisseurs; these are just fabricated rules made by food snobs.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Walker

      Yeah not really. Cookies and milk. Fries and catsup. Just Pairing food. Works with wine. You just don't know and are intimidated. They've been doing this for hundreds of years and wine has been considered a staple by all levels of society thru history. Put the Boones Farm down...

      December 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  26. Sherry

    Whoa. I bet you get all the girls.

    December 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  27. asrsadf

    The best wine to have with casseroles, is what ever wine is your favorite. This article is a hidden ad to sell these wines and nothing more. You are fooling no one.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Nope - some foods and wines truly enhance each other's flavors. It's not about being "proper" or snobbish - it's about making the most of what you have.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  28. Robert

    Um, I'd say skip the casserole and just drink extra wine. You don't need that unhealthy, unimaginative, uninspired food from the atomic bomb era.

    December 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  29. Bohannon

    Hardy Har Har @ Bristol. *was kinda cute though*

    December 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  30. Sunflower

    White Merlot goes with everything......

    December 2, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  31. bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

    I enjoy Mad Dog 20/20 with my favorite cow pie casserole.

    December 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • joe

      I like a nice bottle of Ripple myself with a nice possum caserole.

      December 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Che

      A cow has a pie? Never heard of that one. Hit me!

      December 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
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