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?
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).
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).
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.
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)
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