When meat is cooked in red wine, even the humblest cut becomes silky and rich with flavor. Dishes like braised pork shoulder, or the two French classics boeuf Bourguignon and coq au vin, demand a wintry day and a sturdy wine. Retailers will tell you that the bottle to cook with and serve can often be a well-crafted, value-oriented quaff, or something grander.
Boeuf Bourguignon, a beef stew that originated in the Burgundy region of France, begins with beef browned in salt pork or bacon fat, then cooked low and slow in red wine. Carolyn Kemp, co-owner of Vintages in Belmont and Concord, recommends cooking with a bottle from Languedoc in southern France, a 2012 Luc Pirlet "Les Barriques" Reserve Pinot Noir ($12.99). On the table, she suggests a 2012 Francois Raquillet "Chamirey" Mercurey ($25), which she describes as "a satisfying pinot noir that displays Burgundy's ability to convey dark and somber earth tones through medium-bodied, juicy fruit."
Howard Rubin also turns to France for the Bourguignon. The general manager of Bauer Wine & Spirits in the Back Bay would serve a 2010 Domaine du Pere Caboche Chateauneuf du Pape ($24.99), full of cherry fruit and background aromas of wood smoke.
The wine director at Southborough's Tomasso Trattoria & Enoteca and the adjacent shop, Panzano Provviste & Vino, recommends a 2012 Tenuta Agricola Castel Sallegg "Bischofsleiten" ($17) for both simmering and sipping. Shaun Snow's pour, made from a rare Northern Italian varietal called schiava gentile, offers a light, bright palate.
All three retailers choose Italian wines for braised pork shoulder. Snow suggests a 2010 Salcheto Chianti Colli Senesi ($17), made from sangiovese, canaiolo, and mammolo grapes. Its acidity cuts through pork fat, he says. Tuscany is also top of mind for Rubin. "For the braise, a simple Chianti would bring out the pork's flavors and add some black cherry and Tuscan spice." He recommends Tomaiolo Chianti Classico Reserva ($11.99). Kemp thinks a 2010 Tommaso Bussola "Ca' del Laito" Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso ($25), with complex flavors of dried grapes, works splendidly for cooking and drinking.
Rubin recalls the late Julia Child insisting on using a French country quaff for her coq au vin and thinks that's spot-on. He recommends a 2012 Les Darons Languedoc ($12.99) a blend of grenache, carignan, and syrah for simmering. Snow turns to Lombardy, Italy, for nebbiolo-based 2009 Nino Negri "Quadrio" Valtellina Superiore ($16), with delicate berry and floral notes. "The finely textured and elegant tannins will work beautifully in accompaniment to the umami notes of mushrooms [in the dish]," he says. Kemp also loves nebbiolo, and recommends a 2011 Produttori del Barbaresco ($19.99) from Piedmont. "It's an infinitely versatile chameleon at the dinner table," she says.
In an ideal life, there's wine for the pot, wine for the table, and a glass to reward the cook.
Bauer Wine & Spirits, Back Bay, 617-262-0363; Panzano Provviste & Vino, Southborough, 508-485-8884; Vintages, Belmont, 617-484-4560 and Concord, 978-369-2545.