Comforting, baking spice-scented decadence
I came across this recipe for an Indian tomato soup from Sneh over at Food Republic about 4 or 5 years ago when I was just beginning to discover cooking for enjoyment. Her dish quickly became one of my favorites to make, as I was living on the East Coast at the time and it was a relatively cold winter. This dish, full of savory and spicy (baking spice, not heat spice) garam masala, is an incredibly comforting dish on a cold, rainy day. Each spoonful seems to warm you to the core and revitalize you, with the pepper and spice awaking all of your dulled senses.
Complimenting the warming sensation of the soup, this vegan Mushroom-Walnut Pâté from It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken is decadently rich and savory, with an almost overwhelming presence of rosemary, which I happen to love. I served this meal to some ardent carnivores and they could not get enough of it! One person described it as being a cross between meat-based pâté and holiday stuffing. Everyone was decidedly surprised when they discovered that the meal was vegan, especially the pâté.
With such fragrant and warming dishes, I knew that a punchy, spicey wine would be required to cut through all that fatty-richness and enhance the dining experience. While a handful of wines could pull this off, I went for one of my all-time favorite varietals: Nero d'Avola.
My Recommendation - Nero d'Avola
Nero d'Avola is a dark-skinned grape from Sicily that produces wine that is full-bodied and high in tannin, with moderate acidity and strong presence of fruit. Originally used as a blending varietal to increase the body and flavor of thinner mainland Italian wines, Nero d'Avola began to appear as single varietal bottlings in the early 1990s as consumers and industry personalities alike started to rediscover this delicious grape.
Often compared to New World Syrah for its similarly hot, Mediterranean growning conditions, Nero d'Avola is typically big, bold, and fruity, with even some elements of chili pepper and licorice.
Why this bottle in particular?
In Sicily (and throughout the world), Gulfi is regarded as the pinnacle of Nero d'Avola producers. Producing highly sought after single vineyard bottlings, Gulfi's wines vary drastically depending on which vineyard provides the fruit for the bottle, with some offering more velvetly reds and others offering more peppery flavors.
For me, the grapes from the Barone vineyard produce some of the best wine that Gulfi has to offer. Represented in their Nerobaronj bottles, wines from this vineyard's 40+ year old vines are full of red and black fruit, distinctive spice, anise, rosemary, and rotting wood. Full-bodied, with plenty of acidity and drying tannins, these are voluptuous and enticing wines that pair fantastically with rich dishes such as this one. The herbal, rosemary notes of the Nerobaronj really highlight the pâté, while baking spice aromas enhance the cardamom and clove in the shorba. The end result is a comforting, borderline hedonisticly rich meal that warms every part of you.
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