short ribs: good yet cheap braising wine
I'm making braised short ribs for Christmas day. I need a recommendation for a good, cheap wine to braise them in. I was thinking that a big Italian red would be good, but am open to suggestions. Also, should I serve the same wine with dinner that I cooked the short ribs in?
I'd appreciate any feedback. Thanks.
I'd start with the meal and work backwards. For example, if the braising ingredients and side dishes were Italian (flavoured with garlic and rosemary, served on a bed of polenta), I'd lean toward an Italian wine. That said, Côtes du Rhône and nearby appellations produce some of the most versatile wines around: good fruit and acidity, not too sweet or tannic, usually not heavily oaked -- all of which are desirable qualities for a braising wine.
Unless you're feeling flush, choose a fine version of a wine for the table and a more modest version of a similar wine for the pot. For example, braise your ribs in Perrin's La Vieille Ferme but pour a Côtes du Rhône-Villages or a Gigondas or Vacqueyras.
Third. Carswell suggestion of an inexpensive Rhone wine is a good one. I've used the Perrin he suggests rather often in braised dishes, or in red sauces for pastas.
Corrected: Just read zin1953's suggestion, so I guess that's a Fourth.
The use of an inexpensive Zin is good (Ravenswood Vintners Blend) and then
a more expensive Zin for drinking is also good.
I do short ribs braised in red wine probably once every couple months, and have experimented with the wines I've used - generally, I've found that it's not necessary to serve the same wine, but usually stick with the same varietal. Since I usually reduce two bottles of the wine by half before braising, the wine's structure has already changed enough that sticking with the same with wine to pour really doesn't make much sense cost-wise (for my budget at least, assuming you care what you're pouring). Depending on your recipe, you probably also have a lot of aromatics and couple tbsps of tomato paste, which further adds acidity to the braising liquid and resulting sauce.
That said, I've used a chianti and several cabernet sauvignons from my local Costco (all in $8-20/bottle range) with good very results.
Carswell is absolutely right -- start with the meal and work backwards!
All sorts of wines would be perfect for braising short ribs, BUT since the flavors of the wine will be infused into the meat, you will want to serve something similar to compliment it (e.g.: a Côtes du Rhône in the dish, but a Gigondas or other "higher" quality southern Rhône; a moderately priced Zinfandel in the dish, and a top-notch Zin on the table; etc., etc.).
I read an article a few months ago--NY Times/Cooks Mag??--where they tested wines of various prices to be used in cooking. Turned out the cheaper wines gave better flavor in the opinion of all the tasters....all those rated the highest, both red and white, where under $10. All from me.
It varies but I have found sometimes when I opened a wine I did not care for, it would work very well in the pot. A Baron de Rothschild Cab Sauv I wanted to try tasted a bit smarmy in the glass, but still made a wonderful, fruit-and-mineral accented Coq au Vin. The crimson crust of color on the meat was superb.
Cab's not even a varietal they tell you to use for the CaV recipe! But it proves two things - you can experiment, AND less-expensive drinking wine can be far from 'bad' in any sense. In fact following the 'wine type rules' may even sometimes let you down. Remember -it was the peasants who "make do and get by' that created all the Italian & French classics.
To add to that, it's perfectly acceptable to cook with reds that you've let go for a few days (or longer - showing some oxidation.) And just like soup stock, unfinished wine can be frozen for future cooking use. You aren't going to harm what's going into the pot either way. - far from it! The magic process of heating & cooking will still bring forth the wine's beguiling flavoring properties. Just go for it & have no fear.