Beef stew might strongly suggest to some a merlot-dominated Bordeaux from the right bank of the Gironde or Dordogne, but let’s explore that same variety with an Italian twist. While “Super Tuscan” can mean a number of different things, in this case it refers to the planting of the traditional Bordeaux varietals primarily on the west coast, an area known as the Maremma. The epicenter for the oldest estates producing the most sought after local expressions of these French grapes is Bolgheri.
For a contrasting pairing with a white wine, I recommend something that many probably don’t even think of in the context of whites—Sherry. From southern Spain in the areas of Jerez and Sanlúcar, white grapes are used to make a number of different styles that have enormous versatility in pairing with food. For the delectable beef stew MRE, choose a full-bodied oloroso, which is the product of the second pressing of the must that will subsequently undergo oxidative aging. Because you deserve it, treat yourself to a VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum or Very Old Sherry).
Both of the specific recommendations below are a bit on the expensive side. However, there’s a good chance that the reason you’re eating MREs in the first place is due to some apocalyptic event, so why keep the good stuff in your cellar for the dominion of the cockroaches? Better yet, determine which of your neighbors has the best wine cellar so you can turn your attention there first when the looting and anarchy begin.
Complementary Pairing: Bolgheri Merlot, Toscana, Italy
Try: Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masseto
[www.masseto.net] Having passed through several famous hands in the wine world with names like Antinori and Mondavi, the Tenuta dell’Ornellaia is now owned by the Frescobaldi family. Masseto is a monovarietal merlot from the vineyard of the same name planted in 1984. Each plot ages separately for a year in barrique of medium toast before being blended and returned to barrique for a year’s undisturbed rest prior to bottling.
Contrasting Pairing: Oloroso Sherry, Jerez, Spain
Try: Valdespino Don Gonzalvo Oloroso VOS
[www. grupoestevez.es] Having completed over 700 years with the Valdespino family, these precious soleras are now in the hands of local resident José Estevez. There will be a hint of sweetness here, but the predominant sensation will be rich walnut and toffee notes with a suggestion of mocha before entering a lengthy finish. Enjoy the relatively high alcohol content of the oloroso style as a means to forget the poor excuse for beef stew from your MRE.