What do holidays, sweet
treats, and some of your favorite wines have in common? It’s a quality that may
not pop into your mind immediately, or at least until I mention it – it’s the
cozy, rich, toasty aromas of warm baking spices.
Just like you, when pumpkins become ubiquitous and the Halloween
decorations appear in the stores, I begin thinking about the holidays. Thus,
this post about the spicy goodness in some red wines.
Have you ever participated
in a wine tasting, and as soon as certain red wines are poured and passed, a
collective “mmmmm” arises from the group? That involuntary sound of
pleasure is exactly what we’re talking about here. The smell of cinnamon,
cloves, cardamom and nutmeg are all included in this collection of spices that
evoke comfort and sweetness, cool weather, sweaters, family and friends.
Another name for these holiday
pantry staples? Oh yeah – SUPER SPICES. Each of them brings their own nutrient
goodies to the table, but among them are Vitamin K, fiber, manganese, iron,
calcium, fiber and more! A perfect tiny package: aromatherapy, spicy flavors
and good-for-you too!
To make these spices even
more interesting, warm baking spices smell sweet as well as spicy. Don’t
believe me? Try adding a quarter teaspoon to your oatmeal tomorrow morning
without the sugar. The oatmeal will still be full of spicy sweetness we crave.
Humans crave sugar. As an
article by Harvard Professor Daniel E. Lieberman, puts it, “Humans are designed
to crave sugar, store it and then use it!” So, it’s not surprising that we love
the smell of warm baking spices on a cool morning, cookies and cakes filled
with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg and a glass of wine full of spicy,
juicy, fruitiness!
I get SO excited about
things we can add to our food that make it taste better and be better-for-us.
But, back to the wine… There are many different varietals that are rock with
the aroma and the taste of the holidays.

Not wines that are
artificially flavored – I’m talking about the natural smells and flavors that
develop when wine is made.
Here’s a really good wine
word to learn: one that explains why wine smells and tastes like spices, fruit,
wood, etc. Stereoisomers are the different configurations of the same chemical
compound – that is created by yeasts, fermentation, or influenced by oak or the
lack of oak used in making a wine.

Hey! The best news is that
you don’t have to wait for the holidays – you can enjoy these wines year
round.  Two of my favorite varietals,
(grapes are called varietals instead of variety), and a couple of examples are
listed below, along with a recipe for one of my favorite seasoning mixes –
incorporating holiday spices in a savory-sweet way!

Syrah or
– Yes, it’s the same grape, grown the world
over, but wines from the Northern Rhone and wines from Australia especially
seem to capture the red spicy goodness.
Grenache or
– Native to Spain, this red wine smells and
tastes like candied fruit, with a dash of warm baking spices. What could be
better? Both France and Spain make yummy examples of a spicy Grenache wine.
Want to enjoy some warm
baking spices in a glass? Try these winners:
Garnacha about $13 from World Market
Spicy, intense rich
blackberries appear when you smell this wine. A perfect Spanish pairing for a
black pepper sauced Portabella mushrrom
Reserve Rouge about $11 from Total Wine
Fresh Fruit with jam and
spices make a blend worth trying with any bold flavored veggie dish like this
awesome stuffed pepper from the Friday Four. This one is a blend of Grenache, a
little Syrah and Mourvedre – another grape from Spain.
Lehmann Portrait Shiraz about $14 from Total Wine
If you like big, bold jammy reds this is your wine.
Full of spice, pepper and smoke, this Shiraz can stand up to any holiday roast
you throw at it. For veggie lovers, try this incredibly good Spanish AlmondCaper Sauce on roasted veggies.
Bridlewood Red Blend 175 about $10 from Costco
Need something to serve at
the summer barbeque? How about when everyone heads to your house over the
holidays? This wine provides your answer. What’s wrong with a super taste of
spices, berries and cherries and a great price point? This is one to try now,
and buy for later in the year.

African Spice Dip – Dukkah 
cup salted peanuts
 (almonds or macadamia nuts may be used as well)

Tsp ground ginger

Tsp ground nutmeg

Tsp ground cloves
Tsp ground cardamom 

Tsp ground cinnamon

Tsp chili powder
Salt to taste
the nuts to a coarse powder in a mortar, blender or food processor, then add
the ground mixed spices, chili powder and a little salt to taste.
with Goat Cheese topped Apple Slices. Use for a rub on Chicken,
pork or fish, use as a “dip” for fresh fruit like Apples or Pears, or
serve it with Crusty Bread and Olive Oil.

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