Wine and Comfort Food

By Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor, Food & Wine

Follow Ray on Twitter: @islewine

There's a big restaurant trend towards comfort food, which is a bit strange, since when has comfort food ever not been popular? The trend, to be honest, is more about the fact that now you can get $25 mac and cheese at the latest hipster faux-diner, when in the past you could only get $7 mac and cheese at a real diner—like the one that closed and was then taken over by food-crazed hipsters.

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But, regardless of economic, attitudinal or which-cultural-moment-is-it considerations, here are a few wine suggestions for the foods that have always made us happy.

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Mac and Cheese
You've basically got two ingredients here: cheese and pasta, and one of them has effectively no flavor. The other has flavor and fat (I've never had non-fat mac and cheese; I'm sure it exists, but the idea scares me). A full-bodied white with firm acidity would be great—Oregon Pinot Gris for example, like the lively 2010 Chehalem 3 Vineyards.

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Meat Loaf
For pointless entertainment, it's worth checking out the "meatloaf" entry on Wikipedia—who knew, for instance, that Romanian meat loaf is called drob and is made with lamb organs? And, one wants to ask a Romanian, why? But for less pointless entertainment, try pairing your meat loaf with a robust but not too tannic red, for instance a Zinfandel like the juicy 2009 Shenandoah Vineyards Special Reserve.

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Tuna Casserole
I have many childhood memories, not all happy, of tuna casserole. When done well, it's pretty tasty; when done poorly, it's goo with fish bits and chalky frozen peas, and some crunched up potato chips on top. But either way, I'd pair it with a dry rosé—you need some body and fruit to go with the cheese and cream of mushroom soup, but you don't want anything too tannic—the canned tuna will make it taste metallic. One good choice: the fragrant 2008 E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône rosé.

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Lasagna Or manicotti, or baked ziti, or ravioli with tomato sauce on top—you get the idea. Pasta, tomato, sausage (in an ideal world), cheese, some herbs. There's a world of medium-to-full bodied, relatively firm red wines that will pair nicely with any of these dishes, but why not go classic? Chianti—or any other Sangiovese-based Italian red, such as Vino Nobile de Montepulciano or Rosso di Montalcino—is a great choice. Try the 2008 La Maialina.

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Possibly the ultimate comfort food. Hard to say what wine would be ideal with it, or even why you'd want to drink wine with it, but you might as well celebrate the fact that you've retained an innocent joy in life and drink bubbles. Mionetto's Brut Prosecco would be a fine choice, particularly with the peach or tangerine flavors.

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