The following is a part of a guest series authored by Lauren Gutshall on discovering new wines and beers.
I have always gravitated towards dark beers and hearty red wines. I’ve come to appreciate white wine and lighter ales – particularly during the spring and summer months – but I will always be most at home drinking in the richness and depth of darker, heavier libations.
As the weather gets warmer it’s natural for me to gravitate towards the lighter, sweeter drinks that help quench the thirst and break the sweat, but there are still days I want to partake of something a bit heavier. Those cabs and stouts that I talked about several weeks ago are too much for a hot day, but luckily, we have porters and tempranillos that perfectly fit the bill.
Porters and tempranillos are the gentler relatives of stouts and cabs. They rely on their suppleness rather than their bite. And they are delicious.
Most people recognize porters and stouts as styles of beer, but what’s the difference?
Porters actually came first, and in many ways, fathered stouts. Porters date back to 18th century Britain and began in pubs as a blend of lighter pale ales and dark old ales. Porters range from dark brown to black but are translucent — unlike stouts, which tend to be opaque.
Porters are robust and malty with very little hop bitterness. They tend to be medium to fuller bodied beers that range in flavor from deep roasted malt to tobacco smokiness. Flavored porters are becoming increasingly common, but even without brewery additives, porters tend to have strong notes of chocolate and licorice. Milder than stouts, porters have a hint a sweetness.
The perfect wine counterpart to the light, yet rich flavors of a porter is the tempranillo (tem-prah-NEE-yoh). Tempranillo is one of my favorite wines. It is a delightful, rich and inviting red from Rioja, Spain. As much as I enjoy big Bordeaux blends and California cabs, I remain partial to Spanish wines – both red and white – probably because I started to develop my palate when I studied in Barcelona a decade ago.
Tempranillo is a lush wine; it’s not as bold and spicy as malbec, and not as strong as a syrah, Although it is aged in oak, tempranillo doesn’t take on overly woody characteristics; it has a round, juicy berry flavor. Underneath the berries, you find hints of tobacco and leather. Like a porter, tempranillo can be dominated by coffee, licorice, vanilla, and chocolate. It can seem unpretentious and unassuming, but it is warm and sumptuous, and its dry finish belies just a hint of sweetness, just like those rich porters.
Tempranillos and porters are both incredibly versatile. While they are fantastic on their own, they also give you the ability to experiment with food pairings. They can go with everything from breakfast (kegs and eggs, anyone?) to dinner. They pair just as well with hamburgers as they do with steaks. They are light enough to go with crab or grilled seafood and smoky enough to pair with barbecue. If you’re just beginning to exploring food and drink pairings, porters and tempranillos offer great starting points because they are so adaptable.
Robust tempranillos and porters both burst with flavor. They are velvety and inviting, but because they aren’t nearly as strong as stouts or cabernets, they make great springtime beverages for those of us who have trouble letting go of our dark beers and deep dry reds when the weather gets warm.
- Founders Brewing Co. Porter
- Old Forge Brewing Co. Porter
- Bodegas Dios Ares Crianza 2008
- Francois Lurton El Albar Barricas 2009
“Sunday School” returns next week with another look at beer and wine. Have a question for Lauren? Submit it in the comments below or contact me.