Monday, May 6, 2013

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the New World Order

Things have changed. At least since the 1860s when the event known as Cinco de Mayo took place. It happened while the American Civil War was going on (smart timing at least), and an overly ambitious French emperor Napoleon III thought it would be a good idea to spread his empire into North America. He succeeded to a point. For a few years, a European ruler of Mexico was installed to run things in the name of the Empire, but eventually, all of this collapsed under its own weight. The actual date though, the "Fifth of May" celebrates the Battle of Puebla, when Mexican forces scored a very unlikely victory over the superior French troops. Granted it was just one battle, but it has stood to this day as a symbol of national and cultural pride, and provides us with a really great excuse to eat Mexican goodies and drink tequila and beer....   OK, not the smoothest of transitions, but this leads me to the events of the last few days.

Five Layer Hot Mexican Dip

Most people enjoy beer or margaritas with Mexican and Tex-Mex fair. Of course, they do go really well together. I was searching for something different though, and since I am a wine consultant, it was natural for me to look there for potential solutions. I mean, I myself have been drinking only beer or margaritas with Mexican food for many years!  So, I came up with a short list of wine suggestions, and this turned into an actual public tasting of these wines at the shop I work at. The tasting was aptly named "Wines for Cinco de Mayo? Yes WINES!" 

In the meantime, my wife and I were planning an elaborate Mexican inspired meal of our own at home, which we enjoyed on the celebrated date yesterday. I focused on a multi layered dip using "refried" black beans with chipotles in adobo, sauteed onions and corn with jalapenos, sauteed bell peppers, chopped Roma tomatoes, and melted cheese on top. Mashed avocado with lime, of course. This would seem familiar to most Americans, but everything was made more or less from scratch. My wife found a recipe from a local restaurant in the Boston suburb of Somerville called The Painted Burro : Vegetable Chiles Rellenos with Walnut Sauce. It took her a lot of work to make, and the results were well worth it. Every bite was interesting and complex. The two dishes worked hand in hand, with familiar Tex-Mex paired with a "New" Mexican dish. AND....there was no meat at all. I didn't miss it any more than I would miss meat if I was handed a delicious plate of pasta with red sauce.  But this brings us to that question: hmmm... what to drink?

Vegetable Chiles Rellenos with Walnut Sauce

My pick was, of all things, a French wine. The irony was not lost on me, as I turned the corkscrew. This is in fact the new world order I spoke of. French wine to celebrate a Mexican victory over French imperial troops! We just don't seem to worry about such things any more. The food and wine pairing must come first!

The wine we enjoyed was Remy Pannier Rosé d'Anjou. Yes a Rosé!  It goes extremely well with the savory, spicy, earthy, and cheesy flavors that Mexican cooking boasts. Rosé d'Anjou also has quite a history of its own. For centuries, it has been considered among France's best. The fact that it leans toward sweetness has caused it to lose some of its allure in recent decades, as global wine preferences have drifted towards dryness. I suspected that this anticipated sweetness might be just the thing with spicy food (as it so often is), and my wife and I were both pleasantly surprised at how supple, elegant, and refreshing the wine was. It was more of an off-dry rather than sweet in any overt way, and this extra residual sugar in no way interfered with the delicacy of the Rosé itself. I was reminded a bit of fine Provence Rosés, with the fresh strawberry and watermelon flavors. After not having had a Rosé from this region in nearly twenty years, Anjou's reputation was given a major boost at my house yesterday. It went incredibly well with the meal, and has been added to our short list for this summer's back yard wines.
The Wine of the Imperialists

It really IS a new world order.

--  Marc Soucy,  FWS


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