Friday, May 5, 2017

A Reprise: Cinco de Mayo in the New World Order

Cinco de Mayo: What Does It Have to do with Wine? 

Cinco de Mayo--and Mexican fare in general--is rarely if ever associated with wine. Beer, Sangria, and Margaritas are the go to drinks. Are there any wines that can be paired with Mexican food though? I tackled this subject seriously a few years ago. I hope you'll enjoy my muse through history, food, and wine.


You might Pair Whatever Wine You Like with Mexican, as long as the food's not too spicy,
or the wine not too high alcohol. Avoid throwing gasoline on a fire in other words.

That said, if you enjoy a true pairing, you can go a little deeper.


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, and an overly ambitious French Emperor Napoleon III thought it would be a good idea to spread his empire into North America. The United States was way too self-absorbed to do anything about it, so he succeeded for a while at least. For a few years, an Austrian ruler of Mexico was installed by France to run things in the name of the Empire, but eventually, all of this collapsed under its own weight. Cinco de Mayo does not however celebrate the end of French rule. It is not an "independence day" of any kind.

The actual date the "Fifth of May" celebrates the Battle of Puebla, when Mexican forces scored an 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....(don't forget the wine!)   OK, not the smoothest of transitions, but this leads me to the events of the last few days.

Fierce Mexican Rebels in Period Costume

My mission was to find an appropriate combination of food and wine for this challenging occasion. 

My wife and I were planning a Mexican inspired meal of our own at home, to be enjoyed this weekend. 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 pretty familiar to most Americans, so we had to look elsewhere as well to balance things out.

My wife has a great recipe: Vegetable Chiles Rellenos with Walnut Sauce; a "gourmet" New American spin on a Mexican classic. 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. We were eating vegetarian without even thinking about it.  But this brings us to that question:  hmmm... ...what to drink?   This was my wine challenge after all.

Real Food Pic: Vegetable Chiles Rellenos with Walnut Sauce

My choice was, of all things, a French wine. The irony was not lost on me, as I turned the corkscrew, and we toasted Napoleon III's Empire....as well as those brave Mexican rebels, of course. This is actually the "new world order" I spoke of. French wine to celebrate a Mexican victory over French troops! So France's influence in all this is (other than misplaced military zeal): The food and wine pairings must come first! Leave empire building to others!

The wine we enjoyed was Domaine des Nouelles 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 by definition has to be semi-sweet 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 and refreshing the wine was. Anjou Rosés deserve a reacquaintance. It went incredibly well with the meal, and has been added to our short list for this summer's back yard wines.

So...   Wine with Mexican food?
 
Wine of the Imperialists


      
                   ....It really IS a new world order.


Thanks for your patience :)
'Till Next Time

--  Marc Soucy,  FWS

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