Chicken Mole and Zinfandel

 Posted by on May 5, 2015
May 052015
 

Chicken Mole and Zinfandel

No margaritas? No problem! Cinco de Mayo celebrations pair well with wine too. And while there certainly are many refreshing white wines and bubbly sparklers that taste great with spicy Mexican favorites, I typically reach for a red with my favorite Mexican dish: chicken mole poblano.

The Dish: Chicken Mole

After living in Texas, it took me a while to come around to the Mexican food found here in the Northeast. Fortunately, even here, there’s always that one dubious-looking hole-in-the-wall spot with something delicious to offer. At my neighborhood Mexican takeout joint, that something is some truly marvelous mole. Now, I realize this pic doesn’t quite do it justice. Let’s be honest, it looks like a bowl of mud. And there’s so much mole that the poor chicken would appear to be drowning, but trust me, you want all that mole.

So, what is mole anyway? Mole can actually refer to a variety of sauces used in Mexican cuisine, but mole on an American restaurant menu most commonly means mole poblano, a rich, complex sauce featuring chili peppers, chocolate, and about 20 other tasty ingredients. I consider mole above my culinary skill level, so I never actually cook it, but it is certainly one of my go-to dishes on mexican restaurant menus.

The Wine: Cartlidge & Browne Zinfandel – 2010

I think it’s easy to be led astray with this pairing. The usual rules just don’t apply. Yes, this is a chicken dish, but white wines really aren’t the right fit. And, yes, it’s spicy, but even a Riesling or a classic bottle of bubbly doesn’t seem quite right for this rich, chocolate-based sauce. But Zinfandel is just about perfect. A rich, fruity Zinfandel holds its own with both the spice and the richness of the mole. And where to find a bold, fruity (and highly alcoholic) Zinfandel? Why, California, of course!

The Verdict: Hard to say (got a skunky wine). 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say if this was the right pairing for my beloved mole poblano. I had the rare but unfortunate experience of opening a “corked” wine, one that has experienced some spoilage thanks to a chemical found in the cork. It really is quite rare, but if you do come across a corked wine, it’ll smell a bit like a wet dog or a moldy basement. You’ll know immediately that something is off.

Though it won’t hurt you to drink such a wine, it probably won’t be particularly pleasurable either. If you come across a corked wine at a restaurant, just send it back. If you encounter one at home, you may just want to pour out the bottle and chalk it up to bad luck. Alternatively, you could try dressing it up in a creative way. I decided to make mulled wine from this bottle. There’s nothing a little cinnamon and honey can’t hide!

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