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!