Thursday, February 18, 2016

Moroccan Food with Wine

By Liza B. Zimmerman

With its slow-cooked mountains of cous cous and long-simmered lamb- and fish-based Tagines--cooked at in conical pots--Moroccan food shows some of the most-sophisticated flavors in North African cuisine. As it is not primarily eggplant-, or yogurt-based, as are many other cuisines that hail from the Middle East, its wine pairing synergies will be different.

Use of fresh herbs, and citrus notes, can make many other cuisines of Middle East easier to pair with fresh, young white wines. Moroccan dishes, on the other hand, with their sultry, long-cooked flavors--and hints of dried fruit--need some reds that soft and corpulent.

A Chef's Take on Pairings
Moha Orchid had a tiny sliver of a Moroccan restaurant near Thompson Street a decade ago. The menu was simple and the menu curated but the flavors were always intense. He had a simple, primarily French and Moroccan wine list that worked well with the food.

He has since moved on from the West Village and opened a pastry shop Jolie Patisserie Jolie in Harlem, but still remains opinionated about the wines that work well with Moroccan flavors. Spicy French reds, such as Cotes du Rhones, Syrahs from various countries and regions and Bordeaux all work well with the intense flavors or a tagine--which generally features lamb, chicken or vegetables long-simmered on a bed of  cous cous.

Morocco has long had close ties with France and French reds tend to work beautifully with these foods. Voluptuous southern French reds such as Kermit Lynch's Cotes du Rhone would pair with a range of Moroccan dishes. Gigondas is another one of my favorite appellation that often makes rich and complex reds such as the Gigondas of Domaine Raspail-Ay, which is produced from primarily Grenache.

Balancing Sugar  and Spice
Moroccan food can feature dried fruit and even a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon on dishes such as Bastilla: which is a delicate pastry stuffed with pigeon in its native country but usually made with chicken stateside. Moha advises that if a dish has a lot of dried fruit in it, you may want to pair it with a drier wine as flavors will skew on the sweet side because of the fruits.

Once again classic, rustic and not-too-high in alcohol French choices, based primarily on Syrah and Grenache would work well. So might some simple Spanish choices. South African blends might also be up to the task as soft, but somewhat aggressive tannins will help to break down some of the fatty structure of the meats and bring out the slow-cooked flavors of the stew. One great choice with these dishes would undoubtedly be Rupert & Rothschild's Vignerons "Classique" an engaging blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has French structure with New World inspiration.

Some Chicken tagines might pair well with dry and well-balanced Sauvignon Blancs, whether they are from Bordeaux or the Loire Valley or even California. And some of that sugar-inflected Bastilla might do well with the Willm Gew├╝rztraminer Reserve 2012 from Alsace.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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