Fragrant, robust, and hearty, Moroccan chicken stew offers a festival of flavors for the palate. Although there are endless variations to this tongue-tickling dish, most involve rubbing your chicken pieces with a combination of spices (turmeric, cumin, coriander, and paprika, for instance), then braising the chicken slowly in a broth with garlic and onions. Toss in some mixture of potatoes, pearled couscous, or rice, and you’re on your way to a one-pot feast.

Although your instinct might be to reach for a white wine, I find I prefer the accompaniment of a vibrant red to bring out the myriad flavors–specifically, a younger, lighter-bodied syrah from the Northern Rhone. Fresh and spicy, with a hint of earthiness, a supple syrah will stand up to the meal without overwhelming it.

Take the 2016 Christophe Pichon Saint-Joseph, for example. Made from grapes grown on granite soils, which helps to preserve acidity and brightness, this elegant, approachable syrah shows minimal oak influence and is relatively low in tannins and alcohol, making it an ideal match. If you want to go for something with a little more body, the 2018 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage manages to be lifted and lively while offering a fuller, darker-fruited profile. For a special treat, bring home a bottle of the 2018 Pierre Gonon Les Iles Feray from one of the region’s most revered producers–savory, medium-bodied, and gorgeously scented.

If you’d rather stick to white, well, the Northern Rhone has you covered there, too. Rich and aromatic, the white wines of the region tend to meld appealingly into the flavors of Moroccan chicken (more than complementing them), and these whites are an especially good idea if your recipe calls for a prominent fruit component (raisins, dried apricots, or preserved lemons are common ingredients).

The 2016 Jean-Louis Chave Selection Saint-Joseph ‘Circa,’ made with 100 percent old-vine roussanne, offers orchard-fruit creaminess along with an intense floral streak. Mostly marsanne, with about 20 percent roussanne, the 2019 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage Blanc is fermented in a combination of oak and steel, and it has more noticeable elements of citrus and herbs.

Of course, the wines of the Northern Rhone are just some of the options that will play nicely with your Moroccan chicken stew. (Did I hear someone say amontillado sherry?) Call or visit us at Paul Marcus Wines to discover a wide range of other choices to complete your repast.

If you don’t know Clos du Tue-Bœuf, you should. This esteemed Loire Valley estate, run by brothers Jean-Marie and Thierry Puzelat, is named in honor of the lieu-dit “Le Tue-Bœuf,” first mentioned as far back as the Middle Ages. The wines produced from that specific site were favored by nobles such as King Henry III of England and later the French King Francis I.

Amazingly enough, the Puzelat family itself can trace its roots in this area all the way back to the 15th century! Today, the Puzelat brothers show their respect for these ancestral lands by farming organically and crafting wines with zero oenological additions. That being said, these “natural” winemakers produce wines that are unbelievably clean–a true testament to their knowledge of the terroir and their know-how in the cellar.

Now part of the Cheverny AOC, the Tue-Bœuf lieu-dit (named vineyard) sits on the clay and flint soils that make up the south- and southeast-facing hillsides overlooking the Beuvron (a tributary of the Loire). The Puzelats augment their 10 hectares of estate fruit with grapes from the neighboring Touraine appellation. At Paul Marcus Wines, we’re currently featuring a number of white wines from Clos du Tue-Bœuf:

2018 Le Brin de Chèvre
Made from the obscure menu pineau variety–which almost disappeared due to the difficulty it has ripening–this chenin-like wine offers a bouquet of similarly obscure tropical fruits. Star fruit, dragon fruit, green papaya, and kumquat rind all make a debut here, and the glossy feel of the wine on the palate is reminiscent of quality Vouvray.




2018 Cheverny Blanc ‘Frileuse’
The name “Frileuse” means “little cold one” and references the frost-prone vineyard that sits at the very top of the Puzelat estate. The cuvée is made from a third each of fié gris (a historical name for a softer, pink-skinned clone of sauvignon), chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc. Expect Anjou pear, sweet meadow grass, and minerals. Open this one a couple hours before you serve it, so it can relax and show you all its colors.




2018 Romorantin ‘Frileuse’
Made from vines in the chilly Frileuse site that are as much as 110 years old, this is a dense and powerful wine with notes of almond, fennel, and orchard fruit. It will reward both those who wish to cellar it and those of us who have a little less patience–but please be kind, and decant it.





For a taste of this producer’s red wines, stop in to pick up either the 2019 ‘La Guerrerie,’ a blend of two-thirds côt and one-third gamay, or the 2019 ‘La Butte,’ a single-varietal gamay from 50-year-old Touraine vines.

I have a warm, soft spot for Cesanese d’Affile. This lesser-known red varietal from Lazio really resonates with me for a number of reasons. Cesanese has a particularly deep-red translation of soil to fruit, as well as an herbal-tinged flavor profile and a texture that strangely reminds me of a rustic pinot noir. Sounds delicious, right? It is. Think plums, pomegranates, and cranberries, combined with floral aromas of juniper and spice.

Cesanese is quite versatile at the table, able to stand up to heartier roasted meat dishes (think leg of lamb or porchetta) while also able to handle simpler fare like cheese and olives. You can put a little chill on it, too, if the weather warrants such a thing. I might even go out on a limb and say Cesanese d’Affile is one of the more versatile red grapes out there. This late-ripening varietal is equally at home with pizza, anything tomato-centric, garlic aioli, or just a hunk of cheese and a beloved companion.

Cesanese d’Affile thrives in the red, volcanic hills of Olevano Romano, a commune just southeast of Rome by about 25 or so miles. (There is also a distinct, larger-berried clone found in this region, known as Cesanese Comune, which doesn’t quite possess Cesanese d’Affile’s complexity or refinement, but might be used to add richness to a blend.) This is hillside and even mountainous country by some standards. The 450 meters of elevation and a wide diurnal temperature variation (the shift from daytime high to nighttime low) give these wines an incredible lift, both aromatically and on the palate.

My absolute favorite examples of Cesanese d’Affile come from Damiano Ciolli and his partner, Letizia Rocchi. The Ciolli family vineyards sit in a natural amphitheater with a southerly exposure and include seven hectares of Cesanese d’Affile, with some of the vines being close to 70 years old. They craft two incredible bottlings, both from 100 percent Cesanese d’Affile: the younger-vine, concrete-aged Silene and the old-vine, oak-aged Cirsium riserva. Silene and Cirsium are names of local wildflowers that grow abundantly between the vines. These wines are so honest and pure; they bring immense pleasure every time I drink them.



Speaking of undiscovered red varietals from Italy, we have some intriguing options currently in the shop:

2018 Vignai da Duline Schioppettino
From Venezia Giulia, this is a gorgeous wine with subtlety and elegance. Wonderfully black-fruited and earth-driven, with notes of plum and spice, it’s eminently drinkable, yet serious and thought provoking.

2017 Tasca Tenuta Regaleali Perricone ‘Guarnaccio’
This obscure Sicilian red grape, sometimes compared to barbera, deserves more attention. It leans toward the darker side of the flavor spectrum, with a bit more of an earthy edge.

2019 Chessa Cagnulari
A new addition to our inventory comes from Sardinia, and it offers an herbaceous, dark-fruited intensity buoyed by a chord of smoke-tinged salinity. Fire up the lamb and fennel stew!