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).
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’re a Seinfeld enthusiast, you might very well remember Kramer’s passionate description of paella: “Oh, it’s an orgiastic feast for the senses … a festival of sights, sounds, and colors…” To be sure, this fragrant, flavorful rice-based mélange remains one of Spain’s most recognizable and revered culinary treasures.
Paella a la Marinera being prepared over an open wood fire
Pairing a wine with this savory delicacy can be a bit tricky: Choose a bottle too reserved, and it will get lost in the forest of flavors; choose something too robust, and you’ll drown out the dish’s complexity and nuance.
Of course, the key to determining the proper bottle for your “orgiastic feast” is distinguishing which variation of paella you’ll be enjoying. The term paella merely refers to the expansive, short-rimmed, gently rounded pan that is used to prepare the dish, customarily warmed over a wood fire. To make paella, you’re looking for the largest pan surface available, so that most of the rice makes contact with the heat. You’ll also need a variety of rice (such as bomba) that is particularly absorbent, one that gleefully soaks up the myriad flavors and aromas.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the various paella adaptations and their corresponding wine alternatives (all available at Paul Marcus Wines).
This classic, saffron-infused version of paella is the most traditional variant, usually including some combination of chicken, rabbit, duck, beans, peppers, and garlic. Earthy and aromatic, with savory and spicy notes, mencía, a red grape most commonly from Galicia in northwest Spain, would be a wonderful partner with this full-flavored meal. (You’ll want to avoid anything overly tannic.)
For an introduction to this grape, try the Valdesil Valederroa, an appealingly simple yet engaging wine, aged in stainless steel and offering bright red fruit and supple tannins. For something with a bit more gravitas, the Lousas cuvée by Envínate, from the slate soils of Galicia’s Ribeira Sacra region, is a juicy and lifted mencía, yet also boasts considerable depth and minerality.
Another worthy choice is the Eidos Ermos from star producer Luis Anxo Rodriguez Vazquez. A vibrant field blend of indigenous red Ribeiro grapes, it’s lower in alcohol and tannins, yet, with its dark complexion and relatively lighter body, is full of energy and finesse. You can also go with a richer white wine as well–something like the Viña Gravonia or even the Viña Tondonia from esteemed Rioja producer Lopez de Heredia. Aged in barrel and fined with egg whites, these standout wines, based on the viura grape, are two of Spain’s most sought-after whites.
Also known as seafood paella, this rendition typically offers flavors that are a bit more restrained and usually includes some blend of clams, mussels, shrimp, and squid. Anytime you’re enjoying shellfish, the white godello grape leaps to mind–clean and refreshing, but with a bit of texture and intensity. Valdesil’s Pezas Da Portela godello is one of great vitality and vigor, having seen a bit of skin contact and six months of aging on the lees in barrel.
For something a little lighter and crisper, try an albariño from Granbazán or Do Ferreiro. Boasting albariño’s customary acidity and salinity, these wines are fleshed out by a bit of lees aging. You can also look to the Basque Country and go for a racy txakolina, blanco or rosado, from Ameztoi–wines that are slightly effervescent and supremely palate-cleansing.
Canary Island whites featuring the listan blanco grape would also work well here. At its best, this grape offers a blend of power and elegance normally associated with white Burgundy–both Suertes del Marqués and Envínate proffer top-notch examples of listan blanco’s capabilities.
Containing both meat and seafood (and often including chorizo or a similar-type sausage), paella mixta partners well with a younger (crianza) Rioja red, such as Lopez de Heredia’s Viña Cubillo. A blend of roughly two-thirds tempranillo buttressed by garnacha, mazuelo, and graciano, this Rioja sees used American oak, but magically retains a freshness and energy that makes it sing with such a heady dish.
Canary Island reds from Suertes del Marqués and Envínate, based on the listan negro grape, might also fit the bill. These wines are dark-fruited and bursting with smoke and spice, thanks to their volcanic provenance. Even a Canary Island rosado, such as La Araucaria by Dolores Cabrera Fernández, would impress with paella mixta–tart, brambly, and exotic, this wine has enough going on to match the wild flavors of the dish.
This “black rice” variation, which is bathed in squid or octopus ink, offers bold, brash, and concentrated flavors. While many of the above wines would succeed here, you can also try to balance the intensity of the dish with something refreshing and purifying. Say, the Avinyó Reserva Brut Nature Cava, a dry, focused, and snappy sparkling white made from xarel-lo and macabeu. A still xarelo-lo, like the Desig from Mas Candi, can deliver both the acidity and the weight necessary for such a rich creation.
Don’t Forget Sherry
Finally, adventurous paella lovers might turn to the fortified wines of the Jeréz triangle. Drier, lighter sherries biologically aged underneath a layer of yeast offer the perfect salty tang for seafood paella–try the Lustau Fino del Puerto Gonzales Obregon or La Cigarrera Manzanilla. For paella valenciana, the amber-hued Colosia Amontillado steadies its briny tinges with nutty overtones. For the heaviest versions of paella, you can reach for an oloroso sherry like El Maestro Sierra Oloroso, which ages oxidatively for 15 years in solera and, though still dry, offers richness and complexity.
For further suggestions about paella pairing, please visit us at Paul Marcus Wines. We’ll be happy to help! Or if you’d like to see further Prickly Pairings, head over to our “Pairings” page.
Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our regularly scheduled wine programming to bring you this special report: August is National Goat Cheese Month! Of course, here at Paul Marcus Wines, we always jump at the chance to promote the most famous of all culinary pairings: cheese and wine!
In order to do so, we enlisted the help and expertise of the good folks at Market Hall Foods. (A big thank you to Sara and the cheese specialists at Market Hall, who showcased a variety of goat cheeses from France, Italy, and Spain.) Although this selection focuses on European cheeses, rest assured that there are also many delicious and artisanal goat cheeses produced locally and throughout the U.S. So many goat cheeses from which to choose, with so little time!
To complement this lovely cheeseboard, we selected a wine for each offering. When choosing a wine to pair with any cheese, the most important factors are the primary ingredients (goat, cow, sheep) and style of preparation (fresh, blue, washed, aged, etc.). For stress-free pairings, be sure to ask your cheesemonger which style of goat cheese they recommend, as the selection will most likely vary from day to day. And without further ado, let’s dive in!
Goat Cheese: Cevrin with Herbs
Produced in the foothills of Piemonte, Italy, this fresh goat cheese is primarily a goat’s milk cheese, blended with smaller amounts of cow’s and sometimes sheep’s milk. Light and creamy, the inherent freshness and primary flavors of Cervin make it the perfect vehicle to pair with fresh herbs from the region.
Wine to pair: A vibrant, crisp, and tangy white wine is a great option to pair with fresh goat cheese. Our pick is the 2018 Cincinnato Castore bellone from Lazio. Crisp and bright, with no oak and a briny, refreshing finish, this Italian white will cut through the creaminess of the cheese and complement its fresh herb finish.
Goat Cheese: Fleur de Ré
This artisanal goat cheese comes to us from France’s Loire Valley. A tangy, creamy example of a bloomy-rind style of cheese, it’s coated in a very thin layer of ash before it undergoes aging, or affinage. It is accompanied by a very light sprinkle of fleur de sel from the Île de Ré, located off the west coast of France near La Rochelle. The use of both vegetable ash and fleur de sel enable this little puck of goodness to ripen more slowly and gracefully. A perfectly ripe Fleur de Ré will often exhibit complex notes of salt, earth, and fresh hay, with a noticeable creamy tang on the finish.
Wine to pair: A crisp, mineral-driven sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley is a great choice to pair with this bloomy-rind, ash-covered style of cheese. Our top pick is the 2018 Sylvain Bailly Beaucharme Quincy. The appellation of Quincy is located southwest of Sancerre, and although less well-known than its famous neighbor, the wines from this appellation display the drive and tension that make it a textbook Loire Valley sauvignon blanc.
Goat Cheese: Truf di Capra
If you like Brie, then you must try Truf di Capra, an indulgent bloomy-rind, extra creamy Italian cheese produced in the foothills of Piemonte, Italy. This special soft cheese includes morsels of black truffle throughout, adding richness and earthiness. The addition of cow’s milk cream also ups the creaminess factor substantially.
Wine to pair: Extra creamy and rich cheeses (like Brie, Camembert, and Truf di Capra) have a high fat content, which translates to a rich mouth-coating feel on the palate. A great wine to pair with our Italian Truf di Capra is the NV Crémant du Jura Brut from Xavier Reverchon. This high-quality Crémant is composed of chardonnay, pinot noir, and a touch of savagnin. Dry and bubbly, with just a hint of hazelnut and biscuit, this elegant and zippy Crémant offers the underlying acidity to cut through the richness of the cheese and complements the earthy and unctuous qualities of Truf di Capra.
Goat Cheese: Bleu de Chèvre
Bleu de Chèvre is unusual in that most blue-veined cheeses are produced from cow’s milk. Not to worry, as this example, produced by happy French goats, is delectable! In addition to the creamy texture and decisive nutty sweetness often found in blue cheeses, the use of goat’s milk imparts a bit of tang on the finish.
Wine to pair: Blue-veined cheeses often display bold and, to a varying degree, salty and pungent flavors. Both red and white wines will pair nicely with this style of cheese. However, in each case, you’ll want to select a sweet wine with bold flavors. If you opt for a white wine, a sweet late-harvest wine is a top pick. Think Sauternes, or a late-harvest example from Alsace or Germany. To switch things up a bit, we’ve selected the Cornet et Cie Banyuls Rimage from the south of France. This fortified sweet red wine (similar in style to ruby Port) is composed predominantly of grenache noir. It is sweet and fruit-driven, with intense berry flavors and just a whiff of damp earth and black tea.
Goat Cheese: Garrotxa
This semi-hard, aged goat cheese hails from the Garrotxa area in Catalonia, Spain. It is a region world-renowned for the high quality and unique flavor profile of its goat’s milk. The exterior is most often covered in a hard outer casing of gray mold. Stick to the interior portion of Garrotxa, and you’ll be rewarded with a creamy cheese reminiscent of damp earth, nuts, and dried herbs, with a slightly salty finish.
Wine to pair: A medium-bodied white wine, preferably of the Iberian variety, is our suggestion for Garrotxa. The 2017 Metrick albariño, from California’s Edna Valley, is a great choice, as it exhibits the classic characteristics of the variety and style of wine, namely a dry, unoaked wine with sublte hints of mineral and yellow stonefruit. Although not as high-toned and bracing as some Spanish or Portugese examples, its more generous structure makes it an ideal match for this hearty cheese.
Happy National Goat Cheese Month from Paul Marcus Wines! We’ll see you at the shop.
Rich, lively, and pungent, a first-class pesto sauce is among the true delights of Italian cuisine. Yet, its bold, intense flavors– salty, floral, bitter, and slightly creamy–can make wine pairing a challenge. To make matters more difficult, pesto sauce is prepared raw, which means that there is no use of heat to help mellow the flavors. With all of that going on, the last thing you need is an oaky or overly fruity wine to spoil the fun.
The most traditional style, pesto alla Genovese, comes from the Ligurian coast and dates back at least 150 years. This classic recipe always includes the exact same seven ingredients: fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, Pecorino cheese, Parmigiano cheese, and sea salt. Of course, there are numerous variations (any of which might be considered a capital offense in Genoa), but this simple combination (customarily crushed with mortar and pestle) is perhaps the most time-honored. (There is one particular variant, sometimes referred to as pesto alla Portofino, that adds crushed or pureed tomatoes to the mix and is certainly worth investigating.)
Pairings for Pesto alla Genovese
For pesto alla Genovese, one of the first varietals that leaps to mind is vermentino. Usually quite dry and boasting a vibrant saline quality, vermentino doesn’t get in the way. It’s crisp, refreshing, and often boasts a delicate citrus note, helping to cleanse the palate.
In keeping with the dish’s Ligurian roots, look for vermentino (and the closely related pigato) from coastal Ligurian appellations like Riviera Ligure di Ponente and Colli di Luni (which overlaps into Tuscany). Another neighboring contender is the sleek, bright, subtly fruited Gavi, which is made from the cortese grape and originates in Piemonte, just north of the Ligurian border. At Paul Marcus Wines, you can find the bracingly fresh vermentino Colli di Luni from Giacomelli, along with the ripe but balanced Gavi Masera by Stefano Massone.
Our next stop is in the Veneto region of northeast Italy, specifically the Soave DOC outside of Verona. The whites of this area feature the garganega grape; though still dry and zesty, Soave wines offer an oily texture, undertones of wildflowers, and a suggestion of almonds that complement the flavors of pesto rather well. We’re proud to include a selection from Pieropan at Paul Marcus Wines, which is one of the area’s most renowned producers, as well as offerings from Suavia and Ca’ Rugate.
If you’re looking for a pesto partner that will stand toe to toe with your fragrant and verdant sauce, go for Fiano di Avellino from the southern region of Campania. Occasionally referred to as “pesto in a bottle,” fiano’s wild intensity will only enhance the flavor explosion that pesto sauce provides. Robust, nutty, aromatic, and herbaceous, fiano realizes its finest expression when grown on Campania’s volcanic terrain, giving it a flinty edge. Top it off with a zippy acidity, and you have a grape that’s ready to tangle with a top-notch pesto. For a lighter, fresher expression, grab a bottle of Pietramara, made by I Favati, at Paul Marcus Wines, or go to the age-worthy version produced by Ciro Picariello, which is a bit richer and rounder.
Unfortunately for red-wine drinkers, tannins and pesto are generally not friends; prominent tannins will only serve to accentuate the bitterness of the dish and obscure its fresh, herbal magic. However, if you must turn to a red wine, piedirosso (also from Campania’s volcanic soils) delivers smoky, savory notes along with decidedly mild tannins and a medium body. Try La Sibilla’s piedirosso, from Campi Flegrei, available at Paul Marcus Wines.
For more about these suggestions, please visit us at the shop. If you have any pairing questions you’d like to discuss, email us at email@example.com.
Sunny days, new blossoms, birdsong… And the arrival of an assortment of Spring-specific produce. It’s official, the season is here! Artichokes, asparagus, broad beans and green garlic.These delectable and hard-to-pair with veggies are everywhere, begging to be put into pasta, frittata, risotto and braises. And while we here at Paul Marcus agree that wine almost always enhances a meal, with these Spring arrivals, not just any wine will do! A red wine can clash with their strong earthy flavors, leaving you with a bitter taste in your mouth, while some whites can even become sweet and cloying when paired with them. Why does this happen, you might ask? Get ready for a little bit of science (but nothing too heavy, I promise!)
First of all, artichokes contain a chemical called cynarin which is unique to the plant. This cynarin binds to taste buds when you eat, temporarily inhibiting your ability to perceive sweetness. However, when you take a sip after your artichoke dip, that cynarin gets washed away, and voila! after its gone, suddenly everything tastes super sweet. Wow! In order to avoid this, it is best to select an herbaceous, high-acid white wine with no residual sugar. Although more than a few wines fit this bill- like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio- sommeliers and chefs agree that the most classic pairing with artichokes is an Austrian grape called Gruner Veltliner (Say: “Grew-nuh-felt-lean-ah.”) Gruner Veltliner generally produces wines dominated by vegetal notes, but many are also underscored by citrus, pear, melon, and subtle white pepper flavors. Its best served ice cold (and also goes beautifully with Japanese food- another fave cuisine of Spring).
Now, let’s move on to asparagus. Since it has such an abundance of umami flavor, this veggie can make your glass or red taste metallic and stunted. I know, if that is the case, then why does red wine taste so wonderful with steak or cheeses, both which contain that lovely “umami” flavor? The answer is that unlike these foods, asparagus (and artichokes, for that matter) don’t have enough fat and salt in them, and your red ends up tasting acerbic. So if you are featuring asparagus in one of your recipes, it’s definitely best to reach for a white wine. And Gruner is a perfect pairing with this veggie as well! It truly is the solution to Spring’s fresh and zesty dishes. Come in and try the value-driven Malat or Gyerhof Gruners, or ask for a Schloss Gobelsburg or Brundelmyer if you are looking for something more high-end. You can find them all in Austrian section at the back of the shop.