The Holy Mole Grail of Wine Pairing

Categories: Wine Time

mole wine pairing.jpg
Photo by Jeremy Parzen
Our blogging colleague Dr. Vino loves to post about what he calls "impossible" food and wine pairings. Recently, he asked his readers what they would pair with "virgin boy eggs" from China, eggs that have been cooked in urine "collected from primary school toilets." [Ed note: Strangely, you can look for more on urine-soaked virgin boys in this space soon.]

Another blogging colleague, wine writer Eric Asimov of The New York Times, has poked fun at Dr. Vino (and me) for our "match game," as he called it. After all, if you're eating eggs boiled in urine, you're probably doing so for the dish's purported health-enhancing properties and not because you're looking for an excuse to open that bottle of 1999 Grande Année Rosé by Bollinger that's been calling your name from the EuroCave.

Today, dear readers, I'm not going to ask you to share your thoughts on some outlandish pairing like Chex Mix or Cap'n Crunch (we owe the latter to that icon of classiness, Gary Vaynerchuk).

No, today I stand before you in all earnestness as I contemplate what I consider to be a conundrum of utmost culinary importance, especially here in Texas and in California, my native state: What wine to pair with mole?

By its very nature, mole defies what I call the ars copulandi vinorum, the art of wine pairing: It is intensely spicy; it is delicately sweet; and it is served piping-hot.

Some would reach for a white wine with residual sugar, like a Mosel Riesling, where the bright acidity of the grape variety and the sweetness of the winemaking style would, no doubt, work well (as it does with spicy Asian cuisine).

But richness of mole calls for a tannic wine at my dinner table. Traditional-style Barbaresco (or Langhe Nebbiolo) and Willamette Pinot Noir are always going to be my go-tos for this dish: They have the necessary structure to match the richness of the dish, but they also have the bright acidity to tame its intense flavors. And most importantly, they have the balance of lightness and power that I think this dish needs.

There are other wines that would fit this bill, for example, Ajaccio (Sangiovese) from Corsica or Schiava from German-speaking Italy, like the amazing Lamburg that Tracie P and I drank for dinner last night (although not with mole; I found it for just $23 at the Houston Wine Merchant).

But the bottom line here is that there is no perfect wine pairing for this dish. At least not in the way that Nebbiolo from Langa is the perfect pairing for white Alba truffles or Côte de Nuits (red Burgundy) is ideal for bœuf bourguignon.

In an era of Photoshopped bodies and Einstein babies, the hegemony of consumerism often drives us toward unattainable Platonic ideals.

Sometimes we need to remember that we are human, all too human (to borrow a phrase from Nietzsche) and that, although not an ideal pairing, Barbaresco and mole simply taste damn good together.



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Houston Wine Merchant

2055 Westheimer, Houston, TX

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12 comments
Meigancameron
Meigancameron

Valuable information ..I am delighted to read this article..thank you for giving us this useful information. Thanks for sharing.

pbd007
pbd007

Gag me with a spoon

Bodl
Bodl

Good Lord.  You do understand that there are many kinds of mole?  Picking a wine pairing for "mole" is asinine.  It depends on the kind of sauce.

I 'll grant you that some wines may pair well with some kinds of mole, but you should stop being a wine-turd, and just order a margarita next time you are in a Mexican restaurant and decide to get "mole".

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

I am entirely nonplussed by the nastiness and the acerbic attitudes that appear here.

Of course I am aware that there are many types of mole. I grew up eating Poblano mole, which, in my view, has become the pan-Mexican mole in the culinary canon.

Having said that, if you're not interested in wine pairing, why are you here? And why are you so nasty? What, on earth, could be the sense of this?

Wine Time is a place to exchange ideas and notes about wine. It's not a place for insults and animosity. On Fridays, we generally post about an unusual or unexpected pairing. The goal is to think about wine in unconventional ways.

Bodl
Bodl

You would be upset if people made detailed dissections of wine, but only referred to them as either "red" or "white".  That is how I feel when you suggest a wine pairing for "mole". You know there are multiple types of mole.  I stand by my comment that your universal recommendation for "mole pairings" is asinine.  If your suggestion was for "Mole Poblano", I would have given you a pass, but even then, the pairing suggestions should vary based on regional Mole Poblano variations.

Having said all this, I do enjoy your articles because I am trying to learn more about wine (I am a decided beer-geek).  Keep writing.  I'll try to be more civil.  The wine-turd thing was a little over the top.....

Dea Elmi
Dea Elmi

A Cerasuolo di Vittoria or a well made Frappato would possibly work too. Structured wines, big aicidity and fruit. I also agree with the reader who said a sparkling wine, "bollicine" would be apt here. I like Trentodoc Zero dosaggio. Haven't had mole in ages going to have to find out where there is great Mexican food in Austin. It never fails to amaze me the sheer volume and types of wine that are available to American consumers. I have just moved back home after 8.5 years in Italy and this is wine heaven! :)

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

Great pairings, Dea. And yes, sparkling wine is going to work so well here (as per Tom).

And btw we need to get that glass of wine soon! (I'll write you offline)

Tom Gutting
Tom Gutting

Great post!

Jill Gubesch at Topolobampo/Frontera Grill in Chicago is the queen of this pairing. Last time I was up there, she made magic with an 07 Priorat with "black mole." But it's surprising how well Zinfandel and Malbec and other Spanish wines can go with mole -- you'd think the heat of the spice and the higher alcohol levels would conflict. If they have the fruit to sustain it, though, it's a gorgeous match.

More locally, I've had terrific pairings with Malbec and Spanish wines with mole at Hugo's, recommended of course by Sean Beck.

When you can find wines that pair beautifully with dishes like mole ... it's a pretty magical thing. Definitely endorse the Riesling. Solid rose bubbles would work, too.

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

Tom, I can SO see a great Priorat here... Great call... and once we get Sean back from paternity duty, we'll have to get his two cents here...

Bruce R
Bruce R

Asking which wine to serve with mole is like asking which mustard goes best on cheesecake.  If you must catch a buzz with absolutely every meal--and apparently you must--then the problem has already been solved.  Drink a margarita or a beer.  Any beer.

But if you must drink wine then the answer is: red wine.  Cheap red wine.

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

thanks for being here Bruce R and thanks for the constructive criticism! :) 

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