Ideas Please for Best Wines with Moroccan Foods
Tagines and couscous are broad categories that encompass everything from vegetables to fruit and fish to mutton, not to mention flavours like olives, spices and chiles, so the accompanying wine should be selected with the ingredients in mind. One general rule: more rustic meats (mutton, for example) and spicing call for more rustic wines.
For red meats: full-bodied, easy-drinking reds, preferably served a bit cooler than usual. Guerrouane or Beni-Snassen from Morocco, Coteaux du Mascara or Médéa from Algeria, Côtes du Rhône (including New World Rhône blends), Provençal reds, Corsican reds, Beaujolais, and even, believe it or not, fruitier reds from the Loire.
For poultry and fish: lighter reds (Beaujolais, Loire, Corsica), rosés and whites from the Rhône and the Languedoc (especially ones with a high percentage of marsanne, roussanne or viognier and including New World Rhône blends) and some of the fruitier chenin blancs from the Loire.
Deeply coloured and flavoured rosés are the closest thing to passe-partout wines for this type of food. There are very few variants they won't make at least a servicable match with.
Bisteeya can be tricky due to the spicing and sweetness. The best match I've found to date is a slightly off-dry chenin blanc like those found in the Loire (Vouvray, Savennières, Coteaux du Layon).
I once prepared a Moroccan dinner of roast chicken, couscous, and onions cooked down with preserved lemons. I served a Barbera with it (Cascina Val del Prete Barbera d'Alba Carolina, to be specific) and it went really well. In general I would go for fruity reds, steering clear of anything with lots of oak, tannin, or alcohol. I also tend to believe that when you've got complexly flavored food you should go with a simple wine, and when you've got a very complex wine it's best with simple food. Let one be the star and the other a supporting player. Moroccan food is typically pretty complex (lots of spices and flavors, plus blends of sweet/sour/savory/etc.) so go with a simple wine.
Cross-posting from another Moroccan thread...
I actually did a large experimentation of wine tasting with Moroccan food a year or so ago. I cooked four or five various dishes and literally opened up 20 (yes, TWENTY!) bottles; ten red and ten white.
I was going by varietal vs. producer. I opened a CabSav, Tempranillo, Merlot, Pinot, CabFranc, Zinfandel, Barbera, Sangiovese, Malbec, and Rioja for the reds. For the whites, I opened a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Black, Roussanne, Marsanne, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Gewurtz, Gruner Veltliner, Verdicchio, and a Viognier. I also opened a Rose, but don't remember the varietal. I anticipated that red-wise, I would go with a Pinot and white-wise, a Sauvignon Blanc. Boy,was I wrong!
Red-wise, Zinfandel won out with relatively spicy dishes that complemented complicated spices.
Overall, however, a Roussanne was the clear winner. It is complex without being astringent or sweet, layered without being oakey or buttery and, with a slight oily feeling on the tongue, cut through the various spices without fighting with them.
Now, when I cook Moroccan or go to a Moroccan restaurant, I bring a Roussanne...
re: Carrie 218
I really appreciate your post... you inspired our tasting.
Anyway, we ended up with 5 whites and a cross-section of dishes.
The wines: Whites: 1) a 2004 mosel kabinett riesling 2) A california roussanne/marsanne blend at 75/25% Reds: 3) Pinot Noir (two burgundies from 76 and 78 vintages) 4) Zinfandel - Ridge Geyserville 1997, my last bottle no less 5) A 1990 Rhone reserve (Chateau Fonsallet) which we speculate was predominately grenache but not sure...
For the dishes we had: A) an assortment of appetizers B) A lamb tangine C) A chicken bistella D) A couscous (cant remember the main ingredient E) a nice veggie medley dish...
All wines were tasted with all dishes. The consisten winner in everyone's mind was the Riesling. I'd actually picked up the tip on this from the Kashbah restaurant website (san francisco moroccan place).
As you suggest the Roussanne was consistently pleasant though not at the level of the riesling in our experience. The Zin was a terrific match, especially for the red-meat dishes.
The Pinot and Rhone were fairly dreadful matches.
The other interesing thing is how well the 97 Zin was drinking, nearly 10 years after harvest. Just delicious with no alcohol edge whatsoever, all fruit intact... probably has at least another 4 or 5 years with good storage easily. And my storage is hardly the best (closet wine rack basically).
Thanks again for the tip, you were right-on.
Thanks for reporting back, Chi-Mike! I remember my Riesling coming in a close second to my Roussanne and -- like any wine -- always depends on the vintner in question. I think in my case the Riesling might have been too sweet but on the Kabinett side, would be a great choice.
Glad you had fun doing it!
Yes, while a very ripe riesling (spatlese/auslese) works wonders with a super-spicy and peppery thai meal, I thought it might be a bit much for the somewhat less intensely spiced moroccan spread...
And also that if the kabinett wasn't impressive with the meal that the spat or auslese probably wouldn't be that much better anyway so why risk having an overpowering wine? That said, I recall thinking that a spatlese would work, no problem.