Cinco de Mayo is often mistaken for Mexican Independence Day but it actually marks a turning point in the French-Mexican war when, on May 5, 1862, Mexican soldiers successfully opposed a legion of 6,000 French troops at the Battle of Puebla. Casualties on the side of the French surpassed that of the Mexicans by five to one. It would be another six years before Mexico could claim complete victory but, outmanned and outgunned, the Battle of Puebla provided much-needed encouragement to a weary Mexican army.
Today in American - and all over the world - people use the date to celebrate the rich Mexican culture that contributes to the melting pot of our country. Traditionally margaritas and cold bottles of Dos Equis whet the palate but for those interested in lifting a wine glass instead of a salted rim, it’s just a matter of pairing the right varietal with the right food choice.
Sauvignon Blanc comes in a variety of styles depending on what area of the world it’s grown in. To pair with Mexican food look for the citrussy Sauvignons from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. The Nobilo 2012 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc I enjoyed last night or Oyster Bay’s 2012 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, with their citrus fruit aroma and crisp finish, are both excellent choices for such Mexican staples as lime, roasted bell peppers, cilantro, mushrooms, garlic, shrimp, scallops and prawns. Fajitas come to mind immediately. For the same reason Sauv Blanc is often recommended with Thai food, it works well with the spiciness of some less sauce-laden Mexican dishes.
Cabernet Sauvignon holds up to meats commonly found in Mexican cooking - pork, beef and chicken. Many entrees are topped with cheese which Cabernet Sauvignon is renowned for partnering well with. Often garnished with heavy sauces such as mole, the fruit forward characteristic of many Cab Sauvs helps to round out those dishes. Look for a quality younger Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Washington or Chile because the longer a Cab ages, the more the fruitiness is tamed and the oakiness comes through which is an entirely different food pairing.
J. Lohr’s Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles would work well here. True for so many Cabs, this wine is not 100 percent its labeled varietal. It’s blended with just enough Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Syrah to tame the tannins that are naturally big and bold in Cabs. J. Lohr can be found in many finer restaurants and exhibits some vanilla, cherry and dark plum on the nose. Pick up a bottle at area retail shops to toast to the American-Hispanic culture and enjoy an intimate evening at home or share with friends at a Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Cheers and Viva Mexico!
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