Friday, September 7, 2012

MRE Menu 15: Mexican Style Chicken Stew

This meal potentially packs some heat, but not the thermal kind (which is generally lacking in all of the MREs).  There is plenty of fiery spice here, especially if you make use of the accompanying packet of ground red pepper.  Conventional wisdom suggests that a wine with some residual sugar will help subdue the heat.  Hopefully there will some acidity as well to aid in refreshing your palate as you go, so that your mouth is not continuously on fire.  Various styles of German riesling offer up both of these traits, but finding the right version can be tricky.  While great for many other dishes, the dry versions, labeled “trocken,” aren’t the ideal match for this MRE.  Assuming they are not also labeled trocken, you can expect to find progressively increasing amounts of residual sugar in those marked “spätlese” and “auslese.”  The higher sugar levels in these versions are generally assumed to accompany longer periods of ripening on the vine before harvest, with an associated increase in phenolic ripeness.  Climate change is blurring this situation a bit, but the aforementioned generalizations are a good starting point.  For this particular MRE, I recommend a spätlese unless you really intend to turn up the heat with the red pepper, when an auslese might be appropriate.

For a red, we can turn to the “lost” sixth bordelais varietal, carmenère.  Although not replanted in any significant amount in Bordeaux following widespread loss from oidium and phylloxera in the nineteenth century, it has found a new home as the signature red grape of Chile, despite having been planted there unrecognized for the better part of a century and a half.  Thriving in the dry climate of areas such as the Colchagua Valley, it produces wines of medium body and tannins, with red or black fruits mixed with spices and elements of earth, leather, and tobacco.

Complementary Pairing:  Riesling Spätlese, Nahe, Germany
Try:  Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese
[]  This wine comes from the top producer in the Nahe, and he would be a contender for the top spot for all of Germany.  Hermannshöhle in Niederhausen is perhaps his best cru, with a base of slate and volcanic rock.  The nose should offer a mélange of citrus notes, with the same on the palate accompanying a core of slate minerality.

Contrasting Pairing:  Carmenère, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Try:  Viña Montes Purple Angel
[]  In this case the carmenère is blended with a bit of petit verdot, and comes from the Marchigue and the famous Apalta estates.  After spending 18 months in new French oak, it is bottled unfiltered.  This particular regimen leads to typical red fruits on the nose, followed by black fruits and hints of chocolate on the palate.  The tannins are soft and sweet, which will serve as an ideal foil for the spice of the dish.

Note for the Detail-Oriented:  “Carmenère” is the common spelling used in Chile and the one used in this post.  In French it is carménère, and it also appears as carmenere throughout the world.

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