Mexican cuisine is perhaps the most unappreciated and butchered cuisine in the world. Most people think that Mexican cuisine is summed up in tortillas stuffed with hot tomato sauce, some meat, cheese and peppers or beans and guacamole. Things are much more complex than that though. Mexican cuisine loves corn and chili peppers more than any other. The corn is grounded and forms the basis for tortillas, tacos, empanadas, quesadillas and all these delicious stuffed "pies". It is also included in tacos, salsa, rice, etc. Chilies are baked, smoked, dried, fried and are the basis for endless recipes and sauces. Each type has a different taste and a different level of spiciness. Jalapenos, for example, is a green, moderately spicy pepper while ancho is a red sweet and spicy pepper.
In addition, the fact that the cuisine differs along Mexico is pretty interesting. For example, in northern Mexico they love meat very much while in the south we find more chicken and vegetables along with a Caribbean influence. In areas close to the sea or rivers we find several recipes with fish such as red snapper Veracruz. Finally, the Aztecs and Mayans have clearly influenced Mexican gastronomy by adding spices and cocoa to several recipes such as mole. Mole is slow braised meat, usually chicken or turkey, with tomato paste, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, garlic, onion, jalapeno and cocoa.
The intense and spicy character of Mexican food make it quite difficult to match with wine. Mexicans usually drink beer or lemony margaritas that act somewhat like "firefighters". Since I was made for tricky and demanding situations, I will propose to you 5 Mexican dishes and the ideal wines to accompany them! Shall we start?
Tacos al pastor are grilled tortillas stuffed with roasted, marinated pork, pineapple, onion, cilantro and lime. The secret is hidden in the marinade of the meat which consists of different chilies, fruit juice (lime, orange, pineapple), garlic, spices and sugar. The preferred piece of meat is pork shoulder or pancetta, for a guaranteed juicy and tender result. The meat is grilled for a perfectly caramelized crust and a smoky note. Lime and pineapple give a sweet and sour taste that goes perfectly with spicy and fatty pork. A white wine with plenty of fruit, subtle sweetness and high acidity would be perfect to go with the sweet and sour, fruity dimension and spicy character of the dish. I would recommend the Dr L Riesling demi sec that combines all of the above.
I know you love them as much as I do! Crispy tortillas are bathed with melted cheddar, guacamole, salsa, cilantro, jalapeno and sour cream. Guacamole is a creamy dip with avocado, lime, onion, chili and cilantro while salsa is a cold sauce with chopped tomato, onion, garlic, chili flakes, cumin, cilantro and chives. Their combination gives a creamy rich texture, spicy character but also freshness. Along with the melted cheese and the jalapeno pickles, it becomes an addictive bite that you cannot stop eating. In this case you want an aromatic white wine, with a fruity character and refreshing acidity. Cilantro and pepper almost shout for a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand like Wild Rock.
Quesadillas are baked tortillas, stuffed with chopped chicken, sautéed onion, peppers and melted cheese. Serve with pico de gallo sauce consisting of chopped tomato, onion, cilantro and lime. The oiliness, the protein and the intense vegetable character of the dish would go nicely with a relatively light and fruity red wine like Chinon Olga Raffault. Plus, Cabernet Franc has intense bell pepper aromas! On the other hand, if you prefer rose wines then Moschopolis 8 will work like a charm!
This dish is based on chicken that is simmered with tomato paste, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, garlic, onion, jalapeno and cocoa. It is usually served with fresh tortillas, rice and beans. It is a rich and intense dish, with spicy character that requires a wine with similar characteristics. I would suggest you to pair it with a rich and chocolatey Agiorgitiko like Monopati Aivalis Winery.
This dish is the ultimate comfort Mexican dish. It includes minced meat, tortillas, black beans, tomato sauce and melted cheeses. Minced meat, as you can imagine, is seasoned with spices such as cumin, paprika, pepper and garlic, so along with the sauce and beans it is like chili con carne. As it is baked in the oven, the tortillas absorb all the delicious juices and are topped with melted cheeses. The dish is as spicy as you can take it. In case you make it moderately spicy, I would suggest you to combine it with a fruity red wine, with soft tannins and a suspicion of sweetness. An ideal choice is the sparkling red from Xinomavro, the Aphrodite Taralas Winery.