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The Holy Mole Grail of Wine Pairing

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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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