Here at the Kosher Decanter, we celebrate life, happiness and joy. Tomorrow is May 5th, and for many of us, this means we transform into El Decantador Kosher for Cinco de Mayo. (Disclaimer: Cinco de Mayo has been circled with a bright red Sharpie on our calendar since, well, last Cinco de Mayo.)
The 1862 Battle of Puebla marks the defeat of the French army at the hands of a ragtag Mexican outfit. What is not widely known is that this historical event meant newly found freedom for Jews in Mexico from the starch conservatism of state-mandated Catholicism to a country that is now the home of nearly 50,000 Jews. In fact, the mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, is the city’s first Jewish and female elected mayor.
Still, when you think Mexico, you likely don’t think of wine. In fact, there was a 2017 vintage Cab-Shiraz out of central Mexico named Don Leo, further proof that the world of kosher wine continues to expand and multiply.
What we will do with our exercise in this installment of Kosher Decanter is take a few mashup Jewish-Mexican dishes in honor of the holiday and pair them up with some choice adult beverages.
What food is more Jewish than matzoh ball soup? Put a “South of the Border” spin on it and you have yourself awesome Matzoh Ball Chicken Tortilla Soup. (Pro tip: matzoh balls really work in any soup!) I love this recipe from @WhatJewWannaEat.
Look for a fruit-forward, lighter-bodied red to pair with this delicious soup. I pulled out the 2018 Bokobksa Côtes du Rhône Cuvée du Centenaire, ($14, mevushal, online), a southern Rhone valley blend of Syrah and Grenache, which is very easy to drink, not for storage, and very food-friendly. The spicy, stewed dark fruits are apparently from the warmer southern France climate.
Next up, these incredible Pomegranate Brisket Tacos from @therealmelindastrauss (recipe). Perhaps we should save these for Rosh Hashanah, but why wait? I love the idea of topping with pickled onions; something you can do yourself with great ease (recipe).
Beef tacos pair wonderfully with Tempranillo, and since we’re doing affordable and food-friendly, I love this 2018 Elvi Herenza Rioja Semi-Crianza, ($15, mevushal, online). This lovely Rioja is aged in American and French oak for five months, with plenty of ripe red fruit here, medium-bodied with cherries and raspberries, dark chocolate and earth, with nice acid and tannins.
To handle the big flavors of chocolate and cayenne, and as a perfect ending to a wonderful meal, pour yourself some Porto Cordovero Ruby Port ($24, non-mevushal, online) in that special Port glass collecting dust in your breakfront (or any glass will do). This Port is produced in Portugal’s gorgeous Upper Douro Valley. This is a ruby Port, meaning it is a blend of other Port wines, and is young and meant to be drunk upon release. It has notes of berries, chocolate and spice.
Have a sip and ease away the final hours of Cinco de Mayo, likely from the confines of tu casa, and, hopefully, con tu amor, by the side of your precious loved one.
Dr. Kenneth Friedman is a Baltimore-born kosher wine (and sometimes beer) aficionado/connoisseur. He is known for his unsolicited wine advice and runs many local kosher wine tastings. You can follow him on Instagram @KennethFriedmanEvents.