Friends came round the other night and I cooked one of my favourite new recipes - a chicken, lemon and olive tagine (which appears in my forthcoming book Food, Wine and Friends, she adds, unable to resist a cheap plug!). One of the reasons it’s slightly different from the authentic Moroccan version is that I remove the chicken skin which makes the dish a lot lighter.
You might be surprised at the idea of pairing it with a Rioja but I’ve found in the past that red wines are better than white with this dish. Whites tend to be too similar, too lemony. Reds offer a pleasing contrast of colour and flavour.
A chicken tagine contains two bitter ingredients, preserved lemons and green olives that bring out the sweet fruit in a red wine so I wouldn’t choose a wine that was very ripe and sweet-tasting already like a new world Cabernet, Merlot or Shiraz. An aged Rioja, with its soft, mellow cooked-strawberry fruit fits the bill perfectly. Ours was a Contino Rioja Reserva 2002, which came, surprisingly, from Marks and Spencer. Or not so surprisingly. M & S has some decent wines these days.
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