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Wine and Dine

This week: Moroccan

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Matching wine to cuisines it isn't traditionally drunk with--Caribbean, Latin American, Asian--is the focus of this new periodic feature, in which we pick a BYO restaurant, sample a few dishes, and recommend some wines.

Andalous Restaurant
3307 N. Clark
773-281-6885

Harira 1
$2.50

Taktouka 1,2
$4.75

Shrimp Pil Pil 3
$6.95

Pastilla 4
$14.95

Marrakech Tagine (with lamb, onions, tomatoes, and spices) 5
$10.95

Rabat Tagine (with beef, mushrooms, garlic, and zucchini) 5,6
$10.95

Tangier Tagine (with catfish, green peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and garlic) 6
$10.50

Brewate 7
$1.50

Mediterranean ingredients like olives and tomatoes bring a wonderful acidity to many dishes at this Moroccan eatery, where owner Hadji Mohamed makes a point of greeting each table personally. Tagines, or Mediterranean stews, fill the menu, and there's a generous assortment of vegetable-based appetizers including grilled eggplant (zaalouk) and Moroccan-spiced tomatoes and peppers (taktouka). For a wonderful combination of sweet and savory, the pastilla is a must-try: chicken, almonds, spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), and raisins between layers of flaky phyllo dough. Wines from Spain and Italy are particularly well suited to this food, standing up to but not overwhelming the bold flavors, while a floral Rhone Valley white and a big Chilean red also find their place. A sweet dessert wine makes just the right finish. The consulting expert on this trip was wine educator Thomas Hyland.

1 2001 Isola Augusta Sauvignon (Friuli, Italy), $10.99-$12.95. The Friuli-Venezia region is the largest DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) zone in northeastern Italy. Out of this area comes more than 40 percent of the region's DOC wines, many of which are non-Italian varietals including merlot, malbec, and sauvignon blanc (called simply sauvignon by this producer). This wine has the crisp acidity of a new-world style as opposed to the mineral elements of a Loire Valley sauvignon blanc. Its tartness pairs well with the harira, a tomato-based vegetable-bean soup, accentuating the earthy flavors of the garbanzo and highlighting the green flavors of cilantro and parsley. Drunk with the taktouka, the wine sharpens the spices and mitigates the bitterness of the green pepper, a food that's often difficult with wine. (Sam's, Schaefer's)

2 2000 Tenuta Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino (Italy), $19.99-$26.95. This Tuscan red is considered a younger sibling to the fuller-bodied and significantly more prestigious Brunello di Montalcino. Both are made from localized clones of the sangiovese grape (which makes chianti), but the rosso is grown on younger vines and requires less aging than the brunello, and the flavor has fewer harsh tannins, brighter fruits, and higher acidity, with a hint of sage and thyme. There are also flavors of earth and toasted oak, giving the wine enough structure to meld nicely with the sauteed green peppers and tomatoes. (Binny's, Que Syrah, Sam's)

3 2000 Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf-du-Pape (France), $23.99. More renowned for its 13-grape blended red wine, this Rhone Valley wine maker also produces fine whites in small quantities. These too are blends, most often of grapes such as grenache blanc, clairette, bourboulenc, cinsault, and roussanne (the five used in this wine). The grapes are cultivated organically and generally harvested early; the resulting wine is lower in sugar, higher in acidity, slightly more alcoholic (13.5 percent), and crisper on the finish. These factors make it a successful match with the paprika, cumin, and tomato in the sauce that bathes the shrimp pil pil; the wine functions like a squeeze of lemon to make the stewed sauce taste brighter. The strong flavors in the dish give the wine a smoother finish. (Binny's)

4 2001 Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo (Italy), $17.99-$18.99. Located in the southern Italian region of Campania, this vintner is devoted to using ancient grape varieties; Greco di Tufo grapes were being made into wine before Rome was founded. This wine has aromas of pear, citrus, almond, and cut hay, with moderate acidity and a long finish. The raisins, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the pastilla are enhanced by the fruit and nut elements in the wine; the almonds in the dish echo the essence of almond in the wine. This pairing makes the dish taste significantly sweeter, while the wine tastes fruitier. (Binny's, Sam's)

5 2000 Veramonte Primus (Chile), $13.99. The Casablanca Valley produces this blend featuring 60 percent carmenere--a grape once heavily planted in Bordeaux, then exported to Chile in 1850, where it was long mistaken by wine makers for merlot. Mixed with merlot and cabernet sauvignon, it creates a dark, velvety wine with flavors of concentrated blackberry and cherry, along with a hint of mint. The savory roasted garlic and sauteed mushrooms in the Rabat tagine bring out the wine's coffee and caramel notes, while the butter sauce softens the tannins. Its exotic flavors and full body allow this wine to stand up to the spiced lamb and stewed vegetables in the Marrakech tagine. (Binny's, Sam's)

6 2000 Riccardo Seghesio Barbera d'Alba (Italy), $12.99. This barbera grape, one of the predominant varieties in Italy's northwest Piemonte region, is grown in the town of Alba. Softer in tannins than nebbiolo, the region's other widely planted grape, it's redolent of blackberries and red fruit. The flavors highlight the Rabat tagine's earthy beef and woody mushrooms, which might otherwise be overwhelmed by the rich butter sauce. Moderate acidity also makes the wine a zippy counterpoint to the Tangier tagine, the base of which is tomato, garlic, and sweet carrots. (Binny's, Sam's)

7 2000 Marco Negri Marsilio Moscato d'Asti (Italy), $9.95 (half bottle). This low-alcohol dessert wine's aromas of orange blossoms, ripe apricots, and peaches give way to a dense honey flavor. Made from the moscato di canelli grape, it's best served moderately chilled to cut the sweetness. It makes a nice pairing with the nutty, honey-laden brewate, a baklavalike dessert made with almonds, sesame seeds, and orange blossom water. It's also a great cheese wine. (Que Syrah) --Laura Levy Shatkin

Binny's Beverage Depot 3000 N. Clark, 773-935-9400

Que Syrah Fine Wines 3726 N. Southport, 773-871-8888

Sam's Wines and Spirits 1720 N. Marcey, 312-664-4394

Schaefer's Wines 9965 Gross Point Road, Skokie, 847-673-5711

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