Editorial Contribution by Sally Writes
Black-owned wineries may be in the minority, but wine-making and drinking is gradually becoming more accessible to African Americans. Just take a look at Andre Mack, a black sommelier who’s created a brand of wine influenced by hip-hop culture. But, while it’s nice to have so much choice, it can also cause uncertainty and indecision. How exactly do you navigate the wine list like a pro and know what to pair with your meal? Learning the basic rules of wine pairing can help you find the perfect bottle to drink with classic Southern-American or African dishes.
Choosing the right wine becomes easier once you learn to understand the relationship between wine and the seasons. If you’re going to be enjoying lighter, summery food (like black-eyed-pea salad or grilled meat), a cold sweet or white wine will be complementary. Richer foods (like stews and casseroles) typically enjoyed in the winter do well with deeper, earthier wines. Ultimately, navigating the wine list doesn’t have to be much more complicated than choosing between red, white, rose and sparkling. And remember: wines don’t always strictly need to be limited to the seasons either. If you love sparkling red wine like Cabernet Franc, feel free to enjoy it year round with any dish.
Champagne and comfort food
Refreshing and effervescent, champagne is the perfect accompaniment to fatty, fried food. If you’re having a buttery, starchy meal like biscuits and gravy, a full-bodied Chardonnay can offset the richness. Fruity champagne like a Spanish Grenache goes well with creamy, salty mac and cheese. When it comes to selecting a champagne, there’s generally three styles to choose from: chardonnay (dry, medium-bodied), pinot noir (sweet with truffly undertones), and pinot meunier (fruity and floral). You can always ask for a small sample before settling on a glass to order with your meal to refine your palate and learn what you like.
Spicy dishes and sweet wines
Spicy food should ideally be paired with sweet wine. Bold, spicy wines end up competing with spicy meals and overwhelm your palate. For example, Nigerian pepper soup is an intensely hot and spicy dish. It goes particularly well with a soft red wine like Etna Roso, which offers delicate fruity notes and offsets the heat. Alternatively, Jambalaya goes great with a light-bodied, earthy wine like French Burgundy. If ever in doubt, ask the sommelier for advice. Trained sommeliers are passionate about wine, and love sharing their knowledge and tips about what’s available.
Matching food and wine can be a challenge. But, with these tips, you’ll be able to handle the wine list with confidence and find the right bottle to pair with Southern-American or African cuisine.