Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a terrific opportunity for chefs to showcase the best of Cajun cuisine. It is also an excuse for wine lovers to mix and match favorite wines with the hot and spicy flavors of the beloved Bayou region.
An Intro to Wines for Spicy Cajun Meals
Cajun cuisine is known for being rich, buttery, spicy, and full of flavor. When you are searching for wines to step up to the pairing challenge, you will need to choose carefully.
It is best to bypass heavy duty reds that are high in tannins like a Cabernet Sauvignon. These will taste more metallic and destroy the flavors of the dish. Instead, opt for wines that will be crisp and cool and those that will not compete with the intensity of the dish's flavors.
Overall, white wines will be the most versatile for the majority of Cajun cuisine and Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best options you will come across. That doesn't mean that reds are out of the question, though something like a Pinot Noir or Shiraz will be a more suitable choice.
Going for Gumbo?
It is hard to resist a sizzling bowl of gumbo filled with sausage, shrimp, or chicken. It is a Mardi Gras favorite and Louisiana's signature dish. However, it can be tricky to find a wine that doesn't contradict all of that flavor. The great news is that this is one Cajun dish that can handle either a red or white wine.
White wines will still be the most versatile for your secret gumbo recipe.
You will need a very lively wine like a great Sauvignon Blanc to do it justice and balance the heat of the classic Cajun soup.
As for red wine selections, opt for a versatile Pinot Noir or a snazzy Shiraz. Both of these are typically low in tannin structure. They also have an easy-going palate presence that will sustain and complement a spicy gumbo.
Opting for a Cajun Seafood Entree?
If you are trying something seafood or shellfish-based like Cajun catfish, shrimp creole, or a crayfish entree, stick with a white wine. This will offer refreshment and the wines maintain a brisk component in their structure that will stand up to the food.
Wines for Those Sweet King Cakes
When it comes to sweets, the famous King Cake is the king of Mardi Gras. King Cakes are delicious brioche-style breads with sugar, colorful frosting, and a wide array of filling options. Despite all of these elements, there is one style of wine that will work with any King Cake recipe.
Look no further than a slightly sweet sparkling wine. Stick with sec and demi-sec (meaning sweet) wines like Spanish Cavas with either of those designations or the sweet Moscato d'Asti wines of Italy. Do avoid any sparkling wine that includes brut, as this is the classification for dry sparkling wines.