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What to serve w/ shrimp and grits?

I'm preparing an old New Orleans staple, a gouda-inflected shrimp and grits, for a dinner party tomorrow. I have a really nice, albeit young, Storybook Mountain Zinfandel I was planning to serve with it, on the theory that the fruit and general boldness of the zin will pair well with the bacon and cheese of the shrimp and grits (I do not envision preparing the dish particularly spicy; there will be several kinds of bell peppers but nothing hotter than that).

BUT, as I know not everyone enjoys zin, and I want to provide plenty of variety, any other thoughts on what might pair well? The most obvious thing that came to mind was another blunt-force type of wine like California chardonnay, but I was hoping to find something with a bit more subtlety. Ideas I considered included a fuller-fruited red Burgundy, or a Chateaunneuf du Pape, or perhaps some kind of a white.....

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  1. Shrimp, cheese, cream, mild corn flavour from the grits, vegetal flavours from the peppers, smokiness from the bacon: YYMV but it all screams white to me. Though some prefer to go with the flow, to pile rich on rich, my palate would beg for contrast and relief, so I'd incline toward a dry, minerally, acidic white that had seen little or no oak, an unoaked Chardonnay; a Vermintino or Verdicchio or similar Italian; a restrained Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, Bordeaux or California; etc.

    FWIW, my usual version of S&G, which includes jalapeno peppers, lime juice and cilantro and no pork, is a certifiably great match for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: carswell

      If true to NO cuisine standards, there will be no cilantro or jalapeňo. OTOH, your recipe sound great! In that case, a SB should pair well. Many vintages ago, Sanford (back when he and Benedict were still together, maybe 1997) did a Central Coast SB, that had wonderful jalapeňo notes. I bought all of that vintage, that was still on shelves in Denver, but those elements have not appeared in that wine since - maybe because of the partnership split, and some limitation to access to the Benedict vineyard. Even though they are working together again, it's just not the same.


    2. If you like the zin, you should serve it. Period. Pairing wine and food should be fun.

      However, if you really want to get analytical, I would say that you’re right in pairing a bold wine with boldly flavored foods. If you were adding spice/heat to the dish, I would hold off on the zin since many bottles are in the 15+ alcohol range and that alcohol will intensify the spiciness.

      A chardonnay would work, but make sure it’s not a butter bomb; you need a wine with ample acidity and fruit to compliment the food.

      Other options… a tempranillo from Spain (Rioja, Ribera del Duero), dolcetto from Italy or a grenache from the southern rhone. My first pick since the weather is warmer and these wines are just being released is a rose; preferably a rosato from Italy, but any will do and they pair brilliantly with wine.

      Relax and have fun!

      1 Reply
      1. re: vinosnob

        agree with vino on the last point, rose was what was I thinking about

      2. Chardonnay was what came to my mind.

        I am curious to know how the zin goes with it though. Please let us know if that is the way you chose to go.

        1. Are you preparing it ith a tomato-based creole sauce? I had a wonderful plate of that over the weekend. I agree that a chardonnay would pair well. And it would give non-red drinkers an alternative.

          1. I'd go with a Viogner or other non-Chard white. Or, at least, I'd look for a Chardoney without any oak. I think the oak wouldn't work well with the shrimp. Sauvingon Blanc is often a good choice, as would be a Chenin Blanc. Perhaps a white from the Sancerre region (almost entirely Sauvingon Blanc grapes) which often do very well with seafood but have enough body to stand up to the grits.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ccbweb

              Considering the taste profiles provided by the bacon, why would you go with an un-oaked Chard? To me, bacon has a smoky element and the oak in a well-made, albeit oaked, Chard works well with this, as do very many domestic (US) PNs. Because of the toasting of the oak barrels, a good bit of this element is transferred to the Chard.

              Just curious,

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Basically, I'm not a fan of oaked Chards with food because I think it rounds off the corners too much and makes everything rather smooth. I prefer more acidic wines with food because I feel the flavors are more highlighted and that the cleansing effect on the palate from the wine helps enhance the flavors in the food. The dish in question is one that has a lot of roundedness and buttery mouth feel to it already, so I would look for a contrast when pairing wines.

            2. If I deconstruct the recipe, I feel that a big, oaky Chard might do better.

              First, I am a native of the environs of New Olreans, married to a third generation native, who is one heck of cook. Next, I love Zins, more than about 99% of the world.

              That said, you have shrimp (Chablis, other FR Chards, SB, etc.), grits (corn = Chard), and some smoke/spice, which equal oak. I'd opt for a Meursault, or Montrachet for this dish. If I had to go with a red, it would probably be a Northern Rhône Syrah, or a CA Pinot Noir, say from the Santa Rita Hills.


              1. Austrian Riesling

                A big barrel-aged (I agree that you want the oak on this one) Chard would also work well.

                As would one of the (cult) CA oak-aged Rhone-style blends such as the current release of the Kongsgaard Roussanne/Viognier or the SQN Whisperin' E. But I would never 'reccomend' going out to get one of those. Just mentioning that if you happen to have either in your cellar...

                1. I like the flavor analysis here. The dish is complex, with a lot going on. (I'd love to taste how all those flavors come together.) I rarely recommend a big but judiciously oaked Chard but it may work quite well here, with enough heft to take on the assembled flavors. When I think of bacon and gouda, though, the pairing begins to go in the direction of red -- so something like a Rose, a Beaujolais, Garnacha or Southern Rhone grenache-based blend might work well.

                  Though the Storybook Mountain Zins aren't of the high-alcohol "fruit-bomb" type, they do tend towards blackberry, brambly, spicy oak flavors, rather than the typical cherry/raspberry Zin flavors. They can also take a few years to settle down. (The winery is just up the road from my house, and Jerry Seps, the winery's founder, has an interesting history as one of the Zin pioneers.) For those two reasons, sorry, Jason, I don't think it's a good choice for this dish. You say your SM Zin is young so I'm not certain it's ready to drink (e.g. the 2003s are drinking well now). The other wrinkle is even if your Storybook Zin was ready to drink, its flavors are so dark and deep it might overpower everything in your dish, especially the sweetness and subtlety of the shrimp and corn.

                  Interesting, the role of the bell peppers -- the mixture of green vs. red -- and how much their flavor is recognized amidst all the other flavors will also color the wine choice. (I tend to go with a light touch on bell peppers as they tend to drown out other flavors.) Generally, unroasted red bell peppers gel well with chardonnay; a small amount of green bell says SB, Chenin Blanc or other "green" white. With bacon and gouda though...

                  I'm just guessing here -- I had a shrimp and corn chowder (cream-based) with bits of bacon, diced red bell and a whisper of basil that rocked with a creamy (sur lie) Chard and a Rose -- that's the closest I've come to the dish you're preparing. In your dish, Jonas, the bacon, gouda and bell peppers all play a bigger role, so something with slightly more weight and power-- a lighter, fruity red -- might be best. Please let us know how things go.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Our "house version" of this dish goes very light on the peppers, with usually a hint of red and yellow. These are as much a garnish as an addition to the dish, though the flavor of just a tiny bit is easily noticed.

                    I had not thought of a Rosé, but believe that I would agree. Also, a Brut Rosé should pair nicely, as well. Time to ask the wife to do this soon, and grab a Tavel, or ES Rosé. Sounds great.

                    Maria, thanks for the little insight into the SM Zin. While I do love my Turleys and Biales, I am very appreciative of the lower alcohol, nice spice versions, of which there are now too few. Though, I have to add that I have only encounter one Zin, that I really did not like. Some, I would not buy, as there are too many very good to great ones on the market, but only one got the "Do Not Drink" label from me. Unfortunately, the winemaker was pouring and asked, "well, what do you think?" I had to explain all of the issues, that I had with his wine. I tried to be as specific as possible, but wanted to point out what I thought were flaws in the wine. This is tough, when someone has put a year into a wine, along with their heart and soul, plus the sweat from the vineyard to the bottling line...


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Ouch. That *is* a tough situation to be in. Now, when asked directly by a winemaker or PR person about a wine I dislike, I give the question-asker some qualities I seek in that varietal, or wine-blend: "In this type of wine, I look for...". The comparison is then obvious, and unsaid. I sometimes ask the winemaker if he was happy with the wine, how close it came to what he was trying to achieve, and how this wine compares to previous vintages. The conversation then becomes meaningful and interesting for both of us. At this point, I may ask if the winemaker senses that tiny bit of acetone (or other flaw) I'm picking up on, but I ask nicely. Taking into account, of course, that a particular wine may not be ready to be drunk when it is tasted, and the need then to extrapolate what the wine will be like in a few years when it is ready. What I also find uncomfortable is a winery PR/marketing person/employee trying "sell" me on the merits of a wine...when its merits are questionable. "In this type of wine, I look for clean fruit, free of any medicinal or sulfurous properties..."

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Very well-stated. I wish that I had anticipated this particular question, and prepared myself for it. I like your tack, and promise that I will do better, if ever confronted with a similar situation.


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          It's difficult to always respond appropriately or gracefully, especially in awkward situations. It's just a part of life, Hunt. In any situation, if we can anticipate the "land mines" we can avoid stepping on them. When tired or annoyed or pressed, I might respond in a way that is a little more "in your face," but I always regret doing so afterwards. If the discussion is pleasant though gently honest, I find the winemaker/PR person will often ask me to taste other wines, or different vintages, or remember me a year later when I taste that year's releases. It's part of an ongoing "relationship," and I believe some winemakers take some comments to heart, adjusting their vineyard practices, fruit sourcing, vinification, fining, oak and bottle aging to create a better product. It's always nice to hear criticism gently (especially when given to me!) and offered up in the spirit of discovery and sense of ongoing improvement. Cheers, Maria

                  2. 1st of all shrimp and grits w/o some heat is not doing justice to the dish.
                    i am from south louisiana and no cajun /creole food is not about the pepper . but some dishes need a little kick .
                    grits is one of these dishes.
                    i do not know the recipe you are useing but i do a shrimp /grits recipe that uses left over cheese grits and bbq shrimp. refridgerate grits over night then form hockey puck size cakes out of the grits. pann sautee grit cakes in evoo/butter untill brown and serve topped w/ bbq shrimp and sauce topping the grit cakes .
                    as for the wine to serve w/ this , I don't know as i don't drink the stuff.
                    I have had this for breakfast served w/ mimosas . Bob

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: bobljr

                      Yes, we usually have some heat, mostly from cayenne pepper. In our instances, the Chard still works, provided that it has full-body. If one went with even more heat, I'd then opt for Maria Lorraine's idea of a Rosé. Next level of heat would call for maybe the Brut Rosé. I've paired it with some very spicy dishes, with no problem.

                      Now for early morning fare, I have yet to find a nice "breakfast" Chardonnay, so maybe the Mimosas would be the ticket!


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Hey bill since we eat many times a month in the big easy what resturant do you own/work at ??
                        Mimosas / Grits and grillads = perfect breakfast

                        1. re: bobljr

                          Unfortunately, my wife, who should be a chef, is a hosptial administrator in PHX. Like the investment TV ad, when she retires, it's Le Cordon Bleu for her! She's a NOLA girl, and I grew up in the environs - MS Gulf Coast, so NO was my "city of light." We still travel down/over, but have not been post-Katrina, though all of my in-laws still live in the NO Metro Area. I am fortunate, in that my wife is a great NO/Creole cook, and her family sends "Care packages," from NO, all of the time. Though we've been in the West for decades, we still love, and enjoy, the foods of the Deep South.

                          I'm the wine-geek in the family, but we work in tandem to create menus, most often featuring the foods of the Deep South, and fine wines. Over the last half-dozen years, we've offered her cuisine with my wines at many charity silent-auctions. The folk in AZ really love it. We do a King's Day celebration (since the traditional Holiday Season is so filled here), and my wife flies in a NO chef, while I do the wines for 400 of her closest friends. Hired the Treme Jazz Band (which had fled to AZ from NOLA), immediately after Katrina to do the entertainment.

                          Since much of our in-home dining is NO-influenced, we do a lot of "odd" food/wine pairings, which can present a challange - heat, levels of flavors, different textures, and the like. OTOH, we usually do a test menu, and I'll raid the cellar to see how it goes. Sometimes, we'll have a dish four times in a week, and try 20 wines, to get it right. I've often brought up six, that I just "knew" would work, only to have to work on it the next night - and the next night.

                          To us, the food and wine should compliment each other 100% and raise the stakes for both to the max. As you know with the diversity of NO cuisine, it isn't always a slam-dunk. When it works, as intended, the experience is transcendent.

                          If I did own a spot in NO, it would be Brigtsen's, with my wife as sous-chef to Chef Frank.

                          Laissez les bon ton roulette,

                    2. First, thank you all of you for your insightful replies. I had enough people, so I tried an unusual tack. Also, w/r/t the recipe, I added some heat and cilantro, as suggested.

                      Instead of limiting myself, I dual-paired the Storybook with a 2004 white burgundy (apologies but the name escapes me). I would say reactions were about 50/50 as to which went better. I decanted the Storybook and gave it 2 hours, which opened it up a good ways compared to the relatively tight wine I had tasted at the vineyard.

                      Were I to do it again (and were I less inclined to have used the Storybook), I think I'd have gone with the white burgundy.

                      Another thing worth noting - earlier in the meal, I used an Imagery "white burgundy" from Sonoma, also a 2004. I think this wine would have gone really well with the dish. A little less flabby than most California chards, and with a crisper finish thanks to the addition of "Pinot Blanc" and Petit Verdot.

                      Again, I really appreciate the many informative posts!