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Jul 2, 2008 12:03 PM

Wine for Jambalaya

Instead of our usual July 4th BBQ, I'm making Jambalaya with shrimp and sausage, along with a side dish of black beans and some corn bread. I'm thinking of going with a white wine, such as a Riesling Spatlese, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or Viognier. Any thoughts?

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  1. Certainly my first thought was Riesling or Gewurztraminer. I don't know which Spatlese you had in mind, but I was thinking Ontario or New York, as they're zippier, so more refreshing with the spices, and less likely to be overwhelmed. It depends on your jambalaya. If it's on the mild side, then SB or Viognier might be OK, but my instinct remains with a refreshing Riesling.

    My late stepfather loved jambalaya, and one night we drank sake with it. Weird, I know, but it worked.

    Have a delicious 4th of July!

    1 Reply
    1. re: hungry_pangolin

      Thanks for your reply. The jambalaya I'm making is pretty spicy. I have on hand a 2006 Becker Landgraf Riesling Spatlese from Germany.

      You're not the first to mention sake with jambalaya! I've heard it works well, but I don't have any sake and I'm trying to get dwindle down my overstocked wine supply.

    2. A Riesling Spatlese would work well. As would a Scheurebe Spatlese. Depending upon how spicy, a Champagne could be a great pairing (first thing I thought of) or if very spicy a Moscato d'Asti could work very well.

      1. I think you should really consider a good single vineyard Zinfandel, not too over the top in terms of alcohol. This is one of my favorite matches with Cajun food in general, and Jambalaya in specific. Plus, it is very "American" for the 4th!

        14 Replies
        1. re: dkenworthy

          You don't find that spicy jambalaya heat paired with Zin creates fire in your mouth?

          I love Riesling Spatlese with jambalaya. Classic pairing trick -- a little bit of sweet foils the heat. Tasty combo.

          1. re: maria lorraine

            Oops, you beat me to the punch with the heat/sweet (read fruit forward). I agree with you on the Zin. Though I love it, NOLA/So. LA cuisine is not where I'd serve it.

            For NOLA cuisine, we usually do the already mentioned Riesling, and then a PN that matches/pairs. Might be OR, or WA, or CA, or even FR (Burg), but PN does a wonderful job.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              I eat a lot of cajun, and drink a lot of Zinfandel with it. It is important to stick to a Zin that is not over the top in turns of alcohol/pruney flavors. I like Ravenswood single vineyard Zins like Barricia or Monte Rosso or even Sonoma County. Also, Seghesio Sonoma County or Ridge Sonoma County are balanced to fruit/acid not alcohol/prunes. I agree that this is not the time to pull out Turley, but then, I seldom pull out block buster Zins. Also, I pour them at about 55-60 deg. F, which I think makes a big difference.

              1. re: dkenworthy

                Nalle and Scherrer also make food-friendly zins...

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Pretty much. Nalle's wines tend to be reasonable with respect to ABV. Same with Scherrer. Tonight I'm making a grilled pork tenderloin with cascabel chile honey glaze. I've set aside a Nalle Zin to serve with it. I've served Scherrer with it before.

                    1. re: Brad Ballinger

                      It seems like the honey in the glaze is moderating the heat of the cascabel chile much like the sweetness of the wine would.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Made the dish a gazillion times. Still plenty of kick. The fruitiness of the zins I pair works well.

                        1. re: Brad Ballinger

                          Good to know. I make a similar pork tenderloin dish, with a chipotle/honey/orange juice glaze. The flavors seem somewhat similar, though the cascabel (depending on quantity and individual Scoville-ness) may give your sauce more of a kick.

                          Having made this dish just shy of a gazillion times, and having been asked to bottle it for friends (let's just eat it straight out the jar, they say), the element of sweetness -- honey and fresh orange juice (reduced so that it's concentrated) -- go a long ways towards tempering the heat of the chipotle (and by inference, the cascabel) so that the pairing works. Far better, in fact, than if the sauce had no sweetness. I'm not sure either of our sauces without some sweetness would work as well pairing with red wine.

                          I drink Barbera with this sauce, sometimes a Grenache Rhone blend, even a Beaujolais. A Zin with the prototypical forward cherry fruit and snappy pepper kick pairs fairly well, though it seems a bit too heavy to my palate. The dense, extracted, high-alcohol, black- fruit Zins don't work at all ( too heavy/intense, and the higher alcohol increases the perception of heat).

                          Getting back to Jambalaya and the pairing for it: Since the dish itself does not have sweetness -- supplied by the sauce in our pork tenderloin dishes -- it helps the pairing if the wine does.

                          It's the same reasoning that goes into BBQ-sauce pairing: If, in the sauce, along with spice, there is also a little sweetness (traditionally brown sugar or molasses) it helps the wine pairing along. Not that you taste sweetness -- it's more like complexity. But the heat dampens the sweetness, the sweetness dampens the heat. Sort of a magic synergistic combo.

                          At least that's my reasoning and experience. Given a panoply of wines to try with Jambalaya (my own J is pretty darn tasty), or either of our pork tenderloin dishes, or BBQ, or Indian, or Thai, I'll always sample away and continue to see what works best with the dish, or what creates that Holy Grail "third" flavor.

                          Riesling Spatlese (sometimes even sweeter) with Jambalaya works best for me, though, as mentioned, I'm happy to try others to see if they'll beat its particular heat-sweet synergy with Jambalaya's spicy andouille sausage, ham, cayenne, "trinity," and Creole seasonings. It's sort of an Alsatian dish with a souped-up engine.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            Thanks for all that. Of course, I agree. I was initially responding to the zinfandel thing as it is, and not as a wine for jambalaya. Getting back to jambalaya, if I was there, I'd be glad there are plans to have plenty of beer.

                      1. re: vinosnob

                        Yup. Nalle, in particular, and I go way back.
                        This may be a personal preference thing.
                        I don't like food-heat with wines that don't have RS.
                        The pairing doesn't seem resolved, at least, in my mouth.
                        Spicy becomes fiery: it's not enjoyable to me.

                        There is one exception: French Rose with Latina fresca.
                        That works.That works well.

                        But if you enjoy the pairing, please continue to do so.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Indeed I will.

                          The wine we drink the food we pair with it is without a doubt "a personal preference thing" IMO.

                  2. re: dkenworthy

                    Not sure that I've tried any Zins with wife's NO/Cajun influenced dishes. That seems strange, to me, as I love Zins of all levels. I'll give this one a definite go, just to see.



            2. Anything with some sugar such as the Riesling you mentioned, or a Champagne labeled Extra Dry. I'd prefer beer to wine with jambalaya, but you're the host...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Brad Ballinger

                We definitely will have plenty of beer on hand, as I think half of us will drink beer and the other half, wine.

              2. For me, I'd opt for the pinot gris or riesling. Gewurztraminer (from Alsace) could be nice as well as a rose. Dolcetto or lambrusco (dry or slightly sweet) could be fun too...

                1 Reply
                1. re: vinosnob

                  An off-dry riesling or an off-dry gewurz would definitely fit the bill.