Finding the perfect wine to blend with your sizzling Cajun or creole entree doesn’t have to be difficult. In general, avoid anything that’s high in tannins, like a rich Cabernet or other hearty red wine. Tannins enhance the spiciness of food, turning up the heat of an already flaming meal. Usually you want to aim for dry, sweet or bubbly white wines when you’re enjoying Southern-inspired cuisine. However, some of your favorite reds are equally as enjoyable.
Rose or Blush
Pink-colored wines are some of your best options for pairing with spicy dishes. Rose and blush wines are low in alcohol. The alcohol content of wines is important, since the higher the alcohol content — above 12 percent — the more it’ll bring out that spicy burn in your mouth. Pink wines won’t add to the harshness of your meal. Plus they’ll offer a subtle fruity finish that blends perfectly with seafood recipes, like creole shrimp, gumbo or jambalaya.
Dry White Wines
Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Albarino and Muscadet all have dry, herbal undertones. These flavors are ideal for cutting down the spice on your palate with any creole or Cajun meals. You’re better off avoiding oak-aged whites though. The high dose of spice in your dish can make wine taste overly “oaky” and unappealing. Be cautious of the alcohol content, too. Some dry whites, particularly Chardonnay, are higher in alcohol, ultimately intensifying that burn.
Sweet Fruity White Wines
Opt for a sweet fruity white wine, instead of a dry one, if you’re having seafood, chicken, pork or other lean protein dish. Or if you’re ordering an entree with a fruity sauce, including apricot or glazed apple spreads, select this type of wine. Chenin blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Moscato are all sure to delight your palate and tame the heat, while enjoying some spicy cuisine.
Order a glass of sparkling wine while you’re splurging on spicy entrees. The miniscule bubbles seamlessly comb all of those spicy particles off your palate, lessening that agonizing burn. Bubbly white, like Prosecco, or bubbly blush extra-dry wines, are ideal palate cleansers. Plus their lower alcohol content helps tone down any extra flames from spice. You’ll especially want to stick to these wines if you’re highly sensitive to the extra heat of your dish.
Not all red wines are off limits when you’re eating Cajun-inspired dishes. Low-tannin red wines — ideally chilled slightly — are perfect for red meat creole or Cajun meals. Enjoy a glass of red zinfandel, pinot noir or Grenache. These reds pair delightfully with blackened sirloin, smoked beef ribs, beef stew, Cajun burgers, spice-rubbed veal chops or other Southern-style spicy dishes. Be careful though. The natural spiciness of red wines can enhance some of the burning sensation in your mouth.
References and ResourcesFood & Wine: Tips for Pairing Wine and Spicy Food
Eating Well: Pairing Wines with Spicy Foods
Forbes: Best Wine Pairing For Spicy Food: Albariño
Cooking Light: Wine Pairings for Spicy Foods
Stoneridge Wine and Spirits: How to Pair Food and Wine
Food & Wine: Cajun and Creole