Wine Dharma

DharMag February 2012 Mardi Gras in New Orleans!

Berlucchi Rosé and Gumbo. Wine and Cajun cuisine pairing guide: suggestion If you are short of tannins for delicate but fatty dishes, choose the salty bubbles of a Rosé New Orleans, where Carnival ends with the wildest Mardi Gras of the world: it’s a spectacular event that involves all the city, Bourbon Street is full of endless parades and crazy people wearing all kinds of masks. A delirium of joy where everything can happen, but you can feel a hovering sensation of decadence, a sense of craziness pushed to the absurd, an intriguing mystery that only New Orleans and Venice have.

But for foodies it is a wonderful opportunity to discover the Creole cuisine, famous for its luscious charm: a mix of the traditions of slaves, American Natives and the aristocratic splendor of the South, in which you can recognize a lot of Frenchness. Let’s take for example Jambalaya, which can be sumptuous or very pop, but always remarkably delicious, after all you can’t eat everyday in a three star Michelin restaurant… And what wine, if not Sangiovese, could have a so wide aromatic-tannic range to match this pyrotechnic cuisine, without getting burned?

A structured Spumante like Franciacorta’s ones or Pinot Noir, so spicy and flexible, may be equally valid, but how could they tackle tons of grilled meat and all those juicy barbecue sauces, if what is said about Louisiana is true, namely that there all that breathes can be cooked in a barbecue? They wouldn’t be smooth pairings, better the Sangiovese, which hides many faces under the mask. Elegant, but sharp when necessary, can range from the roses of the great Morellino di Scansano Capatosta Riserva, to the fruity, warm power, leaking coffee, cocoa and cinnamon, of the 2006 Torgiano Rosso Vigna Monticchio, from Lungarotti, which is amazing with smoked and grilled meat, especially if that has been coated in a sweet and salty sauce. Let’s take a closer look to some New Orleans recipes to find the right wine.

Jambalaya

Jambalaya with rice paired with Italian wines: discover our pairing guide The most famous Cajun dish: the Jambalaya Not to spoil the subtle harmony of flavors among shrimps, vegetables, andouille, thyme and laurel, you should pair a wine with a round fruit, not too tannic, or it will ignite the background piquancy, but steady enough to be able to cross that buttery sea, where we could find also some strips of ham. A fresh and well balanced Chianti Classico 2008, from Riecine winery, is the right wine to exalt the subtle nuances of this Cajun dish.

Red Bean and Rice

Don’t let yourself get fooled by the apparent simplicity of this dish, which reminds me of Pasta e Fagioli. Beans must be cooked for a long time and the recipe includes beacon grease, andouille, chopped ham, so the result is sprightly for the pepper, with a touch of sweetness given by beans, onions and garlic, then we have some aromatic suggestions coming from the bay leaves and thyme, but it will be frightfully fatty. And the level of greasiness increases as you pile extra pork chops or sausages on the plate. Accordingly, a mighty cherry-currant freshness is required to cut the thickness of the dish, a minty tastiness too could be handy to support such a zesty texture of flavors and finally a hint of oak, caramel and coffee, will help the tannin to get comfortable with the smoked meat. Pair the 2009 Sangiovese di Romagna Thea Riserva, which hides a steady soul under a violet and mulberry undergrowth.

Gumbo

Coca cola sign, New Orleans. Cajun cuisine and Italian wines, pairing guide Coke or Sangiovese with Gumbo? Pepper could make things difficult, but it’s the only problem, because this is essentially a full body soup, where you have very precise flavors even if they are amazingly mixed together in a puffy roux that flows like caramel. Just break down the dish into more manageable layers. So let’s choose a full flavored wine, with a vivid, fruit heavy acidity that could cut through the creaminess of the roux, but without spoiling the subtle flavor of seafood, furthermore the tannin play a key role: it has to add some smokiness for the andouille and a soft almond nuance to create a bound with the roux, the 2009 Morellino di Scansano Ghiaccio Forte is the best choice, spawning roses and violets, nicely salty, it has a smooth, firm body to support this carnival of flavors and also a well refined suite of tannins.

Bacon wrapped Jalapenos

A smoked and crunchy shroud of pork, the bittersweet texture of a soft pepper and a rich filling of melting cheese. This dish gives its best with the 2008 Carmignano Terre a Mano, a wine rich in mineral and herby nuances, where Cabernet Sauvignon pump out balsamic waves of licorice and green pepper from a river of cherries and peony jam. In spite of a big, dark chunk of Cabernet, 15%, the wine is fine, with smooth tannins that don’t clash with stuffing cheeses like Mozzarella or Brie. Make sure the peppers are not spicy, just remove the seeds and the white membranes.

Crawfish Étoufée

Pergole torte 2008 paired with New Orleans cuisine, discover our guide! Puro Sangue is a great Sangiovese too, a lot of fruits and mushrooms, salty and smelling like a pine wood It’s very similar to Gumbo, but it’s much more delicate and of course there isn’t Gumbo inside and the roux is lighter, not so caramelized. It’s a kind of chowder made of crab and crawfish, cooked with the typical Cajun seasonings. For this extremely velvety dish the ideal wine is the 2008 Pergole Torte of Montevertine winery, a monovarietal Sangiovese, gifted with an uncanny complexity that impress with its drinkability. The fruit is sound and rumbling, rounded by a flush of tea and violets, slightly peppery, aromatic just enough to tickle your palate with fresh notes—thyme and bay leaves—that you can find in the stew too. There could not be a more perfect tannin for this dish: enveloping and crisp, great for alleviating the buttery attack of this soup. One of the most refined New Orleans’s recipe for one of the most amazing wine of Tuscany.

Po-Boy

A monster sandwich, two huge and crunchy slices of French bread outrageously stuffed with fried crab, cat fish, crawfish, oysters and all that you want, or if you prefer piles of roast beef, then you add two leaves of lettuce and splash enough mayonnaise, prickles and Tabasco sauce, to fill every hole. If a sandwich deserves to enter Heaven is this one, if Angels had to eat they would choose this. The pairing depends on the stuffing, but are the dressings—ketchup, mustard, pepper and hot sauce—that will finally shift the matching balance, so choose a flexible wine like the 2009 Rosso di Montalcino, Baricci. A sure bet, delicate, dripping cherries and black currants that are well suited to fried fish-crab, salty and spicy with pepper, tobacco and vanilla to adjust the intensity of the dressings, and if you want beef, the tannin is right there to do its job.

Final tip

Let’s focus on medium body wine, not too aged to not loose the fresh notes that can wash your mouth from butter, spices and the sweetness of seafood, but keep in mind that you will need also a solid fruit to balance the saltiness of the soups. A hint of oak is welcome, for the andouille and if we come across some fat, don’t hesitate to knock it off with a tannin uppercut. Few rules and the Cajun cuisine will be even better.

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