Acadiana, the part of Louisiana that has given us the joys of Cajun foods such as gumbo and jambalaya, is most definitely not a wine-producing region. Indeed, there’s a running joke that the most famous wine in the region is…Budweiser.
While Cajun cuisine has a reputation for being a difficult cuisine to pair with wine, given its intricate spicing, sometimes uncommon ingredients and occasional eye-watering heat, there are many wines that are deliciously appropriate—and affordable.
The best place to start is to follow one of the keys to successful wine pairings—match the food with wine from the country that makes the food. And Cajun food—rice, seafood and sausages—resembles that of Spain and Portugal.
Example: Broadbent Vinho Verde (about $9) is a Portuguese white wine with a green tint, lemon/lime flavor, low alcohol and a little fizz. Although some vinho verdes are sweet, this one isn’t, which makes it a better food wine. The Broadbent complements the spicing and it’s versatile enough to handle boiled and fried seafood as well as something that includes rich, savory sausage. It’s a good choice for its versatility.
Now, let’s drill down to some classic dishes—and pair them with great, affordable wines…
Chicken, andouille and okra gumbo. Gumbo sits somewhere between soup and stew. Depending on the recipe, it’s a bowl of vegetables, seafood, poultry and meat (but please, no tomatoes). It’s the kind of dish that is supposed to be nearly impossible to pair with wine. But if you keep the country guidelines in mind, it all works out. My recommendation: A Spanish red such as the Flaco Tempranillo (about $12), which is light enough so it doesn’t overpower the gumbo with big tannins or a high alcohol content. It has soft cherry fruit and green herb flavors, which fit the dish nicely.
Shrimp and sausage jambalaya. Jambalaya isn’t exactly paella, but the similarities are striking. That suggests a Spanish white such as the Senda Verde Albariño (about $10). Albariño, once difficult to find in the US, has become more popular. It’s a light wine, a little like sauvignon blanc, but distinguished by its dry acidity and citrus notes. The Senda Verde is an excellent example, with a hint of the varietal’s almost salty tang and refreshing lemon fruit.
Boiled crawfish. A Cajun crawfish boil is as much a social event as a meal. The crawfish (plus corn, potatoes, onions, garlic and spices) boils in open air pots, and then is served on newspaper spread over patio tables. So let’s keep it simple. My recommendation: A simple, fruity wine like the Domaine de Pouy (about $10), a white from the Gascony region of France. It has an almost white grape juice flavor that will make the crawfish taste even better—if that’s possible.