Wine is becoming an important part of the Nigerian (generally Africans) palate in addition to beer, *hot* aka spirits and malt drinks etc.
This article will give some basics on wine pairing with Nigerian staples using some simple examples, also note the wines shown here are for reference and does not serve as an endorsement of any brand/price point .
A summary of pairing is at the end of the article. Takeaway: Wine isn’t just paired based on the type of food but how the food is made (steamed, fried etc) and its ingredients/spices.
So let’s start shall we,
Imagine a dish like ewa agoyin (beans) or rich and spicy food in the same family type, you might consider pairing with a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre French grapes from the Rhone Valley region) red blend wine. This is because it is a full bodied red wine with flavors of dark fruits and spice. The Grenache provides spices, red fruit and alcohol to the blend, Syrah adds structure and dark fruits, while Mourvedre gives the tannins, color and length. Note– The letter ordering let’s you know which is the prominent grape e.g. MSG means higher Mourvedre content .
The sweetness in the ewa complements the fruity nature of the wine while the spicy ata works well with the spicy notes of the wine. An expensive example of a GSM wine is Chateauneuf-Du-Pape.
By the way, GSM is also a good wine for that beef chili that we all enjoy so much in the winter, especially if made with habanero pepper.
Now for every effervescent Nigerian, Jollof rice and efo riro are like water; typically made with a variety of spices and heat (habanero). You may go with a Zinfandel, a Californian staple, genetically synonymous to an Italian Primitivo. Zinfandel is a full body wine with fruity and spicy characters, a robust wine which makes it an easy choice to pair with both dishes. The heat and spices in these dishes such as bay leaves, thyme, garlic, and ginger enhances the pairing.
Our next stop is Riesling, it is a good entry into the world of wine for most people. Despite its snobbery, Riesling has an impressive varietal. It is indigenous to Germany but now grown in different parts of the world including Australia, Washington State, and New York. It can be cultivated in minimal sunlight, making it a very acidic wine with intense aroma and flavor. Due to its high acidity, Riesling can be made into both dry wine and very sweet wine; it is one of the few white varietals that has the ability to age in bottle and also have a longer life span once opened. If you want wine with low alcohol content, Riesling is perfect as it is typically in the 7-8% range whereas most wines are in 12-15% range. Rieslings also have a strong aroma; an interesting way to identify it without the bottle label is through its unique “Petrol” scent that tickles your nuzzle 😁.
Now for that gizzard and plantain dish, Riesling is a robust wine of choice. A medium body Riesling has more residual sugar which pairs well with the sweetness of the plantain and doesn’t take away from the gizzard. Riesling is a wine you can pair with a variety of food because of its intense flavor profile. For those who do not like red wine, Riesling or Gewurztraminer are great choices.
Also, Riesling is great with many Asian dishes from Sushi to Thai curry, in reality it is a great pairing for many dishes. Remember for every wine pairing each palette is different and it’s important to find what works for you. Washington, New York, and Australian origin are popular Riesling blends sold in the US. Australian Riesling has more residual sugar than the others, giving it a bit more body. So when you want a quick pairing choice, grab a Riesling and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Where is the Naija party without “fried fish” ???, lets pair with a Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon blanc is probably the second most popular white wine in the US, second to Chardonnay. It has its origin from Bordeaux and Loire Valley in France where it is the largest part of most Bordeaux white wine blends. This wine thrives in cooler climates such as the Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions in France, New Zealand , South Africa, Chile, and Napa California. Sauvignon blanc is known to be a refreshingly dry wine with strong aroma and minerality (meaning aroma of herbs and grass); It is a great pairing with food such as white meat and dishes with herbs such as rosemary, basil, cilantro, etc and we have those in Nigerian dishes.
Sauvignon Blanc, also known as Sancerre and Fumé Blanc. The term Sancerre is mostly used in France in the Bordeaux and Loire Valley region; while Fumé Blanc is supposed to represent dry Sauvignon Blanc wines aged in oak barrel, an uncommon practice for regular Sauvignon Blanc wines. With migration of the French people, Sauvignon Blanc grapes also emigrated to New Zealand where it is used in 100% varietals instead of blends. Cultivation of this wine in New Zealand resulted in fruit forward flavor profile that finally put it on the map. Many people swear by the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as being the best; however, it is up to you to explore and make that decision.
There you have it, a basic intro of how to pick a good wine accompaniment for that Naija staple dish😁.
Nigerian dishes have pairing potential that is fun for the explorer.
Contribution from Sade and Mary
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