Chinedu Rita Rosa, Founder at Vines by Rosa (Source: Roger Das)
It is not rocket science, but most of us are in great distress when it is time to make a choice of wine, especially when it comes to having dinner with friends or worst of all, your husband is inviting colleagues or his boss over to your house and you want to pull out all the stops to impress and give them a dining experience that they will be talking about in the office for the coming weeks ahead.
In Nigeria, we are blessed with such a wide array of formidable cooking styles and different tastes, that I know the food is not the problem, but you do not want to serve your food with the wrong choice of wine, that will take away from the taste of your food instead of enhancing, so let’s dive right into sure ways of avoiding a mistake.
Food Categories and the Wine Match
Fatty and Oily food: We are a Nation of the best palm oils and most of the dishes in Nigeria consists of oils in one form or the order, so for a fail-proof choice, when cooking all those beautiful Afang soup, Egusi soup, Efo-riro etc, with of course all the orisirisi (Mixed meat) that goes with it. The choice is to have a wine, high in acidity and full-bodied to be able to cut through the fatty taste and cleansing the palete through the meal.
Pinot Noir: Because of its high acidity, medium tannin, and careful use of oak maturation, this wine is perfect for an
amazing dinner that will enhance the Nigerian dining experience: It is quite easy to find and all you need to do is decide if you want Old-world Pinot Noir eg: Bourgogne/Burgundy AOC, or premier Crus like Pommard, Nuits-Saint-Georges etc.
New World: Californian (Santa Barbara, Sonoma etc) Chile: Casablanca Valley, Australia (Yarra Vally & Mornington
Peninsula) or New Zealand (Martinborough, Marlborough and central Otago. And of course in South Africa where the beautiful region of Walker Bay produces some amazing Pinot Noir.
Spicy/hot/Chilly: Call it whatever you want but this is the heat that puts African food on the map and as my mum would say “that drives our never-ending energy” Because of this burning topic, I have two suggestions.
If you do not like the burning sensation in your mouth while eating a heated meal, I will suggest a Low alcoholic wine with fresh and floral flavors, that will help reduce the heat but still increase the enjoyment of the food.
Champagne: The bubbles of champagne are important in heightening the taste of the spices, while the high acidity
level blends perfectly with the spices finally allowing the cooling effect of the champagne to appease the taste buds! A blanc de Noirs or Vintage champagne will get your dinner off to a good start….. Champagne Anyone!!
Riesling: Riesling is one of the best food wines in the world. Its balance of intense acidity, minerality, and fruitiness
makes it an especially good match for spicy foods and the mix of ethnic flavors. A cold bottle of Riesling will make your Asùn a perfect meal and balance the spiciness.
The slight sweetness of(Auslese) Riesling or if you are going for a Spatlese(Dry) will enhance the spice in your Asùn but also reduce the heat in your mouth, while the minerality matches perfectly with the smokiness of the roast meat and fruity flavor gives a satisfying finish.
Bordeaux Wines: The choices are endless here just make sure the balance of Carbenent Sauvignon/Merlot/ Cabernet Franc blend has more than 50% of Cabernet Sauvignon eg Haute Medoc, Saint Estephe etc. Chateauneuf-du-pape with its full body and high alcohol it can withstand the heat, other wines in this category are Cotes du Rhone (France) and Rioja Crianza or Grande Reserva (Spain).
HIGHLY FLAVOURED & Smokey: With the high use of smoked fish, crayfish and spices in our foods it is no surprise that the food will struggle to be a good match with wine, for let’s be clear Europeans did not know what spiciness meant till the ventured out of their lands and made wine according to their own taste, but here we are in the 21st century where food has traveled and now wines are made knowing that consumers come with different taste buds. So to get that Smoked chicken,Moi-Moi, obè àtà, àkara with some fried peppered snails “on point” you just need to follow this rule (food and wine must match in intensity to avoid one overpowering the other).
Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc: Vouvray is my top example of a Chenin Blanc, with its ability to make dry to sweet
wines, you can find anything you want in this grape variety. with its high acidity, stone fruit, and tropical fruit flavours thatare fabulous with a meal of Moi-Moi on its own, with roasted or oven-baked smokey fish or chicken which can be eaten with boiled yams and tomato sauce by the side. While a Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre, Pouilly fume, Pessac-Leognan, Graves) will not shy away from a dish of Lobsters, Shrimps in a fisherman Okro soup, the herbaceous and floral and sometimes Aromatic flavors in this wine enhances the seafood platter which we definitely love in Africa.
Cabernet Sauvignon Single grape or Blend: With a full-bodied Medoc (Bordeaux, Malbec from France & Argentina, Pinotage Western Cape, South Africa Nebbiolo(Barolo DOCG or Barbaresco DOCG) Sangiovese(Chianti Classico and a Brunello di Montalcino DOCG) Italy. Are wines that will keep your dinner on a high note. Bitterness – It is the bittersweet taste at the height of African cuisine (Bitterleaf soup) Match bitter foods with white or neutral wines or reds with lower levels of tannin, simple examples are Chardonnay from Chablis AOC in France because it is not matured in oak, Pinot Gris from Italy.
SWEET: Nigerians are not typically sweet eating people but times have changed so to end your dinner on a sweet and delicious note you can make sure that you get a bottle of wine sweeter than your dessert, I personally love a good glass of Porto, which just mixes spice and sweetness to complement whatever dessert you are serving, but for more choices Sauternes France’s famous wine is made from overripe,noble rot, and hand-picked grapes, it is a luxury that is worth every kobo spent, Loupiac from France, Pinot Grigio from Alsace France, Porto Tawny from Portugal.
SALTY: We are talking of Most food now, the interaction of salt in your food is pleasant and it is also the same with
Wine. Salt makes the wine seem fruitier and softens the tannins in Red Wine, so in the light of this conjecture, most
wines will go with any salty food. Go with your pocket and decide whatever you are in the mood for as long as your salty taste is not mixed in a high degree with any of the above you can drink most wines with foods in this category.
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