Cajun and Creole food have similarities but some distinct differences, as well. Cajun cooking tends to contain a lot of seasoning, including garlic and cayenne pepper, which may make dishes sometimes, but not always, a bit spicy. Creole food tends to be more dedicate, with savory characteristics such as rich, buttery sauces and exotic ingredients. Both cuisines are always flavorful, and present their own challenges when it comes to pairing each with the right wines.
The carbon-dioxide-filled bubbles in sparkling wines such as Champagne are excellent pairings for Cajun and Creole cuisine, particularly with spicy sauced dishes. Sparkling wine comes in varying degrees of sweetness, so even a not-so-spicy dish can taste terrific. True Champagne, produced in France's Champagne region, works here, as does bubbly wine such as California Korbel.
If your Cajun or Creole dish is on the spicy side, you can pair it with an off-dry or even sweet German riesling. The spicier the dish, the sweeter your riesling should be; Germany produces some of the world's best sweet rieslings. If your dish lacks spice, opt for a drier riesling from France's Alsace region. Alsace tends to produce drier acidic rieslings with flinty characteristics. Either way, a riesling is a win-win.
Because of the heavy tannins sometimes present, red wines typically do not pair well with spicier Cajun or Creole food. But, if you are a red wine lover, you do have a couple of options. Opt for a jammy red California zinfandel, which can work well with a spicy or even not-so-spicy dish. The zinfandel grape is native to California and produces wine with intense berry flavors and relatively high levels of alcohol. Don't confuse zinfandel with white zinfandel, which is a sweeter rose.
Pinot noir is a user-friendly wine and makes a decent partner for a variety of dishes, including Cajun and Creole selections. Pinot noir tends to be on the lighter side and often lacks the heavy tannins bolder reds, like cabernet sauvignon, have. France's Burgundy region produces some of the most elegant pinot noir out there, but don't discount pinot noir from up-and-coming New World regions like Chile, Oregon, New Zealand or California's Sonoma County, which produces pinot noir that can give France a run for its money.
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Kyle Therese Cranston is a freelance writer and editor. She is the co-editor of the award-winning book series "Mug of Woe" and the author of "All Girls Heart Tiffany" and the "Newcomer's Handbook For Moving to and Living in Boston." When she isn't writing, Kyle enjoys spending time with her husband and two little munchkins.
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