Which Wine to Drink with Jamaican Food

By Christoper Reckord

Describing Jamaican food is like reciting an adjustment of our national motto – “Out of Many One People”; with influences from every nationality that has inhabited our beloved country including the Spanish, British, Africans, Indian, Chinese and also the original inhabitants– the Tainos. While rum and beer have been the drinks of choice in years gone by, fine wine has been growing as a preferred drink of choice to accompany a meal on our tables.

Wine and food were meant to be. However, for many, it always seems to be a challenge to choose which wine when faced with the wine list in a restaurant or when you are standing in front of hundreds of bottles in a wine store or in the supermarket aisle.

The industry attempts to over-simplify the selection process by putting wine in style categories in order to make wine purchasing decisions reasonably easy. When restaurants organize their wine list in this way, it is called a “progressive wine list”:

  • Off dry or slightly sweet wines to sweet wines:wines Riesling, Moscato,  Gewürztraminer, Sauternes; Chenin Blanc (Vouvray)
  • Dry, light body fruity white wines: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc
  • Dry medium to full body white wines: Chardonnay, Pouilly-Fume, White Bordeaux
  • Light body low tannin red wines: Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Sangiovese
  • Medium to full body red wine: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah, Malbec, Zinfandel
  • Sparkling wines: Champagne, Prosecco

The first rule of wine and food pairing is that there are NO rules. Today, it’s no longer: “white wine with fish and red wine with meat”. Drink what you like with what you like to eat.

However, there are a few guidelines that will make the experience much more enjoyable. Food almost always changes the taste of wine, so make a decision on the wine based on what you are eating.

Jamaican food tends to be ‘spicy’ or ‘peppery’ so do you want to complement this flavor or contrast it? If you try a big powerful red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon from California or Chile with your pepper shrimp or jerk chicken, you might NOT like it as the tannins in the full body red wine will make the pepper more pronounced. However, if you try a slightly sweet Moscato with the same food, you will experience that explosion of flavour that the contrast of components will cause in your mouth.

What ‘style’ of wine should Jamaican food lovers try? Try wines from Categories I, II, IV and VI with Jamaican foods. Avoid wines from category III and V. In other words, if the food is peppery – avoid full body wines.

Try these traditional Jamaican favourites with these wines:

Stew Peas: Choose light bodied red wines – Pinot Noir, including Red Burgundys. Also look for wines made with Sangiovese, including Chiantis from Italy and Beaujolais wines from France.

Curried Goat: Best choices are light off dry white wines in-cluding gewürztraminer, Riesling, viognier. If you prefer red choose Beaujolais or fruit forward Zinfandel based wines.

Cheers! Now go forth and keep trying new wines.