A Black Sommelier’s Guide to Wine for Our Food

jerk chicken wings on a white platter

As a Black sommelier and travel consultant, I don’t play favorites when it comes to food. The world is literally my oyster or, rather, my cellar. The same should be said for picnics. Why limit yourself to the same old reds, rosés, or (perish the thought) moscatos?

Having tasted as many wines as I have, I find it boring to keep drinking the same wine with the same food and I actually prefer to try new styles or similar grapes from other wine countries.

Some really heavenly matches can be made by balancing fried food with Champagne bubbles or pairing a crispy, rich foods with an acidic Cava from Spain. Pairings for me are mainly case-by-case because building a good understanding of the food is crucial to find the perfect wine to connect to the experience.

Because most wine producers and marketing teams are ignorant of the vast variety of flavours, textures, and fragrances in Black food culture, few are able to wine recommendations for African, Caribbean, and Southern staples like jerk chicken, fritters of all kinds, or plantain.

Wine recommendations for West African favourites like red-red (stew) and sweet plantains are rare.
Most wine producers would be hard-pressed to provide a wine recommendation for Ghanaian red-red and plantains.

Fortunately, as a Black sommelier living and working in some of the most diverse cities in the world, I have the pleasure of pairing my theoretical learning and real life experience to come up with suggestions that bring together the best of both worlds.

Below you’ll find five great wines — including bubbly, crisp, and dry variations — that will pair perfectly with BLACK FOODIE Picnic Day menu. Santé!

  1. Almost everyone I know has had fried chicken at their picnic at one time or another. Next time you pack add it to your basket, be sure to include a fresh and youthful sparkling wine like Cava Gran Reserva Brut Natural, from Spain as it complements the meat perfectly.
  2. Who’s got jerk chicken on the menu? If you can’t picnic without this spicy, savoury dish, I’d suggest pairing it with a lovely Bordeaux, specifically, the Saint Emilion 2009 Chateau Simard, from Bordeaux, France .
  3. Looking to go the fruit route? Try La Fête du Rosé,  Provence, France, a dry, crisp wine that pairs well with a variety of fruits including watermelon and strawberries.
  4. For the fish fritter fans, I’d suggest Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Gneiss 2015 from Loire Valley in France. It pairs perfectly with the saltiness of this island treat.
  5. Lastly, for the plantain lovers, try the Portuguese Quinta de Santiago Alvarinho 2018 at your next get together! I find that it’s a fabulous accompaniment to this sweet and salty snack.

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