Jambalaya is a traditional Louisiana cuisine that offers a delectable combination of sausage, beef/chicken/seafood, rice, onions, and bell peppers. As a result, you’ll have a rich and flavorful dish with everything you might want in a hearty meal. Jambalaya has no specific recipe but can be divided into two varieties based on whether it contains tomatoes or not:
Creole Jambalaya and Wine Pairings
Creole Jambalaya, which contains tomatoes, pairs best with medium-bodied and acidic red wines such as Chianti, Rioja, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. Acidity in your wine is a must, otherwise, the acidity in the tomatoes will make your wine taste flat and metallic. Full-bodied white wines, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc, also make wonderful dance partners.
Cajun Jambalaya and Wine Pairings
With Cajun Jambalaya there are no tomatoes in the dish, thus heftier red wines, such as Shiraz, or Cabernet Sauvignon make for a great pairing if your Jambalaya has a heavy focus on beef or sausage. Stick to lighter reds like Beaujolais or Pinot Noir or full-bodied whites if your Cajun Jambalaya features either chicken or seafood.
Best Wine with Jambalaya
Chardonnay and Cajun Chicken Jambalaya Pairing
A full-bodied and oaked Chardonnay complements the rich flavours of Cajun Chicken Jambalaya with the wine’s buttery, smoke, coconut and toasty notes. Meanwhile, the apple, peach, pineapple and lemon flavours of Chardonnay offer a refreshing contrast against the dense meaty and vegetable flavours of your Chicken Jambalaya. With medium levels of acidity, your glass of Chardonnay will help accentuate all the individual ingredients in your Jambalaya without overwhelming them.
For the tomato-based Creole Jambalaya, you’ll want to seek out an unoaked Chardonnay. Oak in wine creates tannin which clashes with the tomatoes in Creole Jambalaya, making the Chardonnay taste funny. With an unoaked Chardonnay, you’ll find a crisp white wine that serves up refreshing flavours of apples, mineral, pears and tropical fruits
Sauvignon Blanc & Cajun/Creole Seafood Jambalaya
Sauvignon Blanc is a zingy white wine full of citrus and herbal aromas. Flavours of grapefruit, lemon, lime and melon bounce around your mouth with each sip and electrify the individual flavours of your Seafood Jambalaya. Sauvignon Blanc is like adding a squeeze of lemon to your seafood, in that it brings out those tender seafood flavours that tend to get lost amongst the richness of Jambalaya.
The herbal notes of Sauvignon Blanc, that many people associate with freshly cut grass, complements the bell peppers, garlic and onions along with any herbs tossed into your Jambalaya dish.
Zinfandel & Beef Jambalaya Pairing
Zinfandel pairs well with both Creole and Cajun Jambalaya since Zinfandel is slightly sweet and acidic. While not overly sugary, Zinfandel is known for being a fruit bomb due to its juicy fruit flavours of blackberries, black cherries, raspberries and plums. You’ll also find beautiful flavours of chocolate, black pepper, spice and coffee, which will further flatter the savoury flavours of your Beef Jambalaya.
Because Jambalaya is so flavorful, the fruity flavours and acidity of Zinfandel easily cuts through the richness of the dish and bring out the subtle subtleties you may have missed earlier. Finally, Zinfandel has a low to medium tannin content, so it won’t clash with the tomatoes found in a Creole Jambalaya.
Shiraz & Cajun Beef Jambalaya Pairing
What I love about an Australian Shiraz is its bold and jammy fruit flavours of blackberries, cassis and plums, along with its hints of black pepper and chocolate. I find the fruit offers a nice refreshing contrast to the chunks of beef in your Jambalaya, while the black pepper and spicy flavours complement the beef or any sausage in your dish.
Medium to high in tannin, keep Shiraz away from your Jambalaya if it contains lots of tomatoes. However, in regard to beef and sausage, the Shiraz will make those ingredients taste even more delicious as the tannin break down the protein molecules in meat. By denaturing the protein molecules, all of the savoury flavours are released, making your Jambalaya taste even more delicious!
Reserva Rioja & Cajun Jambalaya Pairing
Rioja is a medium-bodied red wine from Spain primarily made from the Tempranillo grape but may contain many other grapes. Similar to Chianti or Pinot Noir, Rioja has a refreshing tartness and quite versatile with food. Rioja is also somewhat high in tannin, so you’ll want to keep it away from Creole Jambalaya, where the tomatoes in the dish will make the wine taste metallic. The medium to high tannin in Rioja will be perfect with Jambalaya that is made with sausage, beef, pork or lamb.
However, Rioja works nice with tomatoless Cajun-style Jambalaya, where the fruity flavours of black cherries, cassis, and plums are refreshing against the heaviness and depth of Jambalaya. For an even better pairing, step up your game with a Reserva Rioja. A Reserva Rioja is a Rioja that has spent some time in oak, and thus you’ll find more complex flavours of earth, leather, spice and smoke that complement the rich and savoury flavours of your Jambalaya even further.
Rioja is often adored with Tapas and seeing as Jambalaya is such a mix of different foods, it’s no surprise that Rioja and Jambalaya makes for a wonderful pairing.