Gumbo brings together so many different flavors—dark, rich roux; vegetal okra and green peppers; tangy tomatoes. And that’s not to mention spicy sausage and seafood. When pairing wine with gumbo, you’ll want to think about the main ingredients as well as the heat level to get to the best match.
With seafood gumbos. Shellfish and zippy white wines are usually a no brainer pairing, but that’s not the case with gumbo. Because of the stew’s richness, you’ll want to choose whites with some body and texture. Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France (places like Vouvray or Savennières, in particular) is a good option because it tends to have honeyed stone-fruit flavors and an almost oily texture. Plus, you can often find both dry and off-dry versions. For spicier gumbos, go with Chenin Blancs that have some sweetness.
Related: Sausage Recipes
With chicken gumbos. Assuming your gumbo is meaty but not too spicy, you can opt for juicy, low-tannin reds. Lightly chilled cru Beaujolais from places like Brouilly or Chiroubles are good options. Another fun choice: Garnacha (the local name for Grenache) from Spain.
Related: Shrimp-and-Crab Gumbo
With exceptionally spicy gumbos. While off-dry whites, like Chenin Blanc or Riesling, will work, there are times when beer is best. If your gumbo has a lot of Andouille (the smoky, spicy sausage) or chile heat, skip the wine and opt for a pale ale.
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of the forthcoming The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016) and the blog Eat Better, Drink Better (eatbetterdrinkbetter.com). She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.