The Wine Guy of Commander's Palace
Dan Davis talks amplifying your king cake experience with wine!
A Wine Lover’s Guide to the Festivals of New Orleans: King Cake Festival
In the first in a series of articles focused on the wines we love to drink throughout the parade of festivals that make up our calendar in New Orleans, Commander’s Palace Wine Guy Dan Davis takes a look at that harbinger of Mardi Gras revelry, the king cake.
We all know the feeling. New Year’s Eve is in the rearview mirror, the Saints season is (usually) over, the weather is bracing, and we all turn our eyes to Mardi Gras. Like clockwork, king cakes start appearing in offices and kitchens all over the city. Collectively, we New Orleanians begin to gird our loins for the long party ahead by consuming endless varieties and embarrassing amounts of sugar-encrusted dough.
With the possible exception of the beignet, no pastry is more widely associated with New Orleans than the king cake, and it is certainly the one most associated with Mardi Gras. Perhaps it is because it is only socially acceptable to enjoy king cakes for the four to nine weeks between Twelfth Night and Ash Wednesday, we are compelled to consume as many varieties as possible and to advocate loudly for our favorites. We’ve even dedicated a festival to our muse: The King Cake Festival at Champions Square, to be held on Sunday, January 29th this year.
But what does a wine lover drink with king cake? There are many challenges to be overcome when pairing wines with king cake. How sweet is too sweet? Fruit filling, cream cheese filling, or no filling? Buttery brioche dough, cinnamon roll dough, or traditional French-bread style? Finding the one wine to rule them all can be quite a challenge, but The Wine Guy is up to it.
In the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, several winemaking communes produce light, slightly sweet, spritzy wines that are perfect for our challenge. These wines are generally lower in alcohol than most still wines, they have gorgeous acidity and bright fruit presentation, and they are really, really affordable. While these wines are sweet enough to be considered dessert wines, it’s really the acidity and effervescence that makes them perfect for most types of king cake.
The sticky icings, fruit fillings, and cream cheese opulence can really overwhelm your mouth—you need some “lift” to clear things away before the next bite. That’s where the bright acidity and the bubbles come in. You want a wine to leave you craving the next bite (and the next sip). Here are two of the best options, one white and one red:
Moscato d’Asti DOCG. In the commune surrounding the city of Asti we find the most prolific white wines of Italy, made from the Moscato Bianco grape. While these wines have lately seen a huge jump in popularity and demand, they are still a great value. Skip the bottles labeled “Asti DOCG” as they are too fizzy for our purposes. “Moscato d’Asti DOCG” is what you want to bring home for your king cake enjoyment. Here are three great selections and where to find them:
• Marchesi di Gresy ”la Serra” Moscato d’Asti DOCG (Martin Wine Cellar: $13)
• Col dei Centi Moscato d’Asti DOCG (Poeyfarre Market: $21)
• Marenco Scrapona Moscato d’Asti DOCG (Swirl Wine Bar & Market: $19)
Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG. A sweet-ish, sparkling RED wine you say? Yes! And, it is absolutely delicious. Bursting with bright red berries and rose petals, this crowd pleaser will go with your king cake indulgences as well as the barbecued ribs you have later. From the city of Acqui Terme, just south of Asti, these wines are made from the red grape Brachetto. They are much smaller in production and harder to find than the Moscato wines of Asti, but they are worth seeking out. One of my favorites is also one of the easiest to find:
Banfi Piemonte “Rosa Regale” Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG
• Acquistapace’s Mandeville ($16)
• Vieux Carré Wines & Spirits ($20)
• Dorignac’s ($17)
The Moscato wines will be slightly better with richer styles of king cakes, and the Brachetto will really shine with fruitfilled versions. Don’t let that stop you from trying all of the combinations, though—you will not be disappointed! Just remember that you’ll need to pick up a few extra bottles, because somebody’s gonna find the baby.
Retail locations. Note that wines may be available at multiple retail locations: Acquistapace’s – Mandeville – 631 N. Causeway Blvd., 985.951.2501; Covington – 125 E. 21st Ave., 985.893.0593 Martin Wine Cellar – Uptown – 3827 Baronne St., 504.899.7411; Metairie – 714 Elmeer Ave., 504.896.7300 Swirl Wine Bar & Market – 3143 Ponce de Leon St. in Bayou St. John, 504.304.0635 Poeyfarre Market – 925 Poeyfarre St. in the Warehouse District, 504.522.5252 Dorignac’s Food Center – 710 Veteran’s Blvd., Metairie, 504.834.8216 Vieux Carré Wine & Spirits – 422 Chartres St., 504.568.9463
See Nola.com for more info and photos: http://www.mardigras.com/news/2017/01/king_cake_wine_pairings_whites.html
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