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12 Days of Caribana: Pairing Carnival East with Wine!

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

I cannot tell you how much fun I had pairing these delicious Caribbean foods with wine. I brought my two loves together and they more than got along!

Check the slider above for a quick view of the food and wine pairings, but I will add my notes and impressions for each below, starting with the most recent pairing.

12 Days of Caribana: Caribbean Eats & Wine Pairing Thoughts

1. Macaroni Pie + Blanc de Blancs

If you have never had Macaroni Pie, I am sorry.

Macaroni Pie encapsulates a juvenile food passion and spices it up to make it adult. This is the Caribbean’s version of baked mac and cheese, but it’s even better!

Our Macaroni Pie is made with elbow pasta, cheese, of course, but then we do a BAM and add the seasoning. Thyme, garlic, onion, clove, paprika, dry mustard, and of course, I add a pinch of masala. I guarantee if you eat Macaroni Pie, you will never want a generic old baked mac and cheese again.

I am pairing my Macaroni Pie with a Blanc de Blancs.

Blanc de Blancs is a sparkling wine made 100% of the Chardonnay grape. With this, you’ve got crips acidity that will cleanse your palate between each cheesy bite and a roundness of citrus and ripe apple. Plus, being a sucker for texture on the palate, there is something to be said about those bubbles dancing on the tongue just after that cheesy macaroni had been there.

Whoever said carbs were bad for you clearly never had a piece of Macaroni Pie.

2. Patties + Pinot Noir

No Carnival Eats & Wine list could be complete without adding the age-old Patty in there. Whether it be a Jamaican style Patty or a Guyanese one, ALL AH DEM belong on the list. Yes, it’s not as extravagant as the other foods we’ve eaten on this 12-day journey, and I went back and forth with this pairing, but if I stay true to our Carnival Eats theme, I can’t ignore this staple snack.

Since we all know what a Patty is, I am moving straight into the wine because this is where things could go wrong.

As you saw on days 6 and 7, a grape can be made in different styles, depending on climate and winemaking. The same is true with Pinot Noir. I won’t get into what wine styles you’d find in the popular regions that grow Pinot Noir, but I will say here that this paring calls for a Pinot Noir from Burgundy.

Red Burgundy (another way to say Pinot Noir from Burgundy) is a light-bodied red wine with stand out acidity which is balanced by bright red fruit, herb, spice, and earthy notes, making it a good match for not only the beef filling in your Patty but also that flaky pastry Patty shell.

There are a ton of village level Burgundy that are wildly impressive and enough to get you and your Patty started in this region. No need to reach for Côte d’Or Premier Cru or Grand Cru, but if you do… call me


3. Cassava Pone + Chardonnay Musqué

Cassava Pone is a dessert that brings back so many childhood memories.

Every family and crew has a ‘pone man’ or ‘pone lady’ - meaning the one person who could make pone perfectly! That will never be me… Anyway, Cassava Pone comprises of grated cassava, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, milk, and sugar. When it comes out of the oven, you get a semi-sticky texture of spiced sweetness. If you want to get wild, heat up the pone and have it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream - EHHHH

Now onto the wine…

The only wine-splaining I will do in this post is this; Chardonnay Musqué is a clone of Chardonnay. You need to know that Chardonnay Musqué is:

Primarily grown in Ontario (45% of global Chardonnay Musqué production), but more and more can be found in France (36% of production)

Off-dry (10+ g/l of residual sugar)

Highly aromatic and will have ripe plush fruit quality on the palate and crisp acidity

This flavour profile is excellent for Cassava Pone as you need a wine that is sweeter than the dessert you are having, and this was it.

I specifically paired my Cassava Pone with Malivoire Wineries Chardonnay Musqué Spritz, and that effervescence from the wine added an extra textured experience in the mouth.

4. Slat Fish Cake & Dahl + Sauvignon Blanc

Yes, you are correct. We kicked this thing off with a Salt Fish dish (salt fish and bake), but what you need to understand is that IT IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT THAN Salt Fish Cake and Dahl…

West Indian Salt Fish Cakes are made with codfish, potatoes, onion, scallion, garlic, thyme, cilantro, and I personally add a dash of masala in there cause I love what it adds to my food.

Many top their fish cakes off with mango chutney, but the Guyanese in me just cannot eat them without a good dose of Dahl.

Dahl is simply split peas, cooked to a smoothen texture, garlic, cumin, a little turmeric, onion, and black pepper.

**I don’t put salt in mine if I am going to eat it with Salt Fish Cake.

Now that we’ve talked about the food let’s chat about the wine.

Sauvignon Blanc is highly food-friendly and a mainstay on most menus. Depending on where your Sauvignon Blanc is from, you will get different styles of this wine in your glass. I chose to stay classic Loire Valley (France) and paired my Salt Fish Cake and Dahl with a Pouilly-Fumé (Sauvignon Blanc).

Sauvignon Blanc’s from the Loire are not as ripe on the palate as the ones you find in New Zealand, and the vegetal notes are slightly more rounded. I needed a food-friendly wine that would compliment my food and not try to upstage it.

Loire Sauvignon Blanc is aromatic and comes with great citrus, peach, pear notes balanced with crisp acidity, vegetal notes, and minerality (key in food pairing).

Dahl largely takes on the taste of what you add to it, and you may note that the cumin stands out and gives the food a smoky feel on the palate. Sauvignon Blanc, paired with this, heightens the tree and stone fruit in the wine and gives you a perception of hazelnut on the finish.

I am literally eating a little ramekin of Dahl and drinking Sauvignon Blanc while I write this, and am in a state of bliss.

I did not talk about how splendidly the Pouilly-Fumé goes with the fish cakes, but that would be a natural pairing for this type of wine and not as exciting as talking about a pairing with Dahl IMO.

5. Doubles + Crémant d’Alsace

Where should we begin? Ok. If you’ve never had Doubles before, let me explain it by saying it is channa (chickpeas) well seasoned and boiled down to get a thick consistency between two fluffy baras (fried flatbread).

Doubles is one of the ultimate street-style snack foods that you would easily find at any festival. So no Carnival Eats list could have been complete without adding a pairing for it.

Crémant d’Alsace is a sparkling wine from the Alsace region of France. It is made the same way champagne is, but cannot be called champagne because, well, it is not made in Champagne.

For this pairing I went with a rosé Crémant d’Alsace (100% Pinot Noir).

  • I wanted enough acidity to counteract the fried bara

  • I wanted that red fruit profile to play with the mango and cucumber chutney I had mixed in with my chana.

  • I wanted a dry sparkling wine, but something with enough of a fruit profile to give off a perception of sweetness on the palate without going the off-dry route.

  • The creamy texture from lees aging also provides a roundness to the flavours of the food filling

In the end, you have the perception of sweet texture on your tongue along with cream - all coming from your wine, and this combination envelopes the flavours in your Doubles like no ones business.

I was looking for a balance between food and wine and found it here.

Pro tip… if all you have are Aloo Pies at home, Crémant d’Alsace will do nicely here as well.

6. Jerk Chicken + Pinot Gris

I know you were expecting Jerk Chicken to show up in this list, and really, if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll all agree that there would be a ton of vendors selling this on the parade route, so there is no getting away from it.

But NOTE what I didn’t do here was pair Jerk Chicken with Riesling, which is commonly done. Riesling and Jerk ‘whatever’ is a great pairing, but I wanted to go with a different grape today to show that we have options with Caribbean food.

So our countdown brings us to day 6 of Carnival Eats & Wine, and I am pairing Jerk Chicken with Pinot Gris and NOT Pinot Grigio.

While Pinot Grigio (Italy) and Pinot Gris (France) are the same grape, the wine styles are different.

Pinot Grigio is a lighter body white wine, and it is bone dry.

Pinot Gris, even when dry, will have enough residual sugar to be picked up on the palate, and this wine is also produced as an off-dry or even sweet wine. Just an FYI, the sweet wines made from this grape are pricey and not required for this pairing, BUT if you are so inclined to buy a bottle of ‘vendange tardive’ Pinot Gris to go with your Jerk, please do give me a call.

Nonetheless, it’s Pinot Gris’ palatable sweetness, amongst other things, that make it the perfect match for Jerk Chicken.

Pinot Gris comes with notes of citrus, tropical fruit, honey, spice, and a lovely texture (viscosity) that further helps to balance the jerk seasoning in your mouth.

Truly a match made in heaven!

** side note… Day 7 and Day 6 pairings really give you a chance to see how climate and winemaking can really change the expression of a grape. Neat huh!?!

7. Pholourie + Primitivo

The best way to explain Pholourie, if you’ve never had it, is to say that it is a fritter, round in shape, and the dominant ingredient in the batter is split pea.

Primitivo is from Italy, particularly Puglia, and is the same grape as Zinfandel, which you are probably more familiar with. Though the same grape, there are differences between the two due to climate and overall winemaking style. Primitivo is generally lower in alcohol, and while still fruit-forward (red and black fruits), it is not as fruit hearty as its American expression (Zinfandel).

What you can expect:

  • The spice in the Pholourie make the fruit in your Primitivo more pronounced, forming a pleasing mouth experience

  • While Primitivo only has medium acidity, it’s enough to lessen the impact of the fried element of your Pholourie, making it feel like a light and delicious snack.

  • You’ll often find baking spices in Primitivo, and that only enhances the flavour of this split pea delight

8. Oxtail + Chenas

Chenas is a region in Beaujolais that produces wine from the Gamay grape.

Gamay is a light to medium-bodied red wine known for its red fruit profile, soft tannins, and medium to high acidity. The winemaking techniques used in Beaujolais (semi/carbonic maceration) cause the fruit profile to become slightly candied, and you may even pick up notes of banana!

I picked Chenas for this pairing as the wines from this region still give you that fruit profile, but they are more earthy, making it a lovely match for Oxtail.

So as you ask for extra oxtail gravy on your rice (I know you do!), you can rest assured that your Chenas will:

  • Stand up nicely to the cuts of Oxtail on your plate with its tannin structure

  • The red fruit profile will go well with the seasoning used in your dish

  • Because Oxtail is usually seasoned with brown sugar and allspice, along with other ingredients, your gravy has a slightly sweet taste. When this sauce is paired with Chenas, that high acidity will not be so high anymore, but just right!

… and now my mouth is watering…

9. Corn Soup + Gewürztraminer

If you read the above and think quaffing down thick hot soup in the middle of summer is a crazy idea, that means you’ve never had a styrofoam container of corn soup after an evening of a bit too much merriment (wink wink).

There is something about corn soup that shakes life back into you; kind of like a slap in the face to help you get your wits about you, and this is why it made on the Carnival Eats & Wine list.

My wine choice for Corn Soup is Gewürztraminer.

With this pairing, you are in for an aromatic orgasm of sweet herb and spice. I am talking about the food and the wine. Going back and forth between bowl and glass will place your nostrils on an epic euphoric trip.

On the palate, Gewürztraminer’s ripe fruit feel and residual sugar will work nicely with the scotch bonnet or wiri wiri pepper that was commingling in the soup pot.

10. Curry Goat + Xinomavro

Xinomavro may be a grape some of you have not heard of before, but get familiar.

This Greek grape will keep you on your toes with its expressions. So, to be clear, when I am suggesting you pair Xinomavro with Curry Goat, I am talking about the new style and more approachable versions of this wine that later-generation Greek winemakers are putting out.

In contrast to the original style of Xinomavro, which was in your face tannin and herb, what we’re seeing in our market today are expressions that are ready to drink now or within a minimum amount of age time. Some wineries are using micro-oxygenation techniques (softens tannins) or are releasing blends where the dominating grape is Xinomavro, and the blending co-stars are just there to s-m-o-o-o-o-t-h things off.

What this new expression of Xinomavro brings is:

  • Plush red and black fruits on the palate

  • Elegant tannin

  • Bright acidity

Xinomavro is a medium to full-bodied wine, and it needs a food that can stand up, and that’s where Curry Goat fares best.

This wine’s balance of fruit, acidity, and tannins will make that goat melt in your mouth and further fluff up that roti skin it’s wrapped in.

11. Cheese Straw + Chardonnay

I have never met a Cheese Straw I did not love, and pairing it with Chardonnay will rock your world.

Cheese Straw brings cheddar cheese, herbs and spices packed in a medium-weight pastry, and when you add to the mix Chardonnay with its yellow apple, lemon/lime, and pear, beautiful things start to happen on the palate.

For a true understanding of how great this could be, get a Chardonnay from Margaret River, Australia. These Chard’s are between Chardonnay’s found in California and France.

They bring:

  • Crisp acidity (fantastic with medium to heavy density baked goods)

  • Riper citrus notes like a ripe red grapefruit

  • Enticing aromas like orange blossom

  • …and a touch of oak that will make that cheesy pastry goodness feel like a smooth serving of a gourmet cheese spread …. like if the Caribbean decided to make and bottle our own version of Cheez Whiz…. EHHHHHHH

If you’ve never had Cheese Straw before, it is a savoury pastry snack that is a mix of cheddar cheese, flour, butter, and seasoning to taste that is then baked in the oven. In the end, you get a well-herbed snack that you can eat on the go!

12. Salt Fish & Bake + Sparkling Wine

Salt Fish and Bake and Sparkling Wine go together like a match made in heaven. The crisp acidity of the sparkling wine will not only act as a palate cleanser, but will cut through the saltiness of your salt fish (salted cod) and make the fried bake lighter in the mouth. Bonus if you get a sparkling wine where the fruit comes off as ripe on the palate or the residual sugar peeks through. If your fish is well seasoned, this hint of sweetness will meld nicely.


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