Saturday, March 18, 2006

What to Drink with Jerk Chicken?

For weeks my friend Pia tantalized me with tales of her boyfriend Gary’s amazing Jamaican food: jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains, meat patties. But she always ended with a warning: he’s a spice head. Still, I was excited when they invited me over on St. Patrick’s Day for an authentic Jamaican meal. That afternoon, I dashed to the nearby Beverages & More looking for a wine with a little sweetness and fruit to it. For spicy foods, a slightly sweet wine is the perfect choice because the sugar helps coat your tongue and lessen the effect of the peppers.

I couldn’t find my first choice in sparklers for spicy food: Bonny Doon’s Ca’ del Solo Moscato del Solo. So I was forced to explore the many bottles of other sparkling wines and champagnes. That’s how I discovered Riche, an extra-dry sparkling wine from Domaine Chandon. The label notes promised notes of honey and peaches and a fine pairing for spicy foods and curries, so I took a chance.

Introduced in 2002, Riche was Domaine Chandon’s first foray into the super-premium, extra-dry sparkling wine category. Dry is a little misleading, because unlike still wines, a dry or extra-dry sparkling wine or champagne is really on the sweet side. Extra-dry champagnes are usually rounder in the mouth, but still offer a balanced amount of acid, leaving the wine nowhere near syrupy. It’s silly, but nobody admits to liking slightly sweet sparkling wines because they think it sounds unsophisticated. But we love drinking them: the extra-dry White Star from Moet et Chandon is probably one of the most popular champagnes on the market.

Since it was a Jamaican style St. Paddy’s Day dinner, it only seemed right to start with an “aperitif” of Red Stripe beer, which Pia had tinted an attractive shade of green. But when the meal of grilled jerk chicken, fried plantains, rice and peas and green salad hit the table, Gary cracked open the Chandon Riche. All the girls were impressed with the pale peachy colored wine’s soft powdery aroma of flowers, maybe honeysuckle. The first sip was mellow, slightly sweet but still refreshing with flavors of dried peaches, golden raisins and toasted croissant. But better still, I loved the way the Riche seemed to bring out the warm spicy notes in the jerk chicken, while cooling my mouth!

Even Gary eventually abandoned his Red Stripe for a taste of our new bubbly, which he pronounced “very good, mon.” For more info, visit


Pia said...

Maria thanks for coming over in all that bad weather, but more importantly, thanks for the props! :) I must say, Gary was a bit nervous about cooking for a "food critique" as he so eloquently named you! That's all i heard for the entire day "i can't believe you volunteered me to cook for your friend the food critic - are you insane?" But as you said, once the bubbly started to flow and the Jamaican emerged, he was less than concerned! I hope you had as much fun as we did - can't wait for the next gig! Ciao Belle!

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Stbrown33 said...


Thanks for the insight. I'm throwing a party for the premier of my first film (writer/director/producer/actor).. A friend of mine from early childhood now owns and operates probably the best Carribean joint in Denver ( and she's agreed to cater my event. I wanted to serve both a white and red so thanks for the info on Chandon Riche!