Wine Pairing for Norman’s
Two Fish, Two Ways” Shrimp Ceviche and Snapper Escabeche Tacos
by Proal Perry
Ceviche and Escabeche, both staples of Latin American and Caribbean food culture, which involve “cooking” the seafood all or partially in an acidic liquid, typically in one or a combination of citrus fruits, are a highlight of summer eating for me. It’s this acidity, however, that makes for the challenge in finding a suitable wine pairing. Success involves selecting a wine where you strike the ‘Goldilocks’ proportion of acidity: The wine needs to have comparable acidity to the dish, but, if less, the acidity of the dish can cancel out the acidity in the wine, causing it to fall flat, or lack freshness. On the other hand, while good acidity is critical to both properly made food and wine, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. If you select a super citrusy, mineral laden Loire Sauvignon Blanc, for example, it’s possible to create a pairing where the intense raciness of both the wine and the preparation can be more than your palate can handle, especially when the wine is lacking good underlying fruit.
If your preferences are more in the red wine lane, the aquatic nature of these dishes doesn’t present a problem. I’m a huge fan of red wine with swimmers. Just make sure you select a lighter bodied, fruitier red that ideally can take a little chill, but possesses good acidity. With these preparations, I would eagerly drink a Gamay based wine from Beaujolais or Oregon, a Frappato from the Vittoria region of Sicily, a Brachetto from the Piedmont in Italy, or a Cinsault from the Itata Valley of Chile. These gulpable reds are perfect Summertime wines and would pair perfectly with Norman’s Ceviche and Escabeche.
If, however, pressed for my personal choice, I would have to say that I would go with a Southern France rosé. Until recently rosés have languished in obscurity on the American wine scene. That has all changed in recent years, as a deluge of rosés of all stripes have flooded our shores, as if winemakers the world over got the memo: Time to make Rosé!. The benchmark rosés of Provence have been made for hundreds of years and the American market has seemingly settled on this drier, fresher style: the pale salmon colored, crisp wines, typical of France’s Mediterranean coast, where apparently, they had it right all along.
There are numerous good examples of this unofficial wine of summer on the market. If you want to splurge a bit, you can go to the top of the rosé pecking order and choose the legendary (and ageable) wines of Domaine Tempier or Clos Cibonne. While these would bring immense pleasure, the simpler profile of this month’s recipes from Norman might argue for a less noble wine. Clos Cibonne also makes a more “entry level” rosé called Tentations, which would be a great choice. Another option and more readily available would be the perennial pick called AIX, from the region of Aix en Provence. Another personal favorite is the rosé from Domaine Montrose, Rose Mon Rose, hailing from a little further West on the Mediterranean coast in the Pays d’Oc, but sharing the same characteristics of the wines from Provence. Regardless of what you choose, keep two or three handy in the fridge, as we slog through the remainder of these “dog days”!
Proal Perry has been assisting Norman in pairing wines for his food since they first worked together in Key West at ‘Louie’s Backyard’ in the mid 80’s. He has also paired wines for a number of Norman’s cookbooks. He and his wife Connie operate the idyllic “Sourwood Inn” just outside Ashville. There you can experience their love of hospitality and nature first hand.