Wine and king cake pairings? Yes, indeed. Try Banfi Piemonte 'Rosa Regale' Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG with the traditional sweet cakes, like this cream-cheese one from Dorignac's. (Photo by G. Andrew Boyd, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
In this occasional series of articles on wines we love to drink throughout the parade of festivals that make up the South Louisiana calendar, 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 chills down a bit, 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 from Twelfth Night to Mardi Gras, 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 set for Jan. 29 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 comunes (which means, roughly, towns, in Italian) 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 notes, 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 just "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
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)
The Moscato wines will be slightly better with richer styles of king cakes, and the Brachetto will really shine with fruit-filled 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 -
Readers: If you know of other places where we can purchase these suggested wines, please add a note in the comments under this story. Also, please share your own favorite king cake wine pairings.