One of my favorite fish stews is based on a recipe for a dish called “Shrimp Americana,” published years ago in one of those paperback, spiral-bound cookbooks distributed by countless churches in this country with contributions by their members.
Shrimp, peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and okra are the basic ingredients of the dish, which I like to season with powdered cumin, curry, and a dash or two of cayenne. Served over a bed of white rice, there’s nothing quite like it. It’s a simple recipe. But the wine pairing? That’s more complicated.
With lots of bold flavors, namely the tomatoes and the spices, I want a white wine with good acidity, maybe just a touch of sweetness, and most certainly no oak — a wine that complements but doesn’t clash. That pretty much rules out Chardonnays with their oak aging and Sauvignon Blancs, most of which are too dry and herbal for such a dish.
On a recent evening, the perfect match turned out to be a German Riesling I was holding for just the right occasion. August Kesseler’s 2019 “R” Riesling Kabinett from the famed Rheingau region is a lovely, $15 wine that has considerable complexity.
When you see “Kabinett” on a German Riesling label, it denotes the lightest (and most popular) Riesling style, with the wines ranging from dry to off-dry. This one fits into the latter category, its ABV of just 10.5 percent signaling a touch of residual sugar.
And that’s just what I wanted with my bold and spicy shrimp stew. This wine has so much going for it: a touch of sweetness, a crisp but round acidity on the finish, a wet-stone mineral note, and lovely, lush fruit tastes ranging from pear to pineapple to citrus, and touches of honey and licorice. A slight spritz when first poured makes it all the more refreshing, and I would consider this wine for all kinds of fish dishes and as a summer aperitif.
Riesling doesn’t often get the respect it deserves in this country. But there are those who consider it among the best — if not the best — white variety. We can debate that another time. But on this night and with this dinner, August Kesseler’s inexpensive yet delicious “R” Riesling was about as good as it gets.