African Tastebuds Rule

Published 11 years ago
African Tastebuds Rule


Why is Africa left out in the cold when it comes to food and wine? The continent has so much to show in this regard.

We have diverse cuisine along the length and breadth of the continent. Our wine industry, and even our soil, is older than that of Europe. Winemaking was perfected by the ancient Egyptians while the rest of the world was still living in caves. Africans and Asians have more tastebuds than the rest of the world, hence our affinity for spicy foods, sweet wines and cider. The Afrikaans people of South Africa also reflect this through a love of brandy with Coke. In fact, Afrikaans rapper Jack Parrow says Afrikaners were born to drink brandy and Coke.

Yet we hold Europe up as the pinnacle when it comes to wine and the appreciation thereof. Being a Master of Wine and part of the Institute of Masters of Wine is the highest accolade any wine professional can aspire to. It takes a lot to earn such an esteemed designation.

The Americans, may the gods of pleasure bless them, have taken a bold anti-establishment stance against this mystique that seems to dictate wine appreciation in polite society. They love their wines, like the Texans love their big cars, to be very rich and heavy with a long, satisfying aftertaste. So big is their influence that even French winemakers are making their classical wine in this style to gain approval in what is fast becoming the world’s biggest and most influential market.

Keith Dudula

Tim Hanni, an American Master of Wine and a sought- after wine consultant who admits to being a Francophile, has also made a big u-turn when it comes to wine appreciation. He wants the wine industry and the greater wine-drinking community to look at the subject in a fun and approachable manner. Hanni’s wine appreciation system focuses on the individual; just as we all have different shoe sizes, so we have different palates and no two people have the same tastebuds. We simply need to discover what kind of tasters we are. There is the tolerant taster who loves big, heavy- bodied wines; the sensitive taster who loves a smoother, more palatable wine; land like milk and honey. Morocco, to the north, is home to the tagine—a round clay cooking pot designed to simmer while more ingredients are added.

The tagine is a stew and can be made with meat or poultry. Moroccans then add lots of fruit like pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates and preserved lemons. A dish of this size would not sit well with a heavy, full-bodied dry red wine. A good choice would be a light red wine like a pinot noir or a fruity white number with some acidity like a pinot grigio, or an unwooded chardonnay, as the dishes also have dairy ingredients like milk and yoghurt. Couscous is the main starch served with a tagine and sensitive wine tasters would be at home with this pairing.

Over in West Africa, Nigerians favor spices, scented leaves and palm oil to flavor their dishes. Like in Morocco, meat and stews are slowly simmered so the meat is soft and tender, but unlike the Moroccans, dishes here are added with ground fish to add flavor. Egusi stew or soup, made from seeds rich in fat and protein, is one such dish, with beef and fish as the main ingredients. Egusi is quite spicy and pairing it with a wine is not that difficult. Heavy, rich flavored red wines would work well here, as would sweet wines. Food and wine pairing may seem like a science, but it is actually quite easy once you follow and break some of the rules to suit your specific taste and needs. How the food is prepared, and what is added to the final mix, usually dictates the right wine for the table. African food is diverse, incorporating as it does fresh fish, fruit, grain and starch. In food and wine, pairing is everything. It is all about balance and food should never overpower the wine or vice versa. So get in touch with your African palate and enjoy.

Happy tasting