Couscous is a dish of North African origin that has spread in the Mediterranean and then quickly reached all our tables around the world, where it is appreciated for its spiced and characteristic taste. It is a dish with very ancient origins dating back roughly to the 9th century, widespread among the indigenous nomadic groups of north-west Africa.
In particular, it is a traditional Berber dish, consumed by that nomadic part of the population. Since it is only made of wheat and a few other ingredients, typical of those areas, and the Berber nomads had to make do somehow, as has often happened in the history of world cuisine, from this situation of “emergency” dishes were born that established themselves around the planet. Couscous is one of them.
According to the gastronomic traditions of each country, couscous can be prepared in different ways and, above all, using different spices that give it, from time to time, various shades of flavor.
Couscous, in the broadest sense of the term, is nothing more than hard wheat in grains mixed with spices or seasoned with particular sauces, such as the one based on chili, typically Tunisian and called Harissa, or the yogurt sauce, which goes very well with vegetarian couscous.
In addition to being often accompanied by stewed meat and vegetables, couscous is often also prepared with fish and is therefore paired from time to time with wines with different characteristics.
Here are the rules to follow for an ideal pairing between wine and couscous based on the ingredients and seasonings used. Find out what are the best combos and serve them at your next meal with family or friends.
Couscous and wine: the rules to best match them
Couscous is a dish that can be tasted according to the original recipe or in the vegetarian version but that many also appreciate as a meat-based course or in the seafood variant.
Precisely for the creativity and flexibility that couscous allows for, it is consumed as a single dish or as a first course which, depending on the ingredients it is prepared with, can be paired either with light white wines or with rosé wines, but also works with bubbles and red wines.
Couscous and white wine
White wine can undoubtedly be the ideal pairing for fish-based couscous, often prepared with shellfish or other seafood ingredients that make the taste particularly delicate.
Precisely for this reason, sea couscous cannot be paired with full-bodied red wines, but requires to be paired with fresh white wines that are not too light, capable of enhancing the taste of wheat and fish without ever covering them.
Fish couscous is, in fact, a spiced dish characterized by sweetness but also by a strong flavor that come together in a balanced combination of tastes, which require a savory wine able to harmonize with the richness of the dish.
Couscous and red wine
If in its seafood variant the couscous does not easily pair with red wine, the meat and vegetable version require it, as long as it is of good complexity and structure.
The addition of spices, from chili to turmeric or curry, however, often requires particular attention to the choice of wine to pair with the couscous, avoiding reds with a high alcohol content so as not to cover the flavor of the dish.
The ideal choice among the reds will therefore preferably fall on strong wines but at the same time of good softness on the palate, able to ensure a delicate combination with the spicy notes of the meal.
The best combination of wine and meat or vegetable couscous is a medium-bodied red wine, with fruity notes and velvety tones.
If you are looking for an alternative to wine, you could choose to go full Moroccan and try the famous Moroccan mint tea: the most common drink that people enjoy with couscous in its home country. Leben, a thick and strong-tasting type of milk is also popular with couscous, even though it has a peculiar taste and not everyone will enjoy it.