There used to be the traditional “white wine with fish, red wine with meat” mantra for food and wine pairing. Thankfully, our horizons have expanded.
My first rule of thumb is: Drink what you like. If you enjoy the wine, you’ll enjoy the meal. It’s that simple.
My second rule of thumb is: Experiment! Try it to see if you like it. Because wine is an extremely versatile beverage, I can safely say that you can find a wine that will not only work with most foods, but will really make the pairing sing.
There are some tricks of the trade that can help when pairing wine with the simplest of foods. And yes, wine can pair nicely with fast food, too. Here are some options for the next time you get takeout.
Riesling with Chinese food: Lighter wines with vibrant acidity work well with spicy foods (off-dry Riesling will work well with Chinese or Thai dishes). I would definitely choose light- to medium-bodied wines here. If you must have a red, opt for one with lower tannins, too much of which can clash with salt and spice. Riesling is often layered with racy citrus and/or pretty floral notes. It’s great on its own, or with light summer fare or spicy foods.
Sauvignon Blanc with fried chicken: Fried chicken is fairly heavy; look for a lean, crisp wine like Sauvignon Blanc to help cleanse the palate for the next bite.
Zinfandel with burgers: Pair a burger with a big, bold red wine. The juiciness and fattiness of the meat will stand up to a full-bodied wine. Rich, peppery Zinfandel is my go-to here. Zinfandel is an outstanding match -- a big, sexy, fruit bomb with layers of flavors that complement the flavors in the burger.
Pinot Grigio with chicken Caesar salad: Creamy dressings like Caesar pair well with light, dry white wines like Pinot Grigio or perhaps a more steely Chardonnay. Wines with good acidity help balance the richness of creamy dressings. The worst pairing is one of the most popular: (astringent) iced tea.
Syrah with tacos: Try a smoky, earthy Syrah to pair with the smoky spice of chiles used in Mexican cuisine. The Barbacoa or adobo-marinated and grilled steak from Chipotle will be beautifully supported by the ample structure of a bold full-bodied Syrah.
Tell us, do you drinks wine with fast food? What are your favorite pairings?
Cameron Hughes is a wine expert and the co-founder of Cameron Hughes Wine.