Wine does not have to be reserved for special occasions – or even for a home-cooked meal! It can be enjoyed with any type of food, any day. As always, the number one rule of wine pairing is to make sure you like what you’re drinking. (A famous New York City chef only drinks red Bordeaux, even with oysters.) Here are a few more guidelines to help you get started with some cuisines that are popular take-out options (although these parings work just as well if you choose to enjoy your meal in the restaurant!)
For lighter dishes, like fish tacos or fresh salsa, keep the wines light and crisp – with a high amount of acidity. Muscadet, a crisp, white wine from the Loire Valley, in France, makes salty, lemony wines that serve as a refreshing accompaniment to Mexican food. Riesling is another excellent option (a Kabinett Riesling, from the Mosel region, is almost lime-zest citrusy and a touch sweet – like a margarita.) If you want a dry wine, Australia is making some exceptional dry Rieslings – especially from Clare Valley, in South Australia. These wines taste of lime, minerals, and a touch of sea air. (Think vinous version of tequila with lime and salt!)
Rose wine is another ideal pairing with Mexican food, particularly for some of the more full-bodied dishes, like beef tacos or fajitas. Dry rose wines are fruit-driven but not sweet, and refreshing yet full of body. Dry roses from Provence are the most classic – but rose wines from the New World are a bit richer and fuller, and rose wines in general are always a great value!
Pizza and wine are a brilliant match. Barbera, native grape to Piedmonte, in Italy, is a particularly good pairing with most types of pizza because it is a medium-bodied wine with high acidity. That brightness cuts through the richness of pepperoni, cheese, sausage, etc. Additionally, Barbera wines have relatively low tannins and lots of great fruit. Other alternatives include a light Chianti Classico (especially if you’re eating a salty pizza – like one covered in prosciutto), which has a hint of tomato-skin flavor that picks up on the tomato-sauce notes in the pie.
Burgers are vehicles for multitudes of pairings. Everyone has his own preference for the perfect burger. It is important to let your preferences dictate the wines you choose to go with it. Grenache, from France and Australia, makes a delicious partner to a juicy, medium-rare burger with ketchup. The grape’s natural sweetness plays off of the sweet, ground meat and is augmented by the ketchup. Burgers with smoked bacon are especially good with Syrah, from the Northern Rhône Valley in France. (Hermitage is the most famous example – but a Saint-Joseph or Croze-Hermitage will do the trick, too). Those who like charred burgers with lettuce and tomato might like a glass of Cabernet from the Napa Valley. Cabernet’s thick tannins will help soften the charred meat, and the slight greenness from the wine will gently augment the lettuce leaf. Malbec, from Mendoza, Argentina, would be a delicious alternative – as would a glass of Bordeaux. White wine enthusiasts might enjoy a full-bodied white wine, like a French or California Chardonnay.
One of the simplest, most delicious pairings is French Fries with Sparkling wine. Champagne is the most classic (all those lemon and brioche notes are beautiful with crisp potatoes). Cava works, too – and Prosecco is a delightful alternative.
For more tips on pairing wine with popular take-out food options, click Pairing Wine with Take-Out Part I: Indian, Chinese and Thai Food.