A couple weeks ago, I talked a bit about the basics of matching wine with cheese. I am going to assume that not everyone who read this has a plate full of $30-a-pound artisanal cheese hanging out in the fridge. Because of this, I am prepared to give you some more practical options for wine and food pairing, using the same ideas I set forth for matching wine and cheese.
Let’s call it “good wines for trashy food.” Because, to be honest, wine is really damn good with a chili cheese burrito from Taco Bell.
What would I match with a chili cheese burrito from Taco Bell, you ask? I’m going to recommend an Argentinean malbec for this particular fast food item. To pair a wine with something as heavy as a chili cheese burrito, you need a red with a little tannin to cut through the richness of the cheese. There’s also a slight tanginess from the tomato-based sauce used in the chili, and the fruitiness of a typical Argentinean malbec will match well with that.
If you are going a little more traditional for dinner and having a McDonald’s big mac, I think a Washington State merlot would fit the bill for this perfectly. I am recommending a merlot instead of a cabernet sauvignon because I think the Big Mac, with it’s tangy and sweet “special sauce,” needs a wine that isn’t going to mow it down the way a big, tannic cabernet sauvignon might. Washington State makes merlots that aren’t wimpy, though. There’ll be enough structure in this wine to stand up to the two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese and sliced tomato on a sesame seed bun.
Papa John’s cheese pizza is so trashy, yet so wonderfully greasy. It deserves a great Italian wine to match with it. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Italy’s Abruzzo area is a perfect pizza wine. It is relatively fruity with underripe cherry flavors that will match with the sweetness of the Papa John’s sauce, yet still has a rustic quality that will brace well against the thick, greasy cheese. It will also help you digest the pie, and trust me, you’ll need all the help you can get.
If you’re ordering sweet and sour chicken from your local Chinese take-out joint, be sure to have plenty of Alsatian Gewurztraminer on hand. The sweet, gingery notes in the Gewurztraminer will align with the unctuous, neon red sweet and sour sauce on your chicken. You’ll taste a whole new dish when consuming these together.
You’re more of a home cook, and want to prepare your own supper instead of ordering out? Ah, then you will most likely be whipping up a batch of Kraft macaroni and cheese. The tipple of choice for the ‘ol blue box, in my book, would be an Australian riesling. In Australia, rieslings are almost always fermented till they are completely dry, so if you are picture a sickeningly sweet wine like Blue Nun, this is completely different. This wine is crisp, dry and citrussy, which will cut right through the creaminess of the “cheese” sauce on your mac ‘n cheese.
Let us not, by any means, forgo dessert. ice cream sandwiches are amazing when matched up with a little cream sherry. Both are sweet, but the caramel flavors of the sherry and the chocolate on the cookies in the sandwich combine to make, what I can only describe as, a portable caramel sundae.
No one ever said that you had to spend a fortune on wine and dinner to achieve inspirational flavor combinations. Respect your late night take out, and remember: even a cheeseburger tastes better with a glass of good wine.
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