The Days of Dining at Home - Part Two
Last month I discussed a few wine options to pair with pizza. This month I would like to take a look at a couple of other popular take-out options: Mexican and Chinese cuisine.
These two national cuisines are quite diverse and encompass broad varieties of regional fares and specialty dishes. Therefore it would be difficult to include pairing options for every variable, so my intent is to offer general suggestions, covering the broad categories of these cuisines.
Chinese cuisine runs the full gamut. From vegan to meat-based; mild to incredibly spicy, so there isn’t a perfect wine that will pair with every dish. That being said, a few general rules of thumb are helpful. If your dish has powerful, spicy flavors like many Szechuan offerings, look for a wine that has a perceptible sweetness or fruit-forward character. Wines that are overly acidic or tannic will clash with sharply flavored dishes. If the meal is comprised of fried or high-fat offerings steer clear of soft wines with elevated levels of residual sugar and instead opt for high acid wines, which can cut through the fat.
When making general pairings with Chinese food many wine experts will direct people toward the white wines of Germany, Austria, the Alsace region of France, or the district of the Alto Adige in northeastern Italy. Varieties include Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, or Pinot Gris and are considered all-purpose pairings. While I’m in complete agreement there are a few other options to consider. Traditional method sparkling wines such as Champagne, Cava, and Franciacorta or Charmat (tank) method sparklers including Moscato and extra dry Prosecco can be great choices covering a wide range of food styles. If the dish has milder flavors seek out a drier (less sweet) wine, such as a nice Chablis. Don’t overlook red wines though. The French variety Gamay, which is mainly produced in the region of Beaujolais and labeled as such, is a solid option, as are Argentinian Malbecs, Aussie Shiraz, and Italian Lambruscos (although good ones can be hard to find.)
Mexican fare is just as wide-ranging as Chinese cuisine from fiery hot to fatty and everything in between, so discerning the primary characteristics in the dish is key. The same general food pairing rules still apply. With spicy dishes seek out a fruit-forward or sweeter wine. Fried or cheesy foods need solid acidity. Earthy, savory menu items like mole, chipotle or Tex-Mex BBQ will pair nicely with medium-bodied reds, such as Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Grenache. Sauvignon Blanc and Albariño can work with green dishes. Don’t overlook Bubbles as they can pair with just about everything.
If your dinner comes home in a cardboard box or Styrofoam container you can easily find a myriad of wine options under the $15.00 price point. Let your personal preferences influence your wine choices, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
So next time you crack open a fortune cookie let’s hope that the little slip of paper reads: ‘Drink more wine!’
Tom Oetinger holds an advanced certification in wine & spirits from the WSET in London, England. He is available to assist you with your wine events or answer your wine questions at [email protected]