When Mexican fare is on the menu, most people automatically reach for an ice-cold cerveza (that’s beer for those who dropped out of Spanish class before learning the really useful words).
And you know what? For a great many Mexican dishes – particularly those defined by their chili heat – beer is a good choice. Lighter-style beers, in particular, help put out the fire without compromising the flavor of the dish.
Be aware, however, that you also can enjoy wine with Mexican food. The pairings require a certain degree of precision, but the results are worth the effort.
It’s not just the heat that needs to be addressed. Mexican food – and Tex-Mex fare as well – may have assertive flavors that need a lively, rich wine to beat that chili heat while simultaneously complementing the twist of lime and matching the richness and body of cheese and avocado.
Sauvignon Blanc to the rescue! Rich and racy – a rare combination in winedom – the variety typically possesses a solid acid backbone (think: refreshing) while exhibiting a nice cilantro-like herbaceousness. Renditions aged in oak barrels also are rich in texture, which further serves to enhance the wining-and-dining experience.
For red wine fans, Syrah can be a marvelous choice, as its meaty quality complements the rich brown sauces used in making enchiladas and other dishes.
And perhaps the most inspired choice of all: a dry rose, which offers the lively acidity (and refreshing mouthfeel) of Sauvignon Blanc, and the fruit intensity and spice common to red varieties.
Wineries are making roses out of any number of varieties these days, but particularly satisfying with Mexican food are roses of Sangiovese, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.
There’s one more go-to wine when enjoying Mexican fare or other dishes that possess a kick: sparkling wine. The flavors of bubbly are fairly neutral, but its effervescence makes it extremely refreshing.
It’s an especially good choice with sizzling chicken fajitas or spicy fish tacos.
The next time you have Mexican food, consider saying no to cerveza and si to wine.