Mexican Food and Wine? Just Say, ‘¡Si!’

I rarely drink beer. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s just that with so many different kinds of wine to discover and savor, I rarely find a good “excuse” to crack open a brewski.

Perhaps at a ballpark on a hot summer day… since it’s not likely there’s a decent wine to be found at the concession stands. Or maybe at a Japanese steak house… where bottles of Kirin or Sapporo seem to be on every table.

But even with spicy Mexican food, which seems to cry out for an ice-cold cerveza, I have come to prefer wine. Pairing isn’t always easy, however, because there are regional cooking styles in Mexico (just as there are here in the States), and so many dishes are laced with chiles in varying degrees of heat.

Over the years, I’ve developed a “cheat sheet” that I take with me whenever I dine at a Mexican restaurant. I’m not shy about asking for descriptions of the dishes, and then I use those “clues” to select an appropriate wine. Not every Mexican restaurant has a great wine list, though, which means sometimes a cerveza has to suffice.

Preparing Mexican dishes at home simplifies the process greatly, because there’s almost always a bottle on my wine rack that will work—and on those rare occasions when there isn’t, I can always adjust the recipe. But whether you’re dining out or eating in, I hope my “cheat sheet” will come in handy…

  • With enchiladas suizas (corn tortillas rolled up with shredded chicken and two kinds of cheese, then served with a zesty salsa verde), opt for an “unoaked” Chardonnay. A number of Australian wineries make outstanding renditions, as do wineries in Oregon.
  • With pork carnitas tacos (served with cilantro, chopped onion and salsa), nothing beats a bubbly glass of Blanc de Noirs. The sweet fruit flavor of the wine nicely balances the pork flavor, while the mousse helps cleanse the palate between bites.
  • With shrimp-stuffed poblanos (among the milder peppers), a Brut Rosé would work well, or if you prefer a non-bubbly wine, chill a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
Members-only Wine sampler specials delivered straight to your inbox via our Cyber Circle newsletter.