There are many dishes that just seem to scream for an ice-cold beer.
It might be 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 perhaps at a Japanese steak house, where bottles of Kirin or Sapporo seem to be on every table.
And what if you really enjoy spicy Mexican cuisine? Wine pairing isn’t always easy because there are regional cooking styles in Mexico (just as there are here in the States), and so many dishes are laced with chiles with 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, however, 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, we can always adjust the recipe.
But whether you’re dining out or eating in, I hope this “cheat sheet” will come in handy…
* With enchiladas suizas (corn tortillas rolled up with shredded chicken and two kinds of cheese, and 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.
Recognizing that most of their dishes are spicy and some of their customers don’t drink beer, many Mexican restaurants also offer sangria — red, white or both. It may not be an “authentic” wine option, but it certainly can refresh the palate.
Planning to cook Mexican fare at home this coming weekend? The day before, gather the ingredients and make your own sangria to accompany it…
* 1 (750-ml.) bottle of red wine (Tempranillo, Grenache, Zinfandel or Shiraz)
* 1 lemon, cut into wedges
* 1 orange, cut into wedges
* 1 apple, cut into wedges
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1 1/2 ounces brandy
* 2 cups club soda
* Lemon wheels and orange wheels for garnish
- Pour wine into a pitcher and squeeze juice from the lemon and orange wedges into the wine.
- Toss in fruit wedges, removing seeds.
- Add sugar and brandy, stirring gently until the sugar dissolves.
- Cover pitcher with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for 8 hours to marry the fruit and wine flavors.
- Add club soda just prior to serving.
- Garnish with freshly cut lemon and orange wheels.