Beyond Margaritas: Wine with Mexican Food?
Headed to Mexico this winter? While, it may seem customary to ask for that Margarita, Pina Colada, or Dos Equis with your cuisine order, wines can actually accentuate a lot of what’s great about the Mexican cuisine and elevate a good meal to a fantastic experience.
At the America’s Worlds of Flavor Conference, devoted to the regional cuisines of Mexico, the idea was encouraged and elaborated on by the conference chair.
“Wine is the human race’s most refined beverage,” declared conference chairman Rick Bayless, acclaimed expert on Mexican cooking and the chef/owner of Chicago’s Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, considered by many the best Mexican restaurant in the United States. “Wine tastes of the earth; it has the finesse of nature. So I’m committed to pairing it with real Mexican food, which is both sophisticated and elegant.”
So now that we have you convinced, here are some guidelines one should follow when selecting wines on your next trip to Mexico:
Paring Rule #1:
While in the United States, it is typical to pair beef with red and white with fish, in Mexico however, you pair wine with the sauce, according to Bayless and some other culinary experts. Red wines tend to work well with dried chili sauces, where white wines are paired better with the lime/citrus, tomatillo and cilantro/epazote or herbal sauces.
White wines to consider include:
• Sauvignon Blanc
• Chenin Blanc
• Pinot Gris
Red wines to consider include:
• Argentinean Malbec
• Merlot (the lighter the better)
Paring Rule #2
Think balance. You don’t want the spiciness to interfere with the taste of the wine, whether it is the food drowning out the wine, or the other way around. Remember the golden rule, white wines go better with lighter Mexican fare, and red with the heavier fare. A nice Riesling is always an ideal choice as it is light enough to taste the unique spices of a dish, yet it still offers acidity to complement the food. If you opt for a heavier dish and sauce, try paring your meal with a lovely Pinot Noir. This is light enough to still give the dish some depth.
Paring Rule #3
Avoid Chardonnay. I know some of you may be shaking your heads right now, as it is a very popular U.S. wine. However, most chardonnays are typically oaky and toasty, according to Bayless, and fight with the bold complexity of Mexican flavors. So that nice glass of Chardonnay that tastes so great at home, ends up tasting course and bitter in Mexico.
Pairing Rule #4
Try something new. While the above three rules offer some great guidelines, they really are just suggestions. Ultimately, the right wine for your cuisine will be the one that pleases your personal taste. If you are uncertain about what to choose, try something new! You are on vacation! So, “when in Rome…” or in Mexico in this case, taste a few different ones!
The country of Mexico offers some amazing wines, and some amazing wineries to explore. You may check out the numerous wineries here.
Did you try any wines on your last trip to Mexico? Which wine was your favorite? What did it pair well with?