Pairing Wine With Mexican Food: Tips And Ideas

Find out the wine that tastes best with your favorite mexican food dishes.

When it comes to eating Mexican food, burritos and beer, enchiladas and margaritas, heck, even a taco downed with tequila sounds great. Wine with your next order of nachos? Hmmm"¦. You bet! When you think of pairing your favorite stuffed enchilada with a beverage, somehow wine is not the first concoction you crave, but actually, wine has taken a forefront in being paired with many Mexican and South American dishes! There are several varieties of domestic and international wines today that pair well with spicy, ethnic dishes. Weather you're eating the Tex-Mex variety or traditional Mexican food, there's a wine out there to satisfy every South of the Boarder craving!

Vino to the South

To begin with, Mexico offers some top quality wineries. The Cavas Valmar winery, one of the newer, more experimental Mexican winegrowers located in Ensenada, has been producing robust wines since 1985. Their wine menu includes Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Tempranillo grape style grown in the San Vincente valley. This winery also produces a hearty, fruity Chardonnay and Merlot.

Another Mexican wine producer topping the list includes the oldest winemaker from Mexico, known as Casa Madero. Located in the Parras Valley in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, Casa Madero first started producing wine in 1597 under the San Lorenzo label. In 1893, the current owner, Don Evaristo Madero, purchased San Lorenzo. Since the 1970s, the winery underwent a major facelift, taking a backseat to their brandy production and putting their wine producing techniques at the forefront of their business. Currently, Casa Madero produces a top-notch Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. All three styles are available in the United States, and are primarily sold in the restaurant markets.

Completing the list of quality Mexican wines is the mass-market winery, L.A. Cetto, founded by Italian-born Don Angelo Cetto, hailing from Italy's Piedmont region in 1920. This family-owned winery is based in Mexico in the Guadeloupe Valley. Top picks from L.A. Cetto include Chenin Blanc, Malbec, Zinfandel and Petite Syrah.

Winning Combinations

When it comes to pairing wine with food, many a food critic will tell you that there are no hard and fast rules - just drink and eat what you like! Although this rings true for many of us, there are some Mexican foods that just plain taste better with certain wines. Here are some foolproof combinations to try with your next batch of nachos, paella or gazpacho!

A tangy, spicy shrimp or seafood dish prepared with garlic, cilantro, or onions pairs well with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Soave or a German Riesling. Also, Spanish and Italian wines are good choices for spicy dishes since the wines are crisp and refreshing, making it easy to blend with the spiciness of the dish, bringing out the sweet taste of the seafood flavors.

Chili, a Tex-Mex favorite, often has tomatoes as the shining star to its base. Try pairing an Italian Sangiovese or a Zinfandel with the chili and you may be in for a pleasant surprise! Since the tomatoes add strong acidity to the dish, both the Zinfandel and the Sangiovese match well against the acidity of the tomatoes without taking away the fire power of the chili and the rest of its pungent ingredients.

Rich, cheese-laden enchiladas, burritos and other combination dishes with a heavier sauce base match up well against classic Italian Chianti, a sweet Zinfandel or a classic German Riesling. The richness of the cheese sauces mesh well with the heavier, oak-based wines without overpowering the dish itself.

Paella, a classic Mexican dish prepared with seafood and rice, is rich in flavor and in texture. A well-balanced wine to match this authentic favorite includes red wines from Portugal's local grape, the Tinta Pinheira and Duoro red wines. Both styles give rich, berry flavors without taking away the unique taste of the rice and seafood combinations.

Chipotles and mole sauce, common ingredients in several Mexican dishes, are often accompanied with pork, chicken or beef. These dishes can be tricky to compliment wine with since they are usually rich and earthy in taste at the same time. Good bets with these dishes include a fruity Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and a classic Australian Shiraz. In all three selections, the fruitiness of the wine tends to lighten the heavier sauces of the dishes, complimenting the unique, spicy taste of what chipotle and mole sauces are known for.

Gazpacho, a cold summertime soup, prepared with cucumbers, scallions and beans, gets most of its flavor from the tomatoes it's prepared with. Soave, normally bland in comparison to Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, stands up strong to the acidity of the tomatoes, making it a nice compliment to this dish.

Some Food for Thought

Whether you're trying wine with Mexican food for the first time or need a refresher course, these helpful tips will make it easier to decide which wine to order at your next fiesta.

- The spicier the food, the sweeter the wine! The sweetness of the wine acts like a fire extinguisher to the spiciness of the dish. The sweeter the wine, the better the dish will taste!

- Think balance. You don't want the spiciness of your food to drown out the taste of your wine. At the same time, you don't want the wine to overpower the taste of the food you are eating. Remember the one Golden Rule: light foods go with light wines, heavier foods go with heavier wines. Try more Rieslings, Soaves and Sauvignon Blanc with your next Mexican picks. These wines are light enough to taste the unique spices that make up the dish, yet they still offer acidity to compliment the food. Good red wine bets are Pinot Noir, Italian Barbera and Dolcetto. Like their white wine counterparts, these reds pair well with several Mexican dishes, since they are light enough and still give the dish depth.

On a final note, the Best bang for your Buck

Here are some popular, top-notch Mexican wines to try with your next burrito. Although they may be a little on the pricey end, the affordability of the Mexican food they accompany will help balance your wallet, leaving you with only two words: "Muy Bueno!"

- Ceja 1999 Chardonnay - Makes a great pick with seafood stuffed burritos and tacos

- Ceja 1999 Pinot Noir - A nice match with most Mexican dishes

- Shafer 1999 Napa Valley Merlot - A great choice with black bean tacos and grilled chicken quesadillas

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