by Jesssica Bell
The zinfandel grape naturally “raisinates” a bit on the vine. The raisin flavors make it a softer, sweeter red that will go nicely with the chocolate. The sweeter the candy, the sweeter the food, the sweeter the wine you should seek.
Most people would default to a buttery chardonnay, but a crisp sauvignon blanc is the perfect foil for buttered popcorn. Rather than creating similar flavors when pairing wine with food, I think you should pick complementary flavors—almost like you’re adding an extra ingredient. With popcorn, a buttery chardonnay just adds more of the same flavor; you have to watch out for palate fatigue. I’m always looking for something that wakes up the palate, something that motivates you to take the next bite. Whenever you have a big plate of food with one dominant flavor, you get tired of it pretty quickly. Wine works the same way; it’s about creating unique experiences within that one tasting. With sauvignon blanc, you’ve got this crisp, citrusy wine that acts as a foil for all that oil and butter.
An Aussie Shiraz is going to balance well with chocolate, not because it has a lot of sugar in it, but because it has a perception of sweetness due to the ripe fruit.
Mint chocolate is virtually impossible to pair with wine, to be honest. If I had to have a wine, I would go with a port. Port is an occasion-driven pairing, so imagine lingering at the table after dinner, having chocolates with someone special. Mint and peanuts are probably two of the hardest [flavors] to pair with wine.
Moscato is one of the sweeter wines available. It has some nice fruit flavors—peach and pear notes, even some tropical fruits—so it goes really nicely with gummy bears.
Riesling is also sweet, but it’s high acid; it has a very crisp edge. Reisling can sometimes taste something like SweeTarts, so it goes really well with Sour Gummies.
I just love drinking rosé with Mexican food. You really don’t want a warm, red wine with your nachos, especially if they include jalapeños—spicy foods and red wine don’t typically go well together. But a little bit of red fruit is a great complement; that’s why rosé is a good match.
No one eats a hot dog without any condiments, right? So I’m thinking of flavors like mustard, ketchup, relish, and onions. Pinot noir has a good amount of fruit; it has high acid and low tannin, so it’s not going to conflict with all of those condiments. Sweetness and acidity have the same kind of pairing guidelines. In this case, the higher the acid in the food, the higher the acid you want in your wine.
Chardonnay can go with anything. A pretzel is neutral but salty and sometimes comes with condiments, like mustard or cheese. Chardonnay typically isn’t very aromatic or intense; it’s a more muted wine. That’s why I think it would go nicely with a pretzel.
Merlot has medium acid, medium tannin, and medium body, which, I know, sounds mediocre, but it means it’s really well balanced. Merlots are typically described as “smooth”—it’s simple and easy to like, without having to prove anything. The same goes for pizza. Who doesn’t like pizza? That’s why pizza and merlot is a classic Tuesday-night special.
I lived in Spain for two years and worked for a Spanish winery, so I had to find a place for my true love. Spanish tempranillo is light bodied and easy drinking, but it can take on many different types of foods. Tempranillo’s fruit has a bit of an earthy undertone, so it pairs really well with chicken fingers.
Malbecs usually have dark fruit notes. They’re lush with a good amount of alcohol and can really stand up nicely to a big burger. Argentina makes fantastic beef and they’re known for their malbecs. It’s always good to take the lead from a classic regional pairing.