Wine and Junk Foods, a Tasty Pairing

By Gary Twining

There is an old saying: “If we eat healthy 100 percent of the time we won’t live any longer, it will just seem like it.” Sometimes a soul-satisfying treat is just required, so why not make a memorable pairing with wine?

Always consider the primary flavor in your food. For example, chocolate would lead to one set of wines while chocolate with peanut butter would lead to a slightly different selection. The ingredients in the preparation will point to the choice of wine. If the food is sweet, ensure the wine is sweeter for the best marriage. Just keep these guidelines in mind when you are choosing the wine to enjoy:

Salty and oily delicacies: popcorn (with salt and butter), pretzels, corn chips, potato chips, French fries and fried chicken. Acidity and effervescence are marvelous to pair with salty, oily foods. Try crisp, dry sparkling wines and Champagnes for a pairing made in heaven.  Crisp, dry whites are also lovely pairings with these snacks. For fried chicken also consider soft, plush red wines such as Grenache/Garnacha, Tempranillo or Merlot.

Pastries: donuts, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, cream-filled treats. These tend to be relatively light in flavor and sweetness, unless they are made from chocolate. Lightly sweet whites work well with these. Look for a fruity Riesling, Vouvray/Chenin Blanc, softly sweet sparkler or Moscato.  Late harvest wines of all grape varietals and sweetness levels are also delicious.

Pastry fillings and basic ingredients change their usually mild flavor. Compare a donut with banana cream versus one with raspberry jam, each leading to different wine choices. Modern cupcakes are made with a wide variety of fillings and flavors. Think about the intensity of flavor and sweetness and select a wine based on similarities.

Chocolate: cookies, cakes, brownies, candy bars, Halloween candies. There are many wine choices that work with chocolate, the richer wines sing with dark chocolate and softly sweet wines revel with milk and lighter chocolates. Riesling of all sweetness levels, fortified wines (Vins Doux Naturels, Porto, Cream and Pedro Ximénez Sherries and Madeira) are superb pairings with chocolate.

Chocolate and peanut butter will pair wonderfully with the wines served with chocolate, but try those with oxidation to echo the nuttiness in the peanut butter. Sweet Sherry, Montillas, Tawny Porto and Bual or Malmsey Madeira are all excellent choices.

Nuts: Dry Sherry and Montilla (especially Amontillados), Tawny Porto and Sercial or Verdelho Madeira echo nutty flavors and aromas and can be especially satisfying.

Caramel: On its own, it pairs well with lightly to fully sweet white wines. Also try sweet Madeira to echo the similar cooked flavors in wine and caramel.

Cheese puffs: These cheesy treats will pair with any wine that complements cheddar cheese, but are particularly nice with Madeira with its cheesy, maderized flavors.

Pizza: The ingredients will direct your wine choice. White sauce works with white wines, red sauce with reds. Hawaiian pizza (bacon and pineapple) works with fuller-bodied sparklers and could even pair with a tropical Chardonnay, if made with a white sauce instead of red.  Experiment with the sauces and ingredients and find new, unique pairings.

Burgers: An American staple! Consider the ingredients, but a fresh Rosé or soft red wine can stand up to the challenge of mustard, catsup, onions, pickles and other condiments and the fat in the meat.

Fast-food breakfast: Now available all day long! With sandwiches that can include eggs, bacon and sausage, a soft red will work – even better if it has some acidity. Crisp whites and sparkling wines will overcome the challenges of the eggs, the salt in bacon and sausage and be delightful with the deep-fried hash browns.

Salsa: Light, supple reds will work, as will soft, unoaked Chardonnay. Again, not all salsas are based on tomatoes but can use peaches, mangos and other fruit or vegetables and can vary from sweet to highly acidic, from mild to hot. Remember that alcohol increases heat.

Ice cream: Pour a rich dessert wine over it or serve with a lusciously sweet wine. Chocolate and fudge pair with a lighter Porto or Sweet Sherry.

Life is short.  Don’t be afraid to pair wine with your favorite snack foods.

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