As a trained, certified, and often intoxicated sommelier, I’m occasionally asked about wine pairings. The idea, of course, is to find the best wine for any given dish. When done well, both the wine and the dish are elevated – opening up nuances and flavors unavailable when each are served on their own.
There are a lot of sources to turn to when looking for standard pairings – but here I’d like to cover the non-standard pairings I discovered mostly by chance, late at night, while coming off a dinner service.
Hidalgo “La Gitana” Manzanilla + Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich
There was a Wendy’s near my apartment that was open until 1am. If I hurried the cooks and dishwashers along I could swing by the drive-thru right before they closed. One night I got my Spicy Chicken Sandwich and went home only to realize I’d forgotten to pick up beer. Luckily I had a sample bottle of the La Gitana in my fridge I’d been ignoring. It turns out the bright, slightly salty and vegetal flavors of the sherry was the perfect fit for the spicy fried chicken. Get the Asiago upgrade to really make this one sing.
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand 2016 + Taco Bell Gordita Supreme
Some nights I wouldn’t make it out in time to hit Wendy’s. Luckily for me (but perhaps the opposite for my digestive tract) there was a 24hr Taco Bell across the street. Having decided that dignity was only holding me back, I’d order the Gorditas Supreme without a trace of the hipster irony that defined so much of my daily decision-making. Another fridge sample turned out to be the perfect match with the Gordita’s regionally confusing pita-like taco shell: Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The lime skin and grassiness of the wine fit the Gordita’s balance of processed steam-tabled meat* and suspiciously crispy lettuce. Get the Avocado Ranch upgrade if it’s close enough to payday.
*Now with up to 88% actual meat!
Chateau Miraval Rose 2016 + White Castle Burgers
I was on the road for a Court of Masters event in Cincinnati. A group of us broke away after the last seminar and decided to do a little studying on our own. We brought a few bottles of rosé to study, and within a few hours we were feeling very well-trained – and hungry. A quick review of the blocks around our hotel revealed the only thing open was White Castle. I was well beyond the kind of self-examination that normally kept me from eating a half dozen mini-burgers in a parking lot while drinking the fresh and zesty Miraval from a NASCAR branded adult sippy cup we had picked up earlier in the evening. The bright berry flavors and acidic spine was just what the onion and pickle burger garnish needed. Get another 6 mini-burger upgrade because you’re eating at White Castle and have likely given up on life.
Coutier “Tradition” Brut NV 375ml + Movie Theater Popcorn
Proper technique dictates that Champagne is opened without popping the cork – it should open with the sound of a quick kiss. Not only is this the more sophisticated way to open Champagne, but once this skill is acquired it makes Champagne an ideal movie theater beverage. Wanting to impress a girlfriend of mine, I snuck a half-bottle of Coutier Brut into a showing of Zombieland. We drank the Champagne through a straw while eating popcorn. The bubbles and the crunchy popcorn paired better than I had anticipated. Of course I acted cool about it, like I knew it’d work all along. Get a box of Redvines as an upgrade – it also worked beyond expectations.