Wine pairing. Two words that can bring to mind dim restaurant lighting, never-ending wine lists, and high brow musings on this year’s grapes from the Napa Valley.
But enjoying wine doesn’t have to be this way. While pairing can be intimidating, especially when considering wines outside of the “Big Six Grapes” (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon), good wine is for everyone — and every food, especially when you order in.
Luckily, you don’t need to be a classically-trained Sommelier to know how to pair wine with your city’s best takeout. We consulted our in-house wine expert Mike Ganino for a cuisine-by-cuisine breakdown of the best wines to take your takeout to the next level.
If you ordered…
Try a glass of Spanish Cava, a sparkling wine from the coastal regions south of Barcelona. Spanish Cava’s acidic backbone will pair beautifully with fish tacos, cutting through the rich, fried goodness of beer-battered cod and those generous helpings of guac, cheese, and sour cream.
If you’re looking for a red wine to pair with more savory dishes, put down that glass of Cabernet, which is too tannin-rich (read: dry) to complement the spiciness of your burrito. Look instead for a ripe red wine, like a Syrah, whose soft tannins will flow with the chili powder, cumin, coriander, and paprika spice mix that gives your burrito that special something.
Suggested pairing: Toca Madera’s Enchiladas de Mole with a glass of Kunin Wines’ Santa Barbara County Syrah.
Try Viognier, a light and spritzy white wine whose varieties range from fruity and floral, laden with peach and honeysuckle notes, to bold and creamy, imbued with hints of vanilla, clove, and nutmeg. This versatile blend will be a match made in heaven for a bowl of tabbouleh or a kefta kabob slathered with tzatziki sauce.
If you ordered anything with roasted lamb, look for a dark, fruity red wine with a bit of earth to it. A Cabernet Franc, with its medium and mouthwatering acidity, or a Petite Sirah, with intense blueberry and black pepper flavors, pairs perfectly with the spices and herbs present in Mediterranean dishes, especially cinnamon.
Try a glass of Sangiovese (also known as Chianti), a savory red with cherry flavors and notes of tomato. Sangiovese’s exact flavor varies based on the region in which it’s grown, making it a chameleon wine with a wide range of flavors — a perfect complement to pizza, the ultimate blank canvas.
Tempranillo, Italy’s most commonly planted grape, is also a great medium-to-full-bodied choice, with its smooth finish and leathery flavor.
If you’re looking for something a little lighter, a Crianza Rioja, the youngest-aged version of Rioja, is a red that won’t compete with the pizza’s main flavors, but still retains enough acidity to cut through the heaviness of cheese, sauce, and dough.
Suggested pairing: Stella Barra’s Spicy Salumi and Burrata Pizza with a glass of Seghesio’s California Sangiovese.
Wine and burgers? Hear us out. While beer and burgers are often considered the holy grail, next time, try a glass of champagne or a sparkling white wine (Blanc de Noirs from the Gruet Winery in Albuquerque, New Mexico would do the trick). Its fruitiness will complement just about any ingredient you’ll find in a burger and the bubbles will lighten up the indulgent heaviness of burgers and fries.
If you’re craving a red wine, pick something with a fresh, round texture. Grenache, which is known for its fruity flavors and notes of white pepper, is a medium-bodied red wine with exactly the right amount of acidity to cut through beef’s richness.
Try a glass of Vouvray, a white wine made from grapes that grow along the Loire River in France and filled with pear and apple flavors. With a little more body than a Riesling and a slight creamy taste, Vouvray will not only complement umami and spicy flavors, prevalent in Chinese cooking, but will still be crisp enough to stand apart from rich sauces and fried dishes. And because no one ever orders just one dish when it comes to Chinese, Vouvray is versatile enough to pair with everyone’s meal.
If you’re looking for a red wine, you can’t beat a Pinot Noir from Oregon. With layered fruit notes, Pinot also has enough body to stand up to the sauces in Chinese dishes, but will take the backseat to the overall flavors and let your Chow Mein be the star.
A good rule to follow here is, “If it grows together, it goes together.” Try a Txakoli from Spain or a Vinho Verde from Portugal, white wines grown near the ocean that will pair perfectly with seafood. Popular sushi fish like tuna or salmon have a slightly fatty flavor profile that can handle a wine with a little more body than just a simple sparkling wine. As both Txakoli and Vinho Verde have a natural effervescence but aren’t as bubbly as sparkling wine, they will balance out the fats in your yellowtail roll and the spiciness of wasabi.
Avoid sweeter varieties whose flavor would get lost in these rich and spicy Indian dishes. Instead, try an off-dry Riesling from Germany, France, Austria, or Oregon, that will cut through the robustness of a curry, the spiced cheese in a saag paneer, and the roasty meat fats in a lamb vindaloo, as well as temper the spiciness to just the right level.
As a general rule, stay away from spicy reds like a Napa Cabernet or a Zinfandel. These tannic varieties will set your mouth on fire and your need for water skyrocketing.
Suggested pairing: Cafe Gratitude’s Humble / Indian Curry Bowl with a glass of Brooks Wines’ Willamette Valley Riesling from Oregon.
Try a glass of Gruner Veltliner, a dry white wine grown in Austria and filled with flavors of green pepper, lemon, and lime. A medium-bodied wine, Gruner Veltliner will hold up well to the fats in a sloppy pulled pork sandwich, but will also complement vinegary North Carolina-style sauces with its dry notes.
If red is more your style, pair a glass of Zinfandel with a big rack of baby-back ribs. Overflowing with flavors of ripe fruit, Zinfandel will stand up to thick, slathered-on BBQ sauces and complement smoked meats with its cedar, oak, and vanilla notes.
Suggested pairing: Gus’s BBQ’s Memphis Style Baby Back Ribs with a glass of Dry Creek Valley’s Ridge Vineyards’ Three Valleys Zinfandel.