Food and wine pairings can be quite tricky, but a fun challenge nonetheless. If you remember, in March I participated in an online food and wine pairing challenge presented by fellow blogger, The Wandering Gourmand. My shrimp and grits wine pairing answer (Albariño or Gewurz) lost by only one vote. So close! To put my pairing skills to work again, I decided to join this month’s challenge… finding a wine (or beer) that would pair best with the crowd-pleasing Mexican staple, and one of my favorite things to make, enchiladas (with red sauce). Instead of going for what I thought the obvious answer would be (beer, no disrespect), I decided to dig a little deeper and come up with two maybe lesser obvious pairings. I chose a white wine, Torrontes, and a red, Petite Sirah. A big, bold red… with Mexican food? Yes, I went there!
So, why those two wines? I chose the Torrontes because it’s a higher acid wine… maybe some of that acidity could cut through the spice and richness of the enchiladas. It’s crisp, so I thought it would be a good palate refresher, too. The more daring choice, Petite Sirah, I chose because I thought it’d be rich and robust enough to stand up to the heaviness of the meat and cheese without losing its characteristics. To test my answers, I decided to make chicken enchiladas to pair with each. To really step things up, I also threw a beer into the mix (Dos Equis Lager). Olé!
First wine: 2012 Don David Torrontes ($14) from Argentina. Torrontes is Argentina’s most popular white, but it’s definitely lesser known in the US. It’s similar to a Viognier (tropical fruit), but lighter in body and with a bit more crispness. It can also work with spicy foods, cutting through some of the heat to refresh the palate. The best part? They’re usually very inexpensive. This wine had peach, honeydew and banana aromas with a crisp, lemony finish. A zesty vino for sure.
Next, the 2009 Jessup Cellars Petite Sirah which I had at home already. Petit Sirahs are usually very full / plump, astringent and intense. It’s often confused with Syrah, which is a different grape entirely but somewhat similar in style. Typically great with rich, hearty foods, I wasn’t sure how this would pair with Mexican but gave it a shot. This wine had spiced blackberry, currant and leather notes. It was super concentrated and robust (Nick described it as “in your face – bam!”), with astringent tannins. Pretty good, if you like bigger, bold reds. BAM!
So which was the best match? Definitely not the beer… at least not the Dos Equis. It watered down the bold flavors of the meal and I think it’s best reserved for sipping while lying on a beach. The Torrontes, surprisingly, enhanced the faint spiciness in the dish, which in turn didn’t do anything for the wine. Ugh. So was this experiment a complete wash? The Petite Sirah, although not the obvious answer, actually worked well with the food! It held up to the boldness of the enchiladas in both flavor and weight, and didn’t change much at all. A great choice!
It’s true, pairing wine with food is tricky and can sometimes surprise you – in good ways and bad. Always fun to experiment, though! So what did other people choose? Everything from Corona Light to boxed wine to a GSM blend. To vote for either of my answers (or your favorite answer), click here. Voting ends June 17! Salud!