Noth­ing is beyond be­ing paired with wines—even fast food

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Noth­ing is beyond be­ing paired with wines—even fast food

There is a ver­i­ta­ble ocean of sci­en­tific stud­ies that tell us that a glass of wine with a meal is good for our health. This re­search tells us that red wines can re­duce blood sugar, lower the risk of heart at­tacks, and pro­tect against cer­tain types of de­men­tia. The Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Epi­demi­ol­ogy even pub­lished an ar­ti­cle sug­gest­ing that wine in­take could re­duce the risk of fall­ing prey to the com­mon cold. But the main rea­son for sip­ping a glass of wine with our lunch or din­ner, as every reader of this mag­a­zine knows, is that wine makes food taste bet­ter, while also en­cour­ag­ing con­ver­sa­tion to flow. Th­ese qual­i­ties make it an in­te­gral part of every meal—even one eaten at a food court or picked up from a food truck or fast food restau­rant.

Not all wines are cre­ated equal, how­ever. Some are just more food-friendly than oth­ers. Think of them as the Meryl Streeps of the wine world: charm­ing and ver­sa­tile, with a broadly ap­peal­ing style, but also with plenty of per­son­al­ity. Th­ese are wines that can sit ma­jes­ti­cally on the grand­est restau­rant ta­bles, but would be equally at home in a burger bar.


The char­ac­ter­is­tics that make a wine more adapt­able when it comes to food pair­ing can be clearly iden­ti­fied. First: zippy acid­ity. Acid­ity is the qual­ity that re­freshes the palate and lifts and bal­ances flavours.

Sec­ond: wines with broad, sub­tle fruit char­ac­ters grace­fully sup­port and in­ter­act with the flavours of food, as op­posed to wines with a fiercely va­ri­etal char­ac­ter that dom­i­nate rather than har­monise with a dish. For ex­am­ple, not all Sau­vi­gnon Blancs are food­friendly. Af­ter all, goose­ber­ries and cat’s pee (the most com­mon tast­ing de­scrip­tions of the va­ri­ety) do not go with every­thing. When it comes to red wines, look for those with softer, mel­lower tan­nins be­cause ex­ces­sively tan­nic wines are usu­ally per­ceived as hav­ing a slightly bit­ter flavour and an as­trin­gent mouth­feel. In short, food-friendly wines are those that cre­ate a syn­ergy be­tween the food and the wine, which re­sults in a lus­cious new flavour that tran­scends the in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments of the meal.

Many of the dishes that fall into the cat­e­gory of fast food are fried or deep-fried. Apart from adding an at­trac­tive, del­i­cate whiff of smok­i­ness, fry­ing cre­ates a slight oily sen­sa­tion in the mouth that cries out for palate-cleans­ing acid­ity. That is why sparkling wines—and yes, that in­cludes cham­pagne—make su­per part­ners for street foods. Their fresh acid­ity, sub­tle flavours and lively bub­bles pair bril­liantly with fried chicken, fish and chips, chimichang­as (deep­fried bur­ri­tos), arancini (stuffed rice balls), or any of the many deep-fried meat, veg­etable or chick­pea-based cro­quettes.

Look for wines that are la­belled Ex­tra Dry or Cré­mant. Please note that ‘Ex­tra Dry’ does not mean drier. Rather, the term in­di­cates a wine with a cer­tain sweet­ness: this is of­ten per­ceived as full­ness or fruiti­ness on the palate and com­ple­ments the bat­ter on most fried food. The term ‘Cré­mant’ in­di­cates a sparkling wine that has a lower in­ter­nal pres­sure in

the bot­tle: this means the wine will be froth­ier and have a more mouth-filling sen­sa­tion, ren­der­ing it softer and seem­ingly more fruity. In France, this style is found in Al­sace, Bur­gundy, the Loire, Li­moux and the Jura. In the Ital­ian sparkling wine pro­duc­tion zone of Fran­ci­a­corta, th­ese less ef­fer­ves­cent wines are re­ferred to as Satèn. Other com­monly found sparklers from Italy that fit the bill are Pros­ecco and Trentodoc, the lat­ter made, like Fran­ci­a­corta, with a sec­ond fer­men­ta­tion in bot­tle.


Still white wines that share the above char­ac­ter­is­tics of broad fruity flavours and crisp acid­ity are breath­tak­ingly ver­sa­tile. Look for wines made from the fol­low­ing grape va­ri­eties: un­oaked or very lightly oaked Chardon­nay, Viog­nier, Pinot Blanc, Fiano, Grillo, Pinot Gri­gio, Sémil­lon (and Sémil­lon/ Sau­vi­gnon Blanc blends), Sil­vaner, Kerner, Ries­ling, Chenin Blanc, Glera (the grape va­ri­ety used for Pros­ecco), Gar­ganega (the pri­mary grape va­ri­ety in Soave), Grüner Velt­liner from Aus­tria, and any dry ex­am­ple of the vast Mus­cat/Moscato fam­ily.

Not only can wines made from th­ese va­ri­etals part­ner fried food, they can also ac­com­pany sushi and sashimi, as well as tacos, en­chi­ladas, chicken pot pie, chicken or pork sa­tay, and an as­sort­ment of sand­wiches, in­clud­ing bánh mì, pulled pork, a BLT (ba­con, let­tuce and tomato), chicken salad and cro­quet mon­sieur.

I asked José Rallo, fifth gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily that owns the famed Si­cil­ian win­ery Don­nafu­gata, what she would pair with her sprightly Sur Sur, made from 100 per cent Grillo grapes. “I love to drink it with fried cala­mari. The wine is an easy gourmet pair­ing for every­day and street food, when you want to take a break from rou­tine.”

Teresa Bacco of Agostino Vi­cen­tini Win­ery noted: “Re­cently I sam­pled a va­ri­ety of street foods in the Padua, Venice area. Our Soave Terre Lunghe was matched with grilled shrimp tails, and I thought it was a per­fect com­bi­na­tion. It also paired well with salami and cheese sand­wiches, and with grilled veg­eta­bles.”

For me, a match made in heaven is a glass of lightly peachy and flo­ral Pinot Blanc d’Al­sace with peanut but­ter on white bread. A true syn­ergy is achieved be­cause peanut but­ter has a mel­low flavour and creamy tex­ture: it is like a blank can­vas just wait­ing for the burst of vi­brant fruiti­ness that this wine pro­vides.


Rosés are also safe bets. Not only are they fresh and fruity, they also tend to have a bit more weight on the palate, soft tan­nins and a lively, ap­peal­ing colour.

Some con­nois­seurs claim rosé is ideal with a hot dog loaded with sauer­kraut. I of­ten pair it with a but­tery lob­ster roll, but it would go equally well with the crisp and crunchy flavour of chicken tacos or Thai fish cakes, as well as a steam­ing bowl of fried Hokkien noo­dles.

Franco Cristo­fore­tti, owner of the Vil­l­a­bella es­tate, sug­gests serv­ing crispy fried white­bait with his Bar­dolino Chiaretto, while Fabio Con­tato, of Cà Maiol win­ery in Lom­bardy, rec­om­mends Roseri— made from Gro­pello grapes—with pizza alla ro­mana (moz­zarella, to­ma­toes, an­chovies) es­pe­cially with the ad­di­tion of thinly sliced ham.

Look for rosés that in­clude th­ese grape va­ri­eties in their blends: Gamay, Caber­net Franc, Carig­nan, Cin­sault, Mourvè­dre, Mer­lot, Can­nonau, Lam­br­usco, La­grein, Corv­ina, Neb­bi­olo, Mon­tepul­ciano, Car­menère, San­giovese, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Bar­bera, Mon­tepul­ciano d’Abruzzo (Cera­suolo), Gaglioppo (Cirò Rosato), Grop­pello, Ne­groa­maro, and Grenache. This lat­ter va­ri­ety is a main com­po­nent in many of the most fa­mous wines of Provence. In Spain, it goes by the name Gar­nacha, and is the prin­ci­pal grape in most Navarra Rosa­dos.


Food-friendly reds will have the req­ui­site sprightly acid­ity, but they will also have less ag­gres­sive tan­nins, along with softer flavours of iden­ti­fi­able cherry/berry fruits. This leads to sup­ple wines that ca­ress the palate rather than jar with the dishes they are ac­com­pa­ny­ing.

Look for those made from grape va­ri­eties such as: Pinot Noir, Gamay (Beau­jo­lais), Dol­cetto, Lam­br­usco, Caber­net Franc (Chi­non, Caber­net d’An­jou), Blaufränki­sch (Aus­tria), Dol­cetto, Tem­pranillo, Neb­bi­olo, San­giovese, Bar­bera or Mon­tepul­ciano, among oth­ers.

Th­ese wines will wrap them­selves around and en­hance the flavour of meat-based sand­wiches such as sliced deli counter meats, bratwurst and sausages in gen­eral. They will wash down any of the world’s many meat pies (pasties, em­panadas, cal­zoni), grilled meat skew­ers, ke­babs and bro­chettes, and ham­burg­ers with every kind of condi­ment.

Gio­vanni Si­doli, ex­port man­ager of the Monte delle Vigne win­ery in Emilia-Ro­magna, sug­gests match­ing dry Lam­br­usco with a prosci­utto and Sam­bal Pe­tai parme­san cheese sand­wich. In fact, the lus­cious fruiti­ness of the wine works well with pork-based dishes in gen­eral. Sweeter Lam­br­us­cos can also make a per­fect foil for saucy, pi­quant bar­be­cued ribs.

My per­sonal favourite pair­ing in this cat­e­gory is Ro­magna San­giovese with the soft, al­most creamy bland­ness of a bean bur­rito. The wine ex­alts the tex­ture of the food and adds a pleas­ing burst of fruit flavour that lifts this hum­ble Tex-Mex sta­ple into an­other taste di­men­sion.

En­rico Drei Donà sug­gests serv­ing his fam­ily win­ery’s Ro­magna San­giovese with guan­cia di vitello brasata al San­giovese (braised veal cheek with San­giovese sauce), a pulled pork sand­wich or a ham­burger with caramelise­d onions, cheese and ba­con.

So, the next time you are head­ing for fast food, per­haps you should slow down just a lit­tle. Forego that gassy cola or beer, or that se­date glass of tea, and pour your­self a healthy, re­fresh­ing, con­ver­sa­tion­start­ing glass of wine. Af­ter all, as the Fa­ther of Gas­tron­omy and epi­cure ex­traor­dinare Jean An­thelme Bril­lat-Savarin said: “A meal with­out wine is like a day with­out sun­shine.”

This page Spark­ing wines make for a su­per pair­ing with deep­fried food

This page Food­friendly reds en­hance the flavour of meaty burg­ers

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