I can’t say there are no rules to wine pairing because there are. Bitter goes with sweet, fat goes with acid, blah blah whatever. Rules are made to be broken, or at the very least bent. Below are some of my favorite unexpected pairings. Note: you will not find these in your father’s next issue of Fancy Wine Stuff.
Tacos and Riesling
Everyone’s all about tacos and beer, but beer fills you up and leaves less room for more tacos. Try a German Riesling instead. Riesling’s fruit-forward flavors and aromas balance out spice, and its bright finish is a great palate cleanser for stuffing your face with guacamole.
Another reason Rieslings work great with spice: low-alcohol. The lower the alcohol, the easier to drink and the less of a burn. Serve ice cold and keep the hot sauce coming.
Cheeseburgers and Lambrusco
Just because you’re grilling doesn’t mean you have to go rustic Merlot. Instead, do a Lambrusco. This dry, sparkling red effortlessly cuts through the heavenly heaviness of cheeseburgers and has a tannic finish that leaves you wanting more greasy goodness. And it’s sparkling — any practical excuse you have to open a bottle of bubbly, you need to take.
Sushi and Rosé
I love those little pink bottles of unfiltered sake with sushi, but there’s another pink you should try: dry rosé. It works best with salmon, but you won’t catch anyone complaining if you also throw in a spicy tuna roll.
It won’t overpower the delicate nature of sushi and its strawberry notes will bring out the subtle sweetness in sashimi. Rosé also balances the savory taste of tempura.
Plus, it’s sushi. And rosé. That’s two of the most beloved epicurean enjoyments coming together on your table.
Potato Chips and Champagne
A classic yet strangely underrated high-low pairing. Champagne’s crisp acidity not only complements fats and salts, but its bubbles scrub that same fat and salt away so you can keep on munching. This is perfect for those of us who go to parties and would rather eat an entire bowl of Lay’s than talk to another human.
Another pairing of note: Champagne and french fries. Same sentiment but with a side of shame as you peel out of the McDonald’s drive-thru. #worthit
Oysters and Beaujolais
Red wine with oysters feels so wrong, and yet with a Beaujolais, it tastes so right. Oysters need wines that are light-bodied with plenty of mineral and spice to complement their briny flavor. Beaujolais does that without any of the heavy fruit or tannins of other reds.
It’s also great because you want to serve wines at a similar temperature to how the oysters have been prepared; Beaujolais can be served chilled or at room temperature, making it ideal for either raw bar or grilled oyster dishes.
Mac & Cheese and Chardonnay
Chards are awesome with cheddar mac & cheese, and this is coming from someone who is notoriously not into chardonnay. Its oak-y essence (sorry) softens the sharpness of the cheddar and the cheddar brings out chardonnay’s fruity, tropical notes.
Whatever You’re Eating and Whatever Is in the House
At the end of the day, pairings don’t mean shit. You’re hungry and you want to get drunk, so screw it. Eat what you want with whatever you have to drink. It may not be Cabernet and filet mignon, but it’ll get the job done. Plus, there are no pairings without experimenting. You’re essentially a scientist now. Drink up.
Marissa A. Ross is the creator of Wine. All the Time. She’s an LA-based writer, comedian, and self-proclaimed wino. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. Watch her Ask A Wino episodes on YouTube, too.