Wine with Mexican Food? Sí!

By Brian Freedman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 13, 2014

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There’s so much bad booze advice floating around out there that it’s pretty much impossible to keep track of it all and refute it in a timely manner: Serve all your white wines ice-cold (for the love of god, no); don’t drink too much on an airplane (sometimes you have to, i.e., anytime you’re flying on US Airways or TAP Portugal); it’s OK to muddle a pound of fruit into a single Old Fashioned (be warned: Don Draper would take you to the alley behind the bar and kick your ass).

But there is one nugget of false alcohol gospel that grows easier all the time to refute: The old commandment that thou shalt not drink wine with Mexican food.

This is because of two complementary phenomena: First, Mexican food in Philadelphia has become so layered, so complex, that it easily meshes with the character of a solid bottle of wine; and second, there’s a lot of great wine around that bumps up perfectly against the often aromatic, occasionally spicy nature of our area’s great Mexican dishes.

The trick is to channel the sage advice of the great phenomenological philosopher Kenny Loggins, who once said, with heartfelt conviction: Meet me halfway, across the sky…

By which I mean: Don’t let either the wine or the dish dominate; rather, their interaction should be a dance. Cut the richness of your guacamole with a mouthwatering Prosecco. Play up taco al pastor’s pineapple with a cool glass of Vouvray. Look to ripe red Zinfandel for a hit of spice alongside your beef burrito.

It’s not all without risks, though. Spice heat in food can do serious battle with many wines, especially tannic and high-alcohol reds. And no matter what match you’re going for, make sure you don’t serve your red too warm: A quick 20-minute chill in the fridge will work wonders on most bottles, especially when pairing them with food.

But in general this summer, I’ve been opening up a bottle of wine and a couple of beers each time I cook or bring in Mexican food for dinner. Even with casual classics like tacos, the right wine can contextualize the food in a brand new light, making even my old stovetop standby seem somehow new and exciting.

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