Break the Rules: Wine with Mexican Food

September 6, 2013 Blog » Wine Tips & Tricks » Break the Rules: Wine with Mexican Food

This is a resource for pairing wine with Mexican food. Below you’ll find a list that matches several styles of wine with common Mexican dishes, Tex-Mex foods and traditional Mexican spices.
It seems unbelievable but it’s true: Mexico has a long history with wine. The oldest known winery in North/Central America is located in Coahuila, Mexico. It was established in 1597.

Wine Renaissance in Mexico: Today there are many top Mexican restaurants that have large wine lists. So what are the best types of wine with Mexican food? Let’s find out.

Did you know? Mexico ranks about 25th in the world for wine and produces as much as Oregon.

Why is Mexico more famous for beer and tequila?

Fermented agave and mezcal were already commonly used for religious purposes by the time the Spanish started distilling Tequila in the 1700’s. The ubiquitous margarita (developed after prohibition ended in the 1930’s) made tequila popular to the masses. As far as beer is concerned; it’s popular because it’s readily available. German influence brought lager(beer) to Mexico and it’s produced using mostly rice, an affordable staple grain.
Wine with Tacos chilled Beaujolais

Wine with Mexican Food

3 wine food pairing trade secrets

#1 The Rule of Spice The general rule is that the spicier the food, the colder and sweeter the wine should be. Also, lower alcohol wines and moderate tannins dissolve the burning sensation of capsicum.
#2 White meat = white wine Most of the time you can match the color of the wine with the color of the meat. Red meat? Red wine. White meat? White wine. Check out our guides on Pairing wine with Fish and Pairing wine with Chicken for more details.
#3 What color are the herbs? Foods with a lot of green herbs tend to beg for wines with higher acidity and more herbaceous flavors. Sauvignon Blanc is a great example of an herbaceous wine with higher acidity. Because of the spice in most Mexican dishes, we suggest a more fruit-forward Sauvignon Blanc, such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.


Tortillas with Toppings

small hand-sized soft corn tortillas topped with meat, chopped onion, cabbage, radish, lime and cilantro
similar to tacos, but with small crispy corn tortillas
a thick soft corn tortilla topped with seasoned meat and mexican cheese and sometimes pickled vegetables or lettuce
literally translates to toasted and perhaps was derived from crisping day-old masa tortillas.

Dry Rosé, Lambrusco, lighter-style Spanish Garnacha, Cannonau from Sardegna

Stuffed Masa dough dishes

a corn dough stuffed with meats, cheeses and/or vegetables, wrapped in corn husks and steamed/boiled
a small masa cake that’s prepared and stuffed with cheese, meat and/or vegetables
a corn tortilla rolled around cheese, meat or vegetables and covered in a red sauce

Cab Franc Rosé, Tempranillo Rosé, – If dish is not too spicy try a slightly chilled Reserva Rioja or Tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero

Savory-Sweet Dishes

a wheat, corn or yucca pastry stuffed with cheeses and vegetables.
Chile Rellenos
a cheese-stuffed green chile that’s breaded with masa fried and served with pickled vegetables and sometimes topped with chile sauce

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Verdejo, Torrontes, Albariño, Austrian Grüner Veltliner Garnacha Rosé. The spice level can be moderated with a more fruity-tasting or sweet wine

Cheese Dishes

Queso Fundido

Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Carmenere from Chile, or something else that’s big and earthy

Red Meats

Mexican spices barbecued meats (often with beef)
Carne Asada
grilled charred Mexican spices beef

Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Douro Reds, Malbec

Spicy Meats

Chorizo a guajillo and arbol chili seasoned ground fatty pork meat (vegan alternatives exist)

Moscato d’Asti or another sweet, chilled wine. Think of your wine pairing like Jarritos soda


Al Pastor
spit-grilled meat that is seasoned with chilies and slow roasted with onion and pineapple (which makes the meat tender) often made with carnitas (pork) or cabrito (goat)
Mexican spices braised and shredded pork

Sparkling Brut Rosé, especially Cremant de Bordeaux for its fruity notes.
a red chili seasoned chicken broth-based soup with pork, corn hominy and topped with avocado, cabbage and lime
White Port & Tonic Cocktail

Mexican Sandwiches

a Mexican sandwich
a Mexican white bread made with eggs and lard that’s dipped in red gaujillo sauce and stuffed with potatoes and chorizo


Mexican Cured Meats

a marinated, dried and thinly sliced meat made with pork or beef – similar to proscuitto

Choose earthy bold reds: Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese, Grand Reserva Rioja

Rice Dishes

Arroz con Pollo
a long-grain rice dish made in a similar style to Paella but with achiote (annatto seed) oil, and sofrito made with cilantro, onion, garlic, red peppers, sweet pepper, red bell pepper, tomato, pickled capers and olives
Arroz con Camarones
similar to Arroz con Pollo but with shrimp

Cava, Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Vihno Verde or other very dry, high-acidity white wine
Sopes con Barbacoa, Quesadillas, Mexico

Sope with Barbacoa and Quesadillas in Mexico. Source

Super spicy? Say hello to Sangria.
the best damn 5-minute red sangria on the planet
Achiote Paste
a Yucatan spiced seasoning paste made with annatto seeds, garlic, orange juice, coriander, cumin, allspice and cloves
Adobo Sauce
a sauce or roasting marinade made with guajillo chilies, garlic, apple cider vinegar, sugar and cumin
Moscato d’Asti, Prosecco, Cremant de Bordeaux
Chiltomate (Yucatan)
a fruity-spicy roasted tomato and habanero sauce with onion and garlic
Moscato d’Asti, Prosecco
Enchilada Sauce
a red chili and tomato sauce for roasting
Chile Sauce (green) Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner
Chili Sauce (red) German Riesling
a salsa made with avocado, lime, jalapeño, onion and garlic
Verdejo, Dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc
Molé Sauce
a sauce usually made with chocolate, garlic, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, plantains, red chili peppers including ancho, pasilla, mulato, chipotle
chilled Amontillado Sherry (delicious!)
Pico de Gallo
fresh and chunky tomato, onion, jalapeño and cilantro salsa
Albariño, Vihno Verde, Grüner Veltliner and if all else fails, Pinot Gris
Ranchero Sauce
cooked tomatoes and serrano green chili sauce used for huevos rancheros
Cabernet Franc, Gamay or Carmenere, a red wine with herbaceous flavors
Tomatillo Salsa
a green salsa made with tomatillos
Sauvignon Blanc or Verdejo


Burritos Tempranillo, Sangiovese or Montepulciano
Chili Con Carne Cava – one of the world’s best ‘Champagne’ pairings
Chimichangas Extra-Brut Cava
Fajitas Primitivo
Hardshell Tacos Rioja Reserva

The real scene in Mexico. Restaurante Amarantos Querétaro, Mexico

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By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me at @WineFolly