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 may seem unbelievable, but it’s true: Mexico possesses a long history of wine. The oldest known winery in North/Central America is located in Coahuila, Mexico. It was established in 1597.

Did you know? Mexico ranks about 25th in the world for wine and produces just 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 1700s. The ubiquitous margarita (developed after prohibition ended in the 1930s) 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 Renaissance in Mexico: Today there are many top Mexican restaurants that have large wine lists. So what are the best types of wine to drink with Mexican food? Let’s find out.

 
Wine with Tacos chilled Beaujolais

Wine with Mexican Food

Three 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 Herb Color 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.

MEXICAN DISHES RECOMMENDED WINE

Tortillas with Toppings

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

Dry Rosé, Lambrusco, Spanish Garnacha, Cannonau from Sardegna

Stuffed Masa Dough Dishes

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

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

Savory-Sweet Dishes

Empanadas
a wheat, corn, or yuca 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, Grüner Veltliner, or Garnacha Rosé The spice level can be moderated with a more fruity-tasting or sweet wine

Cheese Dishes

Queso Fundido
Quesadillas

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

Red Meats

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

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

Spicy Meats

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

Go for sparkling wines, such as Cava or Crémant – Think of it like a Jarritos Mexican soda

Pork

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

Sparkling Brut Rosé, especially Crémant d’Alsace for its fruity notes
Pozole
a red chili seasoned chicken broth-based soup with pork and corn hominy, and topped with avocado, cabbage, and lime
White Port & Tonic Cocktail

Mexican Sandwiches

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

Cava

Mexican Cured Meats

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

Choose an earthy bold red such as Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese, Gran 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, white 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
Check out the best damn 5-Minute Red Sangria on the planet!
MEXICAN SAUCES RECOMMENDED WINE
Achiote Paste
a Yucatan spiced seasoning paste made with annatto seeds, garlic, orange juice, coriander, cumin, allspice, and cloves
Zinfandel
Adobo Sauce
a sauce or roasting marinade made with guajillo chilies, garlic, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and cumin
Moscato d’Asti, Prosecco, Crémant
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
Sangiovese
Chile Sauce (green) Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner
Chili Sauce (red) German Riesling
Guacamole
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, and 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 Carménère, a red wine with herbaceous flavors
Tomatillo Salsa
a green salsa made with tomatillos
Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Verdejo

 

TEX-MEX DISHES RECOMMENDED WINE
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
amarantos-restaurante-mexico

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 out there in the wine world @WineFolly