After consulting with two top wine experts—Susan Lueker, SIMI Winery's Director of Winemaking, and Alexander LaPratt, owner and wine director of The Atrium in Brooklyn and lead sommelier ambassador of Ribera del Duero y Rueda wines—I've come to the conclusion that wine pairs just swimmingly with junk food. And these are the pairings that work best. (Though if you want to down some Chardonnay with your hotdog, who am I to judge?)
"Popcorn brings out the nutty flavors of the Chardonnay," says Lueker. "The acidity of the chardonnay balances—while the buttery aspect complements—the richness of the buttered popcorn taste." LaPratt agrees, and recommends trying a White Burgundy. "It's 100% chardonnay that has seen well-balanced oak with a creamy texture," he says. Translation? Creamy, buttery goodness all around.
Love BBQ? Pair it with a pinot noir. "The yeast extract, which is common among BBQ potato chips, combined with an earthy, spicy pinot noir creates a savory, almost umami effect," says Lueker. Whip that reference out whenever you're feelin' like licking your hands and grabbing your glass of red is coming off undignified to your roommate or date.
Regular potato chips go great with chardonnay or sparkling wine. "The balance and acidity in Chardonnay stand up to the fat and saltiness in potato chips," says Lueker.
These cheesy bites of goodness pair nicely with a bright white, like Rueda Verdejo, or Sauvignon Blanc. "The lemon and mandarin orange citrus focus of the wine with a light and crisp texture make a great partner for the messy, cheesy, Cheetos," says LaPratt.
Both agree this is the ideal pairing, since the saltiness and richness of the French Fries are cut by the high-acidity (and bubbles!) of sparkling wine or Champagne. Take it from LaPratt: "Fried foods work well with Champagne. The bubbles help clean your palate in preparation for the next bite."
Pizza and wine is perhaps an obvious choice, but we're giving you another reason to eat and drink both so let's not split hairs here. Pair your slice with a higher-acid red like the Spanish red Ribera del Duero Tempranillo or a Malbec. "The smooth, red berry flavor keeps it lively and makes it a great match," says LaPratt.
For chocolate, a normal wine ain't gonna cut it. You need to pair sweetness with sweetness—in this case, a vintage-style port.
It's like the double-whammy of deliciousness/happiness."Every once and a while I'll want to enjoy my guilty pleasure with a night cap and I'll reach for Bual Madeira from Portugal," says LaPratt. "It's oxidized and cooked, so you can buy a bottle and leave it open forever without it going bad—which is awesome—but it's also perfect for cookie dough ice cream. Bual is the grape varietal that features flavors like burnt toffee, hazelnut, and caramel with a touch of sweetness."