Ever check out the wine list at a Mexican restaurant? It’s usually not worth checking out—if there even is one. Everyone is supposed to drink beer or margaritas with Mexican, right?
That’s fine if those are your pleasures, but you can have a delicious time breaking the mold—with wine. That’s especially true if you’re ordering for take-out or delivery so you can make your own wine choices from any bottle at your favorite store. Plus, you don’t have to break the bank to find a Mexican-food-friendly wine.
Pairing wine with Mexican dishes can be a challenge, to be sure—all that cheese, the deeply savory sauces, the hearty spices and fiery peppers create a complex flavor mix. But think about a wine-leaning cuisine like Italian for a minute—fettuccini Alfredo can be swimming in cheese, and fra diavalo sauce can be pretty spicy, yet most people wouldn’t think twice about pairing these with wine rather than beer.
As with any cuisine, the trick with Mexican food is to choose wines that both contrast with and complement the food. Mexican restaurant food is often on the heavy side—so it calls out for lighter wine. Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine, fills that requirement nicely. Plus, it has bubbles, and bubbles are always food-friendly. Example: The Astoria Prosecco (about $12) is just slightly sweet, which can handle the spicing, but it is still crisp and refreshing. It’s light enough for a chili-cheese gravy but well made enough so that it complements and doesn’t overwhelm the food. When in doubt, you can almost always pair this prosecco or a similar one with most Mexican dishes.
Now for an even more customized dining experience, let’s pair three popular Mexican take-out dishes with just the right wines…
For cheese, bean and guacamole nachos: The LaMura Bianco (about $11) is a Sicilian white wine with some lemon and tropical fruit, just the thing to handle the richness of the cheesy nachos as well as the spicy salsa on top.
Beef fajitas: An Argentine red, the Argento Malbec (about $12), is of much higher quality than most of its grocery store cousins in this price range (some of which taste like Kool-Aid spiked with grain alcohol). It’s red, so it can stand up to the beef in beef fajitas, but it’s also soft enough (blueberry fruit and sweet spice flavors) that it’s a smooth counterpart to the onions and hot peppers.
Chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce: The J Pinot Gris (about $15), a California white, is one of the most versatile food wines I’ve found. Plus, it’s widely available—something that isn’t common enough. The round, soft white fruit—peach, perhaps—won’t clash with the tart tomatillo sauce of chicken enchiladas, and the wine is crisp enough for any style of white cheese piled on top.