When you think about Mexican food, you probably expect a glass of beer or Margarita on the side. This comforting, colorful and spicy cuisine is complex and incredibly flavorful. It can be daunting to find a good bottle of wine to balance all the spicy and rich flavors.
Preparing the food is an important part of Mexican traditions and culture. Most of the dishes are based on corn, beans and hot peppers, so the choice of wine depends on the amount of heat and source of protein. A general rule is to find a varietal that is acidic, aromatic and low in tannins to brighten this delicious food.
How to pair spicy food
Wine with low alcohol content will control the burning sensation of spicy food, which pairs well with sweet, fruit-forward wines. That sweetness cuts through and reduces the heat.
Dishes like savory empanadas and meat tacos do well with California Zinfandel and Australian Shiraz wines.
When tomato-based sauces are used, reach for a sparkling rosé with tart berry flavor. This will taste fantastic with the natural acidity of tomatoes, especially the slightly sweet variety, rather than a dry rosé.
How to pair with seafood
Fish tacos and stew complement white wines like French Vouvray, Spanish Albariño or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
These acidic and citrus flavored white wines pair well with fresh seafood and lighten the dish.
How to pair with cheese
Dishes like chile con queso or quesadillas need red wine to balance the richness of the food. Choose earthy and fruity Tempranillo from New World for Mexican dishes with cheese.
How to pair with meat
Light-body Tempranillo or fruity Malbec from Argentina will pair well with grilled meats like carne asada and hearty burritos.
Choose an acidic Italian Chianti or Sangoviese to pair with cured meats, Mexican cheese dips and enchilada sauce. Ruby red, light-bodied and fruity Argentinian Malbec is versatile and pairs well with hard or soft cheese and cured meats.
While Malbec has soft tannins for lean meats, fattier meat will balance with red wines like Chianti.
An Old World, earthy Pinot Noir is the perfect choice for al pastor or carnitas. The bold cherry and stone fruit aroma of Pinot Noir has a hint of herbs and spices that will highlight the taste of the meat.
Delicious pozole is a popular Mexican stew with pork. It can be served with a crisp white wine like Californian Pinot Gris. The acidity and bright flavor profile of this wine makes the dish pop.
How to pair with vegan and vegetarian dishes
Vegan enchiladas with mushrooms or beans are great to serve with a New World, medium-bodied Pinot Noir. Choose this wine from cooler climates, as it is becomes silky and delicate.
If vegetables are roasted or grilled, more full-bodied and tannic red wines like French Merlot, Napa Cabernet or Californian Syrah will compliment the dish. Try to find some with a touch of sweetness, so that the powerful tannins do not overwhelm the flavors.
How to pair with Mexican condiments
Mexican cuisine is known for a variety of delightful condiments! These can be chunky or smooth, usually placed on the table as a side dish. The heat degree can vary. It is a good idea to focus on wine pairing with the dominant flavor of the sauce.
Zesty white New Zealand and Mexican Sauvignon Blanc is a great choice for guacamole, salsa and chile to mirror the acidity. Smooth and creamy guacamole will pair well with dry Riesling to cut the fattiness of avocado.
Chunky pico de gallo and green chile will also go well with crisp Albariño from Spain. Spicy red chile will be ideal with off-dry German Riesling. Try to pair hot and sweet salsa with aromatic Chenin Blanc from France that will add notes of peach and honey to your palate.
Mole is another sophisticated sauce that combines cocoa with spices, chilies and anchovies. Pair it with full-bodied, low tannin fruit-forward red wines like Californian Zinfandel or dark and black-fruit Syrah from the New World. Zinfandel will tone the richness and its notes of vanilla and blackberry will harmonize with the dish.
Vibrant Pino Grigio from Italy, also known as Pinot Gris, is a good wine to compliment the flavors of pico de gallo and other jalapeño and tomatillo dishes. The wine is sweet and has low acidity, which contrasts well with jalapeño and it will bring fruit flavors to tomato and tomatillo-based Mexican dishes. You should check our post with 5 fun facts about this wine!
Italian sparkling wine Prosecco is goes well with salty adobo. The acidity will match the sauce that is authentically made with guajillo chilies and spicy chiltomato (roasted habanero and tomato.)
Don’t be afraid to pair wines with your favorite Mexican food and experiment with soft, juicy and fruity wines!
About the Author: Alina is a recipe developer and passionate wine lover. She participated in multiple wine tastings locally and internationally, food and wine academy in France. Discover more of her recipes at Cooking Journey Blog.