Wine. We have complex tools for decanting, delicate glassware, choreographed steps around service and oftentimes a hefty price tag, all of which can make it seem intimidating and inaccessible.
However, let go of your pretenses of relegating wine to fancy meals and embrace pairings with less-than-virtuous dishes. We polled some sommeliers on how to nail the junkiest of high-low pairings.
Salty Buttered Popcorn: Oaked Chardonnay
Generally, oaked chardonnay contains a compound called ‘diacetyl’ which gives a round buttery character that complements the richness of buttered popcorn. Also, it is common for the wine to show a sense of minerality, which is a bright, salty sensation that highlights the saltiness in the popcorn. This pairing is made for a movie night on the couch. – Devon Lochhead, Osteria Marzia
Instant Ramen: Off-Dry Riesling
The easiest way to upgrade salty, spicy add-hot-water instant ramen packs is a glass of wine. The best bet, a high-acid, low alcohol off-dry Riesling. The off-dry notes are an excellent foil for spicy heat. – Arnaud Bardary MS, Black Sheep Restaurants
Fried Chicken: Prosecco
In South Korea, fried chicken is inarguably our most celebrated junk food and a cultural phenomenon. To cut through the salty greasiness, you need refreshing acidity to cleanse your palate and counterbalance the high salinity. You also need something to showcase the texture of the crispy yet fatty skin and the delicate white meat flavour. The answer: A bottle of fruity, fresh, straightforward sparkling wine with nice acidity and bubbly texture. Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method which emphasizes fruit and varietal aromatics and would do the trick nicely. – Johann Kwon, Carbone
7-Eleven Deli Case Sandwiches: Beaujolais
We’ve all grabbed one of the deli case sandwiches on the run. You know what pairs well with them? Beaujolais. Produced with Gamay through the ‘carbonic maceration’ process, it has nice velvety silky tannin, beautiful fruity and floral fragrance as well as bright acidity, making it a very approachable and food-friendly wine. It’s so easy-drinking that you can enjoy out of a regular water glass or even a mug. You don’t even need to purchase expensive quality ‘Cru Beaujolais’ class wine as a cheap bottle of ‘Beaujolais Village’ works just fine. – Johann Kwon, Carbone
Beef Burger: Sangiovese
Burgers have their own savoury fattiness, and Sangiovese carries good acidity and rustic flavours. They are a great match because the acidity cuts through the fattiness of the meal and the rustic flavours bind with the meatiness of the burger. I would suggest pulling out a bottle of Chianti or Rosso di Montalcino from your cellar and look for youthfulness in the bottle. – Punit Gajwani, Carbone
The tomato sauce on pizza has a nice umami which goes well with Chianti. It is typically lighter bodied and has fruit-forward rustic notes. Grab a bottle for your next lazy night delivery order. – Sandeep Arora, BELON
Grilled Cheese: New World Chenin Blanc
What’s better than oozy, melted cheese? Oozy, melted cheese with wine. A new world Chenin Blanc has crisp acidity to cut through the fat and is fruit-forward to balance the nutty, salty notes in the cheese. – Sandeep Arora, BELON
Assorted Dim Sum: Old World Chardonnay, Mâcon.
Dim sum is soft, spongy and delicately flavoured and is a filling snack after a busy day. Some dishes are a little sharp on aromatic vegetables like chives, have more fat from the protein or star briny, sweet seafood. The refreshing acidity of a chilled glass of Mâcon wine, and its medium to full body, makes the dim sum’s flavours and textures sing. Mâcon is made from Chardonnay from the lower Burgundy region, which has a good balance of fresh apple and citrus fruit aromas. – Tamara Amaya, Buenos Aires Polo Club
Amarone is an immensely concentrated red wine with great intensity and expression which combines well with the rich sweetness of chocolate. Both the flavours of the wine and the chocolate have heightened levels of richness, intensity and perceived sweetness. The oak barrel used to mature the wine may also add hints of cacao, mocha and sticky pipe tobacco. Just add a cigar and you’ve got the perfect three-way pairing. – Devon Lochhead, Osteria Marzia