There's a pivotal scene in Grease where Jan, ever the running joke, takes all you know about wine pairings and flips it on its head: "It says right here, it's a dessert wine," she says, as she eats a Twinkie.
On first viewing, you might laugh—Oh, Jan. That's *not* what it means...—but then, you begin to think. A dim lightbulb flickers on somewhere above your head. Wait a second...
And here we are. 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.
2013 Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Chardonnay ($35)
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. UMAMI.
2013 SIMI Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($26)
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. *chomp, gulp*
2013 SIMI Sonoma County Chardonnay ($18)
Cheetos, the food of the gods. 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.
Recommended wine: 2012 Martinsancho Verdejo Superior ($16)
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." You heard the man.
Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne ($41)
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 saucy minx (that's the pizza, duh) 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.
2013 Vina Satre Ribera del Duero ($20)
For chocolate, a normal wine ain't gonna cut it. You need to pair sweetness with sweetness—in this case, a vintage-style port.
2008 Graham's Late Bottled Vintage ($22)
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."
Blandy's 10 Year Madeira Rich Malmsey ($24)
Designs by Jennifer Baumgardner
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Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.
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