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How to Pair Wine with Mexican Food. A Few Easy Rules

Updated on June 29, 2009
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bossbob50/2747077518/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bossbob50/2747077518/
  • Margaritas go very well with Mexican food.
  • Coca-Cola, orange soda and other sweet bubbly drinks go very well with Mexican food.
  • Light lager beers (think corona or Dos Equis) go very well with Mexican food.

All of these are easy and perfectly respectable drink pairings for a Mexican meal.

Wines and south of the border fare can present more challenges, but when matched well, wines can accentuate a lot of what’s great about the cuisine, and elevate a good meal to a fantastic experience. It is well worth experimenting with wine, even knowing that those ever present chilies are going to throw up some problematic roadblocks along the way.

I get asked a lot to recommend wines that match with Mexican food. I am no expert but have done some research and a lot of tastings, (it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta’ do it) and here are a couple of easy rules to help guide your selections.

Pairing Rule Number 1

You pair wine with the sauce. Forget pairing beef with red and fish with white, to make an appropriate selection for a Mexican meal, you want to match the sauce and forget about the protein.

  • Red wines work well with dried chili sauces
  • White wines work better with the lime/citrus, tomatillo and cilantro/epazote or herbal sauces.

White wines to consider include:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Rieslings
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Pinot Gris

Red wines to consider include:

  • Argentinean Malbec
  • Beaujolais
  • Merlot (lighter is better)

When in doubt, zinfandels and other roses match well with a lot meat dishes!

Pairing Rule Number 2

The spicier the food, the lower the alcohol content of the wine should be.

Spicy food and a big tannic red wine with a 14% alcohol content is going to be an absolute disaster.

No wine can match with inferno hot food, but slightly spicier dished pair very well with lower alcohol wines, especially bubbly ones. Try:

  • Spanish Cava
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Rose
  • Chenin Blanc

This is just a very basic primer and since I don’t qualify myself as a particular expert on wine, I am not the best source for much more than this. If you are interested to learn more about pairing Mexican foods with wine, I suggest reading the books of Rick Bayless, who often recommends wines to match his recipes. Everyone who is interested in wine should pick up a copy of “What to Eat with What You Eat” by Dornenburg and Page, which is a treasure trove of valuable information presented in a very accessible manner.

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    • TycoonSam profile image

      TycoonSam 

      6 years ago from Washington, MI

      Very nice Hub. I especially like the links to the recipes.

      Sam

    • profile image

      Luther 

      7 years ago

      Spicy Mexican food goes well with a really spicy red wine, I've noticed, and one of the ones I really like pairing up with a spicy chicken burrito is the Wine Guerrilla 2009 Krata-Harris which is a 2009 Alexander Valley Zinfandel blend - 85% Zinfandel, 10% Carignan & 5% Petite Sirah

      VERY tasty and the spicy, high alcohol kick-you-in-the-butt wine goes surprisingly well with a thick slathering of some Tapatio! :D

      Check it Wine Guerrilla, and order a bottle at http://www.wineguerrilla.com

    • John D Lee profile imageAUTHOR

      John D Lee 

      8 years ago

      Hi Rose,

      Mexican food is a little bit trickier to pair wine with, but by no means impossible - sauivignon blanc being one of teh wines that works very well with the grassier flavors of green herbs and spices!

    • profile image

      Rose Barrett 

      8 years ago

      So glad I came across your hub. I have always been confused as to what wine would work best to bring out the flavors of the spicy and fresh ingredients found in Mexican cooking. I like NorCal D's suggestion for a Sauvignon Blanc too.

    • NorCal D profile image

      NorCal D 

      8 years ago from SF Bay Area & San Diego

      This is very interesting. I always pair up Sauvignon Blanc with any dish with tomatillo's in it. I think they pair very nicely :)

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