The rules of what foods go with what wines, are written in stone, centuries old and unfortunately, often stringently observed. What about our modern foods?; foods that did not exist when those iron clad rules were made up. We know that the Declaration of Independence was made up by a bunch of pretty smart guys working together and the Council of Nicaea did wonders for the Church, but did some sort of congress develop the wine/food rules. The answer is no, and like a baby King Kong, it just grew.
Who has investigated the proper wines to serve with the all American hot dog? What kind of wine is proper for a pepperoni and anchovy pizza? Is there a correct wine for chicken nuggets, tacos, frozen dinners or the ever-present hamburger? How about settling down to a quiet evening in an over stuffed chair with a good book, a fine wine and deeply frosted cupcake?
Let us begin with the hot dog. Barbecued, broiled, or boiled, hot dogs have a strong flavor. Add to that the onions, relish, mustard, ketchup, and other condiments and it makes the choice of a wine much more difficult. What do I recommend? Try a slightly chilled Petite Syrah. It’s flavor should rise above all of the goodies that can be piled on a “frank.”
A proper hamburger is classified as beef, and therefore, all of the wines that accompany beef dishes should prevail. But do they? Not if you believe in America and Americans. Every backyard gastronomic engineer has some “secret ingredient” that makes their hamburgers unique. There can be little doubt that the secret ingredient will not be something as benign as tomato powder, or oil of truffles. It will be some hair-raising, mouth puckering spice like “hot chili” or jalapeno peppers. Few wines can fit a barbecue situation as will a red or pink Zinfandel. Its berry like flavor and aroma can stand up to even the strongest foods.
Whether you have it in a restaurant, send out for it, or go get it yourself, there is nothing like pizza. Pizza toppings, like people, vary. One can pile enough fixin’s on that piece flat of dough to build it into a veritable Vesuvius. What wine can accompany a mass of anchovies, pepperoni, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, and all of the other imaginable or even unimaginable possibilities? Bowing to tradition, and in homage to the ubiquitous pizza, it should be an Italian Chianti. If that is too dry, go for a chilled Pinot Grigio.
Since we are talking about going out to eat or having it delivered, the original take out food was oriental. We have found that a Sauvignon Blanc will do a fine job. That little bit of sweetness in the wine brings out the best of the Orient in the food. If you go out to the restaurant call and ask if they allow you to bring your own wine, many do.
Tacos and burritos, come in all sizes, types; whether by filling, or hotness. The taco itself is not a problem; it is the sauces that accompany them where the difficulty arises. These sauces run from the mild, to hot, to very hot, to scorching and then to the ultimate, “My face is always this red.” The mild or hot sauces pose little difficulty. A dry red wine with a big flavor like a Spanish Rioja or a Syrah is the order of the day. For those of us who dig pain and like the more fiery tacos and burritos, a white or red sangria (a wine that has been mixed with citrus fruit and juices) will help quench the thirst and put out some of the fire.
Cajun cooking, with its hot sauces and peppery blackening, are popular and there are few wines that can complement a mess of hot Cajun crawfish or blackened chicken. A cool Gewürztraminer can handle that culinary call.
And now to answer that ultimate question, “What wine do you serve with cupcakes?” … but of course, nothing less than Champagne; however, in case of emergency, any sparkling wine will also do.