I always hear some great ideas for almost all cuisines for wines to pair with food:
EXCEPT: Mexican food
I have heard some great wine pairings for Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Szhechuan, Cantonese, Indian, Moroccan….. you get the idea.
But the many articles, seminars, formal tastings, Twitter tastings that I have attended – I cannot recall a single Mexican food idea in my many years of attending tastings or reading articles. Has it never happened? It probably has I just have never read any suggested pairings or heard mentioned in formal tastings.
The stay away from bringing Mexican food comes into the fold of food and wine pairings I believe centres on the following: 1) level of heat and spice 2) traditional pairings of beer, Tequila/Margaritas. It is as if Mexican food is either not good enough as a cuisine style to go with wine or simply because of the perceived heat index doesn’t pair well with wine?
I very much enjoy all Mexican cuisine styles and for me personally I have a low tolerance for food that is too hot. I order dishes with the least heat or specifically with a mild chile sauce where possible–that is my preference and I find it easy to pair Mexican food regardless of heat level. I think there is fear with suggesting Mexican food and wine because the fear might be that there is not wine that can show well when paired with a hotter dish.
Here are some reasons why I think many wines go quite nicely with many wine:
- Bordeaux and Rhone varieties can pair nicely–these set of varieties can pair easily with Mexican food and the varieties can optimize the dish. In general the alcohol level, body of wine, flavour characteristics of wine can pair nicely–is there perfect characters for specific dishes–I would say no but rather a wide range of wine possibilities
- I would also say the uplift of Sauternes, Sherry, and Riesling; sweet and off-dry wines can also bring the heat into check–the flavour is optimized and the wine is not forgotten
- And I do think that almost all wine varieties and stylizations can pair with Mexican food
We also live in more liberated wine times. Rigid food-wine pairings are no longer the only way to think of wine. The rigid state of food-wine pairings though I still believe lives on in this Undiscovered Country for food (Mexican cuisine) and wine pairings.
Most Mexican restaurants I have been to have either had no wine on their drinks list or very few wines (wines that one might not want to order). The best restaurant and now closed was Salpicón on N. Well Street in Chicago. The restaurant wine list and it was well regarded not just for a Mexican restaurant but a restaurant wine list period. The first time I went there I was adoring the wine list with likes of Bryant Family, Sea Smoke, Kosta-Browne and a very nice selection of European wines as well. I would like to see more Salpicóns as this shows the way of showing the beauty of wine and Mexican food and how it does optimise that experience.
I use to make Mole Poblano at least once or twice a year. Each recipe I would utilise anywhere between 20-30 ingredients and I would invite friends and would always serve wine. What was enjoyable was that I could not imagine wine not being served and so did my friends with this dish.
What are your favourite wines that you enjoy with Mexican food?
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
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