How to Successfully Pair Wine with Mexican Food

How to Successfully Pair Wine with Mexican Food

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines


Fish taco with veggies in a corn tortilla


Mexican food is known for its vibrant flavors. There are so many unique and delicious dishes, from ceviche and guacamole to mole and enchiladas. When it comes to Mexican food, there’s something for everyone. And, of course, like any other tasty meal, you need a beverage to complement it.

Most people instantly opt for a beer or a tequila-based drink when having Mexican food. It’s understandable — these drinks taste great and go well with many different types of dishes. There’s another drink to consider that can take your Mexican meal from good to incredible, however: wine.

Like other food and wine pairings, the type of wine you choose matters. In this article, we’ll go into how to pair wine with Mexican food and some of the best food and wine pairings to try.

Tips for Pairing Wine and Mexican Food

When considering a wine and Mexican food pairing, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

Protein

Typically, white wines go with white meats, and red wines go with red meats. Of course, there are always some exceptions. For instance, a strongly-flavored fish or dark meat chicken may work better with a red.

Herb Color

Dishes with a lot of green herbs and a strong herbaceous flavor often do best with an acidic white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc. Something with more fruity flavors helps to balance out stronger spices.

Heat Level

Speaking of spice, the heat level of the dish may influence your wine choice. The spicier the dish, the colder and sweeter the wine should be. Those with a lower alcohol content and fewer tannins can help to take the edge off. You can still enjoy the heat without having the spices overpower your tastebuds.

8 Food and Wine Pairings to Consider

With the above tips in mind, here are a few Mexican food and wine pairings to try:

1. Ceviche and Grüner Veltliner

Ceviche (also called cebiche or seviche) is a popular appetizer that consists of raw seafood dressed with fresh citrus (lemon or lime juice), onions, peppers, and cilantro. The lemon (or lime) juice “cooks” the fish without ever applying any heat. A high-acid Grüner Veltliner pairs perfectly with the fresh, citrusy flavors of the dish. Sauvignon Blanc or a sparkling white also works well.

2. Carnitas and Pinot Noir

Carnitas literally translates to “little meats.” Making the dish involves braising pork in lard or oil and spices for several hours until it’s tender enough to shred apart. The meat gets roasted in the oven at the end of the cooking process to add some crispiness. The end result is tender, smoky meat that you can have in tacos, enchiladas, or on its own.

Pinot Noir pairs well with pork carnitas, no matter how you choose to enjoy it. Unlike many other reds, it's very low in tannins. It’s a light and sweet wine that makes it an ideal partner.

3. Mole and Syrah

Mole is technically a type of sauce, and there are a few different types. One of the most recognizable is mole poblano, a sauce that consists of peppers, tomatoes, dried fruits, seeds, and chocolate. You can have chicken, pork, or beef mole, all of which pair well with a younger Syrah. A robust, fruity wine with medium tannins perfectly complements the flavors of the sauce. Other excellent options to consider are Zinfandel and Malbec.

4. Al Pastor and Sparkling Brut Rosé

Al pastor is pork or goat that’s seasoned with chiles and slow-roasted on a spit grill with onions and pineapple. You’ll typically find this type of meat in tacos (tacos al pastor), topped with roasted pineapple, red onion, and fresh cilantro.

Finding a wine to go with the pineapple in al pastor can be a bit challenging, but a sparkling Brut Rosé is up to the task, especially if it has more fruity notes.

5. Enchiladas and Riesling

Enchiladas consist of tortillas stuffed with any number of ingredients (usually cheese with a combination of meat, beans, potatoes, and vegetables) and topped with a delicious red sauce. The sauce is chili powder simmered in broth with garlic, onion, and tomato paste that’s been thickened with flour. A Riesling is a great option here. The acidity of the wine helps to cut through the fattiness of the cheese, bringing harmony to the dish. It also works well with the spices and tomato in the sauce. A dry rosé is also an excellent choice.

6. Tamales and Tempranillo

Tamales are corn dough packed with cheese, meat, beans, vegetables, or some combination of these ingredients. The stuffed dough gets wrapped in corn husks and steamed or boiled. The sweet, earthy flavors of tamales pair particularly well with the fruity flavors of Tempranillo, especially when they’re stuffed with meat. You could also pair tamales with Pinot Noir.

7. Chicken Tacos and Pinot Gris

Tacos are probably one of the most recognizable Mexican dishes. Traditional tacos are soft and made of corn. They can be filled with a variety of ingredients, including chicken. Chicken tacos often have spices such as chiles, cumin, paprika, and garlic. You can top them with almost anything, including chopped red onions, fresh cilantro, and fresh avocado.

No matter how you fill your chicken taco, a Pinot Gris makes an ideal accompaniment. The acidic, fruity wine works well with the dish. You may also consider Gewürtztraminer or Riesling.

8. Chiles Rellenos and Sauvignon Blanc

Chiles Rellenos are green chiles stuffed with cheese, breaded in masa, and deep-fried. They’re typically served with pickled vegetables and topped with a chile sauce. Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect wine for this dish for a couple of reasons. First, the acidity of the wine cuts through the fattiness of the cheese and the oil the chiles take on from being fried. Additionally, the wine works well with green chiles. It’s a match made in food heaven.

Find the Perfect Wine for Your Next Mexican-Inspired Meal

If you’re looking for the perfect wine to go with your next Mexican-inspired meal, check out our catalog at JJ Buckley Fine Wines. We have wines to meet all of your pairing needs. If you’re not sure which wines to choose, our consultancy service would be more than happy to assist. Let us help you find the perfect wine for any occasion.