Cinco de Mayo occurs in four days, a holiday celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico, but the occasion presents an excuse to discuss Mexican/Tex-Mex food and wine.
First, don’t dismiss Mexican wine. The oldest winery operating in North America, Casa Madero, was established in 1597 in Coahuila. Mexico ranks around 25th in the world for wine production. It makes about the same amount as Oregon. Mexican wine production is centered in Baja California, where 90% of Mexico’s wine is produced.
Mexico also is the third largest brandy producer in the world. There are more than 100,000 acres of vineyards in Mexico, making it one of the largest growers of grapes in the Americas.
Ahh, but doesn’t Mexican food pair better with beer and tequila than it does with wine? Beer and tequila do pair, but wine works, too. Especially if you want to avoid beer’s calories or tequila’s high alcohol. Some tips and suggestions:
• The spicier the food, the colder and sweeter the wine. Lower alcohol and moderate tannins also help dissolve the burning sensation of capsicum—the plant genus that includes peppers and chiles.
• Foods with green herbs do well with wines that have have higher acidity and herbaceous flavors. A fruit-forward sauvignon blanc from New Zealand is a nice pairing with spicy Mexican dishes.
• Small, hand-sized tacos topped with meat, chopped onion, cabbage, lime, radish, and cilantro will pair well with a dry rosé or garnacha from Spain. Those wines work with chalupas and tostadas, too.
• Rosés made with syrah, cabernet franc, or tempranillo go well with tamales, enchiladas, and gorditas. If the food is really spicy, try a chilled Rioja or tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero.
• Red meats such as barbacoa and carne asada pair with carménère, malbec, cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, cabernet franc.
• Spicy chorizo pairs with Spanish cava (Spain’s version of Champagne) served very cold.
• Spit-grilled pork or goat—al pastor—pairs with sparkling brut rosé, especially fruity ones such as crémant d’Alsace (France’s version of Champagne not made in Champagne).
• Rice dishes such as arroz con pollo and arroz con camarones pair with albariño, vinho verde, cava, sauvignon blanc.
• Tex-Mex burritos pair with tempranillo, sangiovese, and montepulciano.
• Tex-Mex chili con carne pairs very well with extra brut (slightly sweeter than brut) cava.
• Fajitas pair with zinfandel.
Last round: Juanita: I just got a great bottle of wine for my husband. Maria: Smart trade.