Mexican food and wine

Cinco de Mayo is over, but Tex-Mex food is a fiesta year round.

Which raises the question among wine drinkers: does wine pair with Tex-Mex?

Answer: certainly, señor. Forget about beer and tequila.

Wine possesses more complexity than any other beverage: more intricate layers of aroma, more diversity of flavor, more spirit. Which makes wine a fine match for the complex, varied dishes produced by Mexican-inspired cooks.

Tomato-based chili, a Tex-Mex icon, pairs well with an Italian Sangiovese, Chianti, or a robust Zinfandel. All match the acidity of tomatoes without dowsing chili powder’s fire.

Shrimp or seafood prepared with cilantro, garlic, and onions your Tex-Mex favorite? A German Riesling, Italian Soave, or Pinot Grigio is excelente.

Heavy sauce and cheese dishes like enchiladas and cheese-topped tamales do well with Chianti, sweeter Zinfandels, and Riesling.

Mole sauce and pungent chipotles often accompany beef, pork, and chicken in Mexican food. Such rich, earthy tastes make pairing a little trickier, but fruity Zinfandels and fruit-forward Australian Shirazs are up to the task.


When in doubt, go with acidity. Riesling and Chianti are default choices.

Robust seasonings call for fruity, powerful Zinfandel and Australian Shiraz.

Pass on some standbys: Tex-Mex mauls Chardonnay’s oaky, toasty character. Chilies clash with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tannins—fire in your mouth obliterates the wonderful complexities and delicious splendor of Tex-Mex haute cuisine.


• Columbia Winery Cellarmaster’s Riesling. Sweet, fruity, low alcohol. $12

• Beringer Founders’ Estate Zinfandel. Cassis, green tea, black olive, vanilla. $9

• Bell’agio Chianti. Simple and delicious; comes in straw basket. $12