It’s true that you can never go wrong with your traditional regional pairings, like German beer with pretzels, Jura wine with Comte cheese or – of course – Tequila and tacos. If we’re thinking about chips and salsa you can bet there’s going to be a margarita found somewhere on the table.
But we at Wine Awesomeness are boundary pushers, game changers and culinary experimenters, always looking to switch up classic dinner routines. For your next taco night, before grabbing that bottle of Patrón (or if you’re on our budget, Jose Cuervo), consider these ideal wine and salsa pairings. Each wine has been selected to complement both the spice factor and texture of each sauce, creating a well balanced, gastronomical fiesta for even the feistiest of palates.
Salsa Roja with Dry to Off-Dry Riesling
Most taco nights generally start with some communal salsa roja and tortilla chips on the table. Salsa Roja, a puréed dip of tomatoes, chili pepper, garlic and onion, screams for a high acid white, potentially with a touch of residual sugar. There’s no better pairing for this sauce than a dry to off-dry Riesling, particularly from the Mosel region of Germany. The slight sweetness from the residual sugar in an off-dry white will balance out the heat from the chili pepper, while the acidity works alongside it to bring out the various layers of flavor in the sauce. Off-dry Chenin blancs from Vouvray are also a great match for this spicy starter.
Mole with Zinfandel
Mole sauce is a perfect excuse to pair red wine with tacos. Generally speaking, red wines, which are higher in tannin and alcohol than their white counterparts, are a nightmare with spicy food. The higher alcohol percentage fans the flame on your tongue, making even mildly spicy dishes feel like an inferno. However, the less intense components that make up Mole (chocolate, garlic, sesame seeds, plantains, etc.) are perfectly complemented by a full bodied, New World red. Zinfandels from California are an ideal pairing; their fruit forward palates and lush, jammy flavors bring out the rich, luscious layers of ingredients that go into Mole sauce. Darker chili flavors and sweet undertones are amplified by the juiciness of a succulent Zinfandel.
Tomatillo with Sauvignon Blanc
Tomatillos, those green, mini-tomato like vegetables from Mexico, are the base to this delicious green salsa, flavored and spiced with cilantro, oregano, cumin and salt. While acidity is also important in this pairing, the tropical fruit flavors of New World Sauvignon Blanc make an ideal pairing for this sauce. The stone fruit flavors and crisp acidity of a New Zealand Sauv Blanc accent the spices used to flavor salsa verde without overpowering the dip itself. Verdejos from Spain, specifically Rueda, can also be a great match as well, though be sure to ask for a crisp, citrusy example of the grape as opposed to a nuttier, full bodied version.
Pico de Gallo with Albariño
This refreshing and chunky tomato topper is packed with onion, jalapeño and cilantro, making it an ideal pairing for the white varietal Albariño. Again, the key component here is the high acidity of the Albariño grape. The acidity cuts through the spice of the jalapeño pepper, yet simultaneously brings out the fresh, aromatic flavors of onion and cilantro. Look to Galicia (Valdeorras or Rias Baixas, specifically) for some killer examples of what Spain can do with this bright white varietal, or further south to Portugal, where Albariño (otherwise known as Alvarinho) finds its origins.