If you’re reading this, you have likely experienced the dilemma that wine lovers have when it comes to beer-filled Super Bowl parties. Fortunately, even the trickiest of game day spreads actually has a wine-friendly solution!
Nachos + Sauvignon Blanc or Zinfandel
Why it works: Go ahead. Raise that brow. But you can pair nachos with wine. The trick is since every nacho recipe is different, you just need to match the wine to the dominant flavor in the dish. If you’re heaping on the cheez whiz or melted cheddar, stay away from reds. The tannins in red wine compete with the fat in mild or soft cheeses, overpowering the cheese flavor. Opt for a bright, lemony Sauvignon Blanc, which will have the acidity to provide that refreshing sip after a bite of cheese, along with the herbal flavors to match the other nacho ingredients like peppers and tomatoes. If your nachos are loaded with ground beef, go for a Zinfandel. The ripe wild berry flavors and spice in Zinfandel will stand up to the meat, while staying light enough on the tannins to not overpower the cheese or corn chips.
If you’re on a budget: When it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, opt for New Zealand, which is a cooler region that generally has higher acid levels in the grapes. Lower end California Sauvignon Blanc can sometimes be a bit riper, and hence lower acid. For Zinfandels, stick with warmer regions like Napa, Paso Robles, or Central Valley. Cooler climate Zinfandels from areas like the Sierra Foothills can sometimes have a consistency closer to a Pinot Noir, which will be too delicate for those nachos.
Alternative: If you can enjoy beer with nachos, you can also enjoy Champagne with nachos. The acidity and bubbles will provide the perfect refreshment after the loaded savory/spicy nacho flavors.
Chili + Syrah
Why it works: Syrah has a complex range of flavors that stand up to the diverse ingredients in a chili. The smoky, peppery, gamey nature of Syrah marries perfectly with the hearty chunks of beef seasoned with spices. Bold, dark fruit flavors in the Syrah help it stand up to the tomato-based chili sauce. A more subtle wine like Merlot would taste flat in comparison.
If you’re on a budget: Opt for a New World Syrah (Australia or California), which will have more generous, bold fruit flavors. Old World/French Syrahs are a bit more subtle, and are more likely to be overpowered by chili spices.
Alternative: A red blend containing Syrah should have a similar pairing power, such as a Syrah-Grenache-Mourvédre blend.
Ideal pairing: Pinot Grigio
Why it works: Avocado is not an easy partner to wine — it’s high in fat and unusually mild in flavor. However, a bright, zesty Pinot Grigio will have enough acid to cut through the fat. It will also complement the lemon juice that is often added to guacamole to preserve its color.
If you’re on a budget: Stick with Italian Pinot Grigio, which is more likely to have a high enough acid content (and minerality) to stand up to the avocado. Lower-end California Pinot Grigio usually has less minerality, meaning it will miss that extra zestiness that would perfectly chase a bite of rich, savory guac.
Alternative: If you can’t find a good Pinot Grigio, an herbal, grassy New Zealand sauvignon blanc will also work.