Wines? With Mexican food? Surely not! We all know that the best and only accompaniment to your quesadillas is a beer, right?

Well, sometimes, yes. Beer has always gone really well with Mexican dishes. This is because, however, what we think of as Mexican food is actually Tex-Mex. This food, amazing as it is, with the refried beans, the cheese and the coriander, was created by Mexican ranch-hands who worked hard to make the American south-west the produce powerhouse that it is today.

These guys found it hard to get the same spices and vegetables that they’d enjoyed over the border, so they worked with what they had. While Tex-Mex is great, it’s not as subtle as “real” Mexican food, so beer it is.

Authentic Mexican food has a lot more flavour and subtlety than Tex-Mex – less heat and more complexity – so it actually has more “room” for the many different wines we have.

There’s not as many books written about Mexican food and wine pairings, so here are the basic guidelines for you to follow.

You want some acidity

The most successful wine choices for Mexican food are light, crisp and with plenty of acidity. Stalwarts like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc will never go wrong, and you can also try a very dry Riesling or a Spanish Albariño. This latter wine goes amazingly well with green tomato and chilli recipes. You can drink reds with Mexican food as well, but the acidity rule remains, so try a Rioja, a Chianti or a Pinot Noir.

Or some fruit

If you fancy a red instead of a white, then go for a jammy, fruity Zinfandel. This will complement an earthy red chilli sauce very well indeed. Shirazes and Shiraz blends will also hold their own against many of the assertive flavors of Mexican cuisine, but if you prefer lighter reds, go for a fruity, chilled Beaujolais instead.

You don’t need oaky

Oaky or tannic wines really don’t mix well with Mexican – they tend to clash and end up tasting bitter and smoky-in-a-bad-way. The same goes for Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, as their tannins increase the chilli effect and so that’s all you can taste.

All this said, however, feel free to experiment and let us know what heavenly matches you manage to make!


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