Today’s installment sees us pairing the Mexican fare of Chipotle with wine. At first glance, this might seem like a pretty simple task. Mexican food can seem like a simple rearrangement of basic core ingredients (which is true), but every combination happens to yield something different and each of those dishes presented their own wine-related challenges. Spicy, tart, oily, savory, vegetal, the flavors ran the gamut and most dishes had a winner, but only one wine went with almost everything – a $10 gem that surprised me!
The Wine List
I chose another broad spectrum of wines to pair with Chipotle, as I did last time for our McDonald’s. While you can search out these specific wines, I suggest you treat these simply as representative examples of their types and look for the type that seems to appeal to you.
2009 Alamos Torrontes, $10: An unoaked, bright white wine.
2010 Kenwood Chardonnay, $10: A modestly oaked Chardonnay.
2010 Cupcake Riesling, $10: A gentle, sweet white wine.
2010 Pianissimo Rosé of Malbec,$12: A fuller style of rose.
2009 Kris Pinot Noir, $13: A light style Pinot Noir.
2008 Valley of the Moon Zinfandel, $13: A full-bodied red.
2010 Jam Jar Shiraz, $10: A sweet red wine.
We went all out and loaded up on all your Chipotle favorites. As I will always do, I tasted the food as it was prepared, forgoing the salsa and sour cream that can really change the way the wines and dishes interact; so keep that in mind when considering the pairings.
Pork Carnitas: soft and crispy tacos
Adobo-marinated Chicken: soft and crispy tacos
Barbacoa Beef: soft and crispy tacos
Steak Fajita Burrito
You wouldn’t think that a tortilla would have a big effect on a wine pairing, what with the cheese, chicken, salsa and lettuce being the same overpowering part of the dish; but in reality, the warm flour soft shell turned out to be a much more wine-friendly choice than the sweet and somewhat greasy crispy corn tortilla.
Having said that, this dish was pretty easy to pair with the white wines, but the reds tend to overpower the dish. The adobo’s sweetness made it a challenge for the rosé and Pinot, something I had not thought about, stripping the fruit out a bit. The whites on the other hand tended to pick up on that sweetness, throwing the wines off balance.
Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!
One wine really stood out in the chicken taco pairings: the Kenwood Chardonnay. I’m not usually a big fan of Chardonnay, but this wine really worked perfectly with the chicken tacos. The dish tempered the toastiness of the wine and somehow the combination highlighted both the creaminess of the wine and its bright fruit.
The pork tacos were only marginally different from the chicken tacos and once again I found that the flour tortilla made for an easier pairing. But in this case, there turned out to be distinctly different winners for each. The added fat of the pork, not to mention the corn tortilla, overpowered the Torrontes and flattened out the fruit of all the reds. The rosé worked fairly well with both taco shells, showing good fruit, but lacking the intensity to really hold up against the richness of the pork.
A Pair of Winners
There were two winners with the pork tacos. The Riesling worked best with the crispy pork taco. It was still fairly sweet, but the fruit really handled the flavors well, with the sweetness of the corn tortilla complementing the sweetness of the wine.
The flour tortilla, on the other hand, created a really fine textural blend with the Kris Pinot Noir. The intensity of both the wine and the pork were well-matched as well, allowing every flavor element of both the taco and the wine to express themselves, a really successful pairing!
The beef barbacoa is fairly intensely flavored and negated much of the difference between the two taco shells. The whites really didn’t have much of a chance here, though the Chardonnay exhibited a fine leanness with the beef, somehow gently accentuated by the toasty sweetness of the wine. The Jam Jar began to find its groove with the beef, offering nice sweet/spicy interplay of flavors that reduced the overt sweetness of the wine. The Pinot, on the other hand, just lacked the intensity necessary to pair with the beef.
And that leaves the rosé as the winning pairing here. In this case, the rosé offered a nice contrasting pairing to the beef. The bright freshness of the wine was a cleansing counterpoint to the richness of the beef. A lighter rosé would have been crushed by the beef, but if you look for one with a little bit of richness and some savory depth of flavor, you won’t be disappointed with this pairing.