Mexican cuisine is so diverse that adding it to the already extensive discussion of wine pairing could end up creating an encyclopedia several volumes long.
So, rather than discussing tons of specific pairings, I will take some time to share my suggestions on how to improve your wine experience, alongside the fantastic gastronomic heritage of Mexico.
I believe that journeys are best enjoyed through flavor, so I invite you to take this journey with me.
Mexican cuisine is as diverse as its landscapes and its people. Our dishes have so many ingredients that it is often difficult to imagine that their flavors can be improved with the addition of the right wine. But there are different ways to do it, and although there is an urban myth that wine does not pair with Mexican foods, I believe that there is a wine for everyone; and Mexican food is no exception!
To start, let's take these 5 considerations into account when it comes to pairing:
1. Find the harmony between both products (Food and wine):
Neither should entirely outweigh the other's flavor. The wine should drift and elevate the existing flavors, and textures of the food, creating new sensations that are even more pleasant.
2. Wine is perfect for pairing everyday foods: Wine has a wide variety of styles, and due to its low alcohol content, is ideal to complement everyday food. The idea that it only accompanies sophisticated dishes is untrue.
3. Geography is important: In general, wines from the same region tend to go well with local food. Though that’s not the case 100% of the time, it is important to know this fact as a guide. But there are regions of the world that are not wine producers and there are certainly dishes that pair well with wines from other regions.
4. Pair before adding spiciness and lemon/lime to your food: The spiciness of chili peppers and extreme acidity of lemon and lime have a numbing effect on our taste buds and can oversaturate them. To more accurately perceive the flavors, taste your wine with the food before adding extra spice, or add it to only a part of the dish - that way, you can take advantage of the flavors of pairing to its fullest potential.
5. Your palate is the best judge: Wine and tastes evolve; therefore, the pairings between food and wine are never absolute. Keep trying different combinations and trust your taste buds!
Now that we’ve covered the basics, I do have suggestions on wine pairings with some common Mexican dishes. Let’s experiment!
Chiles en Nogada: This dish is so elegant and delicate, and has a sweet note. You will surely enjoy accompanying them with a semi-sweet white sparkling wine or with a fruity rosé wine.
Mole (pronounce Mo-Ley), any type, especially black mole: Mole pairs very well with a dry white sparkling wine [Brut]. This combination is very pleasant since its acidity balances the fat that mole may have. Also, the bubbles of the sparkling wine refresh the palate and highlight the flavors of the various ingredients contained in the mole.
Traditional pozole and preparations with chicharron: They pair in an excellent way with sparkling white wines [Brut] as well.
Dishes prepared with achiote, (Cochinita Pibil) and Tacos Al Pastor: They can be paired with a Nebbiolo - by the way, Mexico actually makes very good Nebbiolos. Another option for these dishes is Shiraz, as it accentuates the slightly spicy note in an interesting way.
Adobos, Cochinita Pibil, Pipian, Zacatecano Asado de Bodas y Picadillo: Would pair very well with Rosé wine (Rosados), because it balances and refreshes the spiciness of the flavors.
Guacamole, seafood, green sauces: Dry white wine goes very well with many Mexican dishes, for example:
- Chardonnay pairs very well with guacamole or seafood.
- Sauvignon Blanc or a Chenin Blanc (for its acidity and fresh herbal note) can highlight dishes such as Enchiladas or Green Chilaquiles, Scallops, Clams and fish such as Red Snapper, as well as Chicken Flautas (aka: Tacos Dorados or Taquitos).
Pambazos: I suggest pairing with a young Tempranillo, which is a black grape variety widely grown to make full-bodied red wines.
Tacos de Suadero and Barbacoa: Cabernet Sauvignon, for being more tannic can be a good pairing with tacos de suadero, since this meat is fatty. The tanicity of Cabernet, and an alcoholic content higher than 13% brings a good balance, avoiding saturation on the palate. This red (young) is also ideal for Barbacoa for the same reasons.
My last bit of advice for you is simply to go experiment!
In the world of wine, every day there are innovations to discover, things to learn and re-learn, and perceptions are different from person to person.
If you find it pleasant, you have already created a great pairing! Remember the 5 considerations that I mentioned at the beginning and you may surprise your palate and also your guests’.
Mexico has a wine history of more than 400 years, and today more than ever it is a source of pride. We are Mexicans. Happy, witty and affectionate. And wine is here to stay: wine unites, wine accompanies, and wine certainly turns any moment into celebration.
So, as September is Mexican heritage month, let's have our drinks and toast together for our identity, for diversity, for traditions and as Joha says, “for making life delicious!”
Would you like to learn more about wine?
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