When it comes to Mexican food, people generally don’t think of wine pairings. Beer? Sure. Tequila? Absolutely! But wine? It’s not the first thing that comes to mind, maybe sangria does, but Sangria is from Spain not Mexico. However, with the wide range of flavors and ingredients in Mexican food, wine can be an excellent addition to enhance any Mexican meal. It’s just a matter of choosing the right wine to perfectly complement your dish.
Best Red Wine to Pair with Mexican Food
Red wine can be tricky to pair with Mexican food, but it really comes down to personal preference. Reds that are sweet, with low alcohol and low tannins will balance a spicy dish and are easy on the tongue. A red sangria would work well too if you don’t like the wine list at the Mexican restaurant you are at. If you’re of the “bolder the better” mindset, a dry, full-bodied red with high alcohol levels complements the intensity of Mexican spices, but be warned, this combination is not for the timid. Here are some of our suggestions:
Beaujolais; also known as Gamay, light, low tannins.
Zinfandel; sweet red with moderate tannins and high acidity.
Pinot Noir; always a popular choice; light, sweet red, high on aromatics.
Cabernet Sauvignon; full bodied and full of tannins. (For those who like to live on the edge).
Sangria – typically made with Grenache or Pinot Noir with added fruit and something to sweeten the drink up (like simple syrup or schnapps).
Bonus: Try Calimocho, which is a cousin to Sangria. It’s an easy Summer sipper cocktail with red wine, cola, and a little bit of brandy over ice. The ice reduces the sweetness and it’s great for increasing wine volume for pleasing a large crowd on a budget.
Best White Wine to Pair with Mexican Food
Mexican food is known for its spice and the spicier the dish, the colder and sweeter the wine should be. This makes most white wines an easy choice when it comes to pairings, but as with reds, you still want to choose wines with fewer tannins and low alcohol content, and avoid wines that have been aged in oak (sorry, chardonnay lovers.) Here is what we recommend:
Riesling; Light, sweet, crisp and highly acidic. Known for being food-friendly.
Sauvignon Blanc; highly acidic, fruity, dry white with herb tones.
Grüner Veltliner; Light, citrus-focused flavors of lime, lemon and grapefruit.
When in doubt, sparkling or rosé wines will be delicious with almost any Mexican dish.
Red is the name of the game when feasting on the delicious marinated steak known as carne asada. A Zinfandel or Syrah, both fruit-forward and jammy, would be an excellent choice, or splurge on a Bordeaux, as long as your meal is easy on the spice.
We recommend a lovely Pinot Noir for the savory carnitas. The notes of dark cherry and berries mixed with an earthy, herbal essence is a great match for the spices in carnitas. On the flip side, a fruity, acidic rosé will also pair wonderfully if you’re in the mood for something lighter.
Al Pastor is pork that has been marinated with chili peppers and pineapple giving it a sweet and rich finish. Soft, fruit forward reds like Pinot Noir and Zinfandel balance the chili pepper, while a bright, crisp Riesling or the lush Gewurztraminer pair well with the tart pineapple and fattiness of the pork.
Ceviche pairs well with a lot of whites; Albariño, Sancerre, Riesling, Chablis, but we’re going to recommend Sauvignon Blanc. The bright, crips citrus flavors of lemon, grapefruit and lime, along with fresh green herb notes are the perfect complement to this seafood-focused dish.
Mexican Seafood Wine Pairing
With cooked seafood you want to take care to not overpower the protein. A nice dry white with moderate acidity is what you want to look for and Grüner Veltliner is just the wine for the job. For meatier seafood like swordfish or octopus, Chablis or Côtes Catalanes Blanc, offer more savory notes that pair will with these heavier dishes.
Burritos are very similar to tacos when choosing the right wine to drink with it. Pick a wine that can hold up to the seasoning of the meat, and preferably with low alcohol so it doesn’t make the burritos seem spicier than it already is (unless you like really spicy foods).
Tamales are made from masa, which is a sweet corn dough, wrapped around different fillings like chicken, pork, vegetables or even peppers, cheese, and other veggies. This traditional Mexican dish goes great with Tempranillo, Riesling or Rosé.
Mole is a rich, complex sauce that blends ingredients of the sweet, earthy and spicy variety such as chiles, ancho, roasted nuts and seeds, chocolate and cinnamon. Reds that have low tannins notes of chocolate pair well with this sauce. Zinfandel, Syrah and some Malbecs are excellent options with this decadent sauce.
Queso Wine Pairing
Cheese-based dishes like Queso Fundido or quesadillas can handle a red or a white, you just want to be sure they are dry and fruity to cut through the richness of the cheese. For whites, Sauvignon Blanc and rosé are up to the task, while Garnacha and Sangiovese are great options if you prefer red.
Mexican Vegetable Wine Pairing
For vegetable-focused dishes, you want to consider how the vegetables are cooked. Roasted vegetables would do fine with a full-bodied red like a Malbec or Syrah. Grilled vegetables are going to be a bit sweeter due to the caramelizing that occurs with their natural sugars. Here you’ll want to go with an aromatic white, like Pinot Blanc or Grüner Veltliner.
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