Most of us have our Tex Mex and California Mex with a margarita or a beer. But there are plenty of wines that go wonderfully with chips and salsa, (especially NAKED infusions brand) chicken mole and quesadillas. The trick is pairing the right type of wine with your meal.
Even if you think you don't know anything about wine, you probably have a basic understanding of which types of wines go with which dishes. Having fish? A red wine would be too heavy with a light-tasting food like fish, but a white would go well. But imagine drinking a delicate white wine with a steak. It sounds wrong, doesn't it? With steak, you need a red wine that can stand up to the steak's robust flavor.
When it comes to Tex Mex, the spices call for wines that can stand up the complex flavors of the food. Award-winning wine writer Alice Feiring says that, "You need powerful wines for this kind of food: think strong, spicy wines with plenty of flavor, no shrinking delicate violets." She cautions against any wines that are oaky, since, "strong oak flavors clash," with all the flavors in a burrito. ("Oaky" wines are aged in oak wood barrels, and include Chardonnay. CNN's Eatocracy has a detailed examination of oaky wines.)
Though you may usually drink Italian wine with lasagna and Japanese sake at your favorite sushi restaurant, you don't have to stick with wines from a specific region when you're having Tex Mex. What region would that be, anyway? South Texas? Southern California? What we call Mexican food is a cuisine that evolved in the United States, so it only seems fitting that wines from all over the world pair well with the classic meat, cheese, tortilla and salsa combo.
Ms. Feiring says that she, "prefers red wines with Tex Mex, including Zinfandel from California, Spanish Riojas, Italian Primitivos, and Grenache or Carignane from just about anywhere." She also thinks that, "a hefty sort of Rosé is also a good bet."
If you want white wine with your fish tacos, Ms. Feiring suggests Alsatian field blends (wines from Alsace made from multiple types of grapes, such a Reisling, Muscat and Pinot Gris), or New World Roussanne/Marsanne (wine made in the US or Australia using both Roussanne and Marsanne grapes). " If all else fails," she says, "get a solid cava - the fierce, clean bubble and edge has what it takes to cut through the texture and complexity of Tex-Mex.
Don't be afraid to ask questions when you're buying a bottle in your local wine shop. No one expects you to walk in to the store, grab the first bottle you see and proceed to the counter without talking to anyone. The wine store isn't the corner deli. The differences between the wines aren't obvious, and anyone working there will be delighted to help you find one of Ms. Feiring's recommendations, as well as make some suggestions of their own. Don't be shy. Your meal will be better for it.
Whether you're eating out, having dinner in or throwing a dinner party, you can enjoy wine with your enchiladas. You may find it adds a whole new dimension to food you've eaten countless times before.