Imagine, though, trying to find just the right wine to pair with comfort food. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? The challenge is in defining what makes a dish “comfort food,” which can be as carb-loaded as a bowl of ooey-gooey mac and cheese or buttered popcorn. It could provide a sugar rush like a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream, or satisfy a meat craving like a greasy cheeseburger.
Whatever category you crave, we have lined up nine different comfort foods and found just the right wine to serve with each.
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Although Villa Wolf is more famous for its rieslings, this lovely pinot gris is just what you want to serve with a bowl of mashed potatoes, a light poached white bratwurst, and a light green salad. It’s dry, full-bodied, silky, and has enough acidity to cleanse the palate after large helpings of butter-laced potatoes.
Sometimes, you want a food and wine pairings to be effortless and require only a modicum of thought. This pairing is so natural and delicious you won’t give it a second thought. Just enjoy the combination and the meal.
The neon “Hot Now” sign and tempting aroma of Krispy Kreme will make you buy a dozen as soon as the doughnuts are lifted hot out of the fryer. Coated simply with a honey glaze while still hot, Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts are so irresistible it’s easy to eat a few too many in under a minute. If you are thirsty, the next question is, “What to drink?” The Goldilocks’ choice here is a white wine with steady acidity, lower alcohol levels, and hints of honey to complement the glaze on the doughnuts. Hints of lemon and melon round out the profile and make Drew Barrymore’s pinot grigio — which also includes riesling and chardonnay — just what you want to satiate you after your doughnut dive.
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Whether your mac and cheese comes in a box and is made with powdered cheese, is baked with Velveeta, or is a blend of gourmet Cheddar and other cheeses, this crowd favorite is an ultimate comfort food. It’s creamy, warm, and soothing, and is delicious with fried chicken and other comfort foods. You could pair it with the Gosset we recommend elsewhere and it will be tasty, but if you prefer a still wine, the Huber Grüner Veltliner hits the right notes for a near-perfect pairing. Like a dash of freshly ground black pepper, the spicy hits of watercress and dandelion in the wine help your palate cut a path through the richness of the pasta and cheese, while barely ripe pear and apple notes, along with limestone minerality, make this racy, acid-laced wine refreshing and thirst-quenching.
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Some food and wine pairings are as ubiquitous as peanut butter and jelly, and this duo definitely falls into that category. With or without red sauce, tons of cheese, meat, and other toppings, the depth of flavor, concentrated fruit juice, and deep cheery notes of this Chianti Classico are a natural foil to pizza — no matter who makes it. Nozzole’s Chianti has ripe fruit balanced by the dependable acidity of Italian reds and this wine always delivers. The blend helps mute the busy flavors that often burden pizza with salty, meaty, cheesy, fatty, spicy ingredients, and its lip smacking juiciness makes it easy to drink alone.
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Tortilla corn chips and salsa may have come from south of the border, but they are now as American as hot dogs and apple pie. You can find them just about anywhere, from grocery store shelves to restaurants, bars, and house parties. The recipe variations, ingredient lists, and spice levels can wreak havoc when you want to find the right wine, but it’s possible. The secret to finding the wine is to select one with a profile that marries well with the heat of peppers, the earthy, pungent notes of cumin, the tang of lime and vinegar, the acidity of tomatoes, the soapy flavor of cilantro, and the aromatics of onions. For that, you need a wine with soft tannins, firm acidity, ripe fruit, and full body — in other words, a garnacha blend from a warm climate region like Valencia in Spain. This blend of garnacha, monastrell, merlot, and the indigenous mandó grape possesses all of those attributes and has the big friendly personality you want to pair with a rustic but flavorful snack.
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Satisfying, beefy, spicy, tomato-y (depending on the recipe), meatloaf is probably one of the most popular comfort foods in America and it’s a plebeian pleasure that deserves an equally populist wine. For its consistent reliability, great value, and food-friendly personality, this Montepulciano from Abruzzo is the wine to serve. It loves tomato-based dishes, is full-bodied with ripe juicy berry, cherry, and plum notes, and is always approachable. The earthy qualities that linger on the palate go well with the beef and the balanced acidity make the wine refreshing during the meal. Should you serve your meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans, you have nothing to fear. This wine is versatile enough to serve with a range of dishes.
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Tangy, and sometimes overpowering, the scent and taste of mint can make it difficult to find a wine that blends with the herb’s camphor notes and the fatty creaminess of the ice cream. For this pairing, you want a rich wine with a full body and plenty of ripe red berry fruit to stand up to the mint and cream. We think this shiraz’s raspberry and blueberry notes hit the sweet spot, along with hints of cocoa powder, and spicy flavors. The wine’s aromas and flavors linger long enough on the palate to match the mint’s cooling finish.
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If you are a chocoholic who prefers dark chocolate cake with hints of sugar, choose a red wine that offers a touch of sweetness to balance the underlying bitterness of dark chocolate. A red wine like this Maury, which is not overly sweet, has deep spicy notes that harmonize with the coffee, fruit, nut, and spice notes common in chocolate cake. The cake will taste rich, the wine won’t be cloying or too heavy, and together they will be the perfect ending to a meal.
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The best fried chicken is always crisp, juicy, and tender, but never greasy. The meaty flavor of the chicken is intensified by frying in oil and this Southern favorite begs for something with racy acidity that isn’t burdened with over ripe fruit. With fried chicken, you must find a wine that keeps the meat from feeling fatty but lets the chicken flavors shine, and for that few wines rival non-vintage Champagne from Gosset. Their non-vintage excellence is a blend of 45 percent pinot noir with 13 percent pinot meunier and 42 percent chardonnay. The emphasis on pinot noir makes for higher acidity levels, but a more complex powerful wine that can complement fried chicken.