Wine With Fast Food: It Can Definitely Be Done



If you’ve seen the movie Sideways, you might remember Miles finally popping the cork on a prized bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc – and downing it with a hamburger and onion rings.  “True, (Miles) is borderline suicidal at this point, and maybe this is his death-row meal,” wrote Mike Steinberger on Slate, “but a ’61 Cheval Blanc certainly deserves a better death than that.”

Hmm. Maybe that is a less-than-perfect pairing for one of the most famous wines ever made. The Styrofoam cup was probably not ideal, as well. But for everyday purposes, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t reach for a glass of wine when you’re satisfying a fast-food craving.

Think about it: A lot of fast food is about fat, and wine does great with foods heavy on fat. Let’s explore the topic, and in the process find some fast-food pairings for the Protea Red Blend, Chenin Blanc and Rosé.

Protea Red Blend

We’ll start where Miles did, with a hamburger – or better yet, a cheeseburger, because what sort of heathen doesn’t put cheese on a burger?

A nice, drippy cheeseburger is going to feature a lot of fat. As a starting point, to create a good pairing you’ll need to cut through that fat, and that requires some combination of acidity, tannin and alcohol. This doesn’t necessarily point to a red wine; plenty of whites offer good acidity. But whites rarely combine acidity with the richness of flavor you’ll also need to stand up to all the burger has going on.

So red it is.

But maybe not a big, tannic red like a young Cabernet – that might overwhelm the cheeseburger, which isn’t as purely meaty as, say, a steak. So instead, try a sturdy but not obdurate red, one that bends toward showing bright fruit. Something like the Protea Red Blend, which we describe as “full and juicy … balancing ripe fruit and subtle tannins.”

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Protea Chenin Blanc

What about those onion rings? OK, you’re not going to open a separate bottle of wine to go with a side dish, but what if the onion rings were more a starter, an appetizer, or a snack? You’ve got fat in play here, for sure, but onions – as long as they’re not raw – also bring a lot of sweetness.

That opens the door to a well-balanced white, like the Protea Chenin Blanc.

This is wine that can find a lot of fast-food partners, actually. Try it with fish & chips, or their close cousin KFC.

Or if you’re picking up Asian takeout for the family, the Chenin Blanc will be a great pairing with a wide range of stuff, from Thai green chicken curry from a little neighborhood spot to that Panda Express favorite, orange chicken.

Protea Rosé

As versatile as the Chenin is, Rosé might be the ultimate wine chameleon, kinda white and kinda red. So here’s where we go for our match with one of the more challenging pairings: Mexican fast-food.

One reason Mexican is challenging is that, in all honesty, the best pairing is a crisp, cold beer. Sorry wine, it’s true!

But that doesn’t mean wine won’t work, and even work well. The precise nature of the dish will be a factor here, but rosé can navigate its way through a big fat burritos loaded with this, that and the other thing, whether we’re talking all veggies or if there’s chicken, beef or pork included.

It’s not Mexican, but there’s one other popular fast-food pairing to keep in mind for rosé: Spicy wings. Just make sure the wine is well chilled.

No, We Didn’t Forget Pizza!

Four of the top 10 “limited-service restaurants” in the United States are pizza chains. So if you’re carrying a pizza home for dinner or getting one delivered, we’ve got you covered wine-wise.

Overall, we’re looking for high acidity here to take on that cheese and (in a “typical” pizza) tomato sauce. But we also want to steer clear of too much tannin, which can tangle poorly with tomato.

But with pizza, it really is all about the toppings. To prove it, we’ll offer a perfect pairing for each of our wines.

Pepperoni: Do we need to even say? Red, Red, Red.
Veggie: The Chenin Blanc wins here.
Sausage: Call on the Rosé for this job.

Finally, remember that the whole point here is to inform your wine-and-food adventures, not restrict them. If it works for you, that’s all that matters.

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