Pair It Up! Wine and Salsa

Back in July of last year, MWC scribe Michelle Bouffard wrote about her favourite wine and taco pairings. Well, it just so happens she and I were in California last week on a media trip to Napa and Sonoma. I stayed on for a couple of days in San Francisco before heading back to Napa (where I am now) for the Professional Wine Writer’s Symposium at the oh-so-picturesque Meadowood Napa Valley.

Over the course of my two days in San Fran, I managed to put back just about as much Mexican/Mexi-inspired fare as one could possibly imagine – tacos, burritos, huarache, tamales... you name it. And in addition to the variety of shapes and sizes of the dishes as well as the contents of each of these delicious dishes, one of the other variants in each was the salsa.

Red or green, salsa is almost always tomato-based. And the acidity inherent in tomatoes/salsa typically works well with wine that features a similar acid profile.

If you’re going to be at a friend’s place or out at a restaurant and aren’t sure just how spicy a salsa might be, try a wine with decent acidity and a touch of spice. Tightrope Winery’s 2014 Viognier has that spice component common to the grape, and brings pronounced tropical fruit flavours, great viscosity and a splash of acidity. There’s just enough residual sugar in this wine to help it walk a fine line between too sweet and too tart (Walk a fine line? Tightrope? See what I did there?).

Knowing the heat level in the salsa in question will go a long way in drilling down to more specific flavour components in a wine to go with your Mexican/Mexi-inspired fare. Milder salsa can work well with a more delicate white such as the Coyote’s Run 2013 Five Mile White (a Gewürztraminer/Pinot Gris/Riesling blend with a touch of sweetness) or a lighter red such as the Green Lane Estate Winery 2013 G2 Gamay.

Dealing with a hotter salsa? How about a similarly spicy but not-too-heavy Syrah such as the EastDell Estates 2013 Black Label Shiraz or the full-bodied, award-winning Moon Curser Vineyards Contraband Syrah? They’ll certainly help you beat the heat.

Dealing with a sweeter/fruity salsa? Give something like the Summerhill Pyramid Winery 2014 Alive Organic White a go – it’s a blend of Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer that delivers big peach/mango flavours with just a splash of sweetness. Or try a wine that brings similar features such as the Sperling Vineyards 2014 Old Vines Foch.

There are so many variations to salsa that pairing wine with your Mexi dishes is endless fun. And hey – if it doesn’t work out, there’s always cerveza to fall back on, right?

Try the wines in Ben's article right here:

2014 Viognier   2013 Five Mile White 2013 G2 Gamay  2013 Black Label Shiraz  2012 Contraband Syrah2014 Alive Organic White2014 Old Vines Foch

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson