When you think Cinco de Mayo, you think margaritas. Right? Right. But what if you have a hankering for wine? What wine pairs well with a Cinco de Mayo celebration?
It’s definitely a challenge to find wines that pair well with spicy foods. Mexican cuisine is even more challenging, because you’re dealing with such a broad array of flavors – from sweet and salty to sour and spicy. You’re also dealing with many pepper varieties, which can be very difficult to pair with wine.
For a celebration featuring many different dishes, you want wines that can handle a wide range of flavors.
My recommendations for Cinco de Mayo
Whites – Choose lively, aromatic whites such as Viognier, Albarino, Chenin Blanc, a semi-dry Riesling and Sauvignon blanc. All these wines have great acidity, which is perfect for putting out the fire on any palate.
Reds – Choose reds without a lot of tannin or oakiness such as Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Grenache and Gamay (Beaujolais).
Pinks – Choose semi-dry roses with earthy notes.
Wines to avoid on Cinco de Mayo
For whites, stay away from Chardonnay. This wine doesn’t work well with spicy food.
For reds, Cabernet and Nebbiolo are wines to avoid. Both have a lot of tannin and oak, which will make the dishes taste heavy and will compete strangely with many of the food flavors.
I actually recommend trying a Chardonnay or a Cabernet just to see how bad the pairing is. But make sure to have a recommended wine very close by to correct the upsetting experience ☺
What if you’re having just chips and salsa? Do the same recommendations apply? They do. But if you’re having just a single Mexican dish, you will be able to pair a wine more precisely. You won’t need a wine that can work across a wide range of flavors.
With chips and salsa, assuming cilantro plays heavily into the salsa, a Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir would be your best bet.
If you drink wine with your Cinco de Mayo celebration, please let us know what you paired and how well it worked.
Felice Cinco de Mayo!