Sommelier Roundtable: Guilty-Pleasure Wine Pairings

From potato chips to sweet-and-sour candy, six wine experts from Restaurant Award winners reveal the indulgent treats that actually pair well with wine

Sommelier Roundtable: Guilty-Pleasure Wine Pairings
Grand Award–winning wine director Jason Irving has a favorite California sparkler to match with fried foods like chicken nuggets and fries. (LightFieldStudios/Getty Images)
Jun 4, 2021

Though the job of a sommelier has historically been associated with stuffiness, most wine experts share an overarching sentiment that drinking what you like should take precedence over “the rules.” At the same time, the recent rise in younger, open-minded sommeliers is pushing the industry forward, and farther away from the stereotype.

To have a little fun with that open-minded notion, we asked six sommeliers from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners to spill their favorite guilty-pleasure wine pairings. See their picks for complementary wine matches for beloved treats and low-brow eats, and be inspired to get adventurous with playful pairings of your own.

Wine Spectator: Do you have a favorite guilty-pleasure wine pairing?

Jody Davis, wine director at Aretsky's Patroon in New York

Jalapeño potato chips and Txakolina! Getariako Txakolina from Ameztoi in Spain has fresh, zesty lime fruit, along with a spritzy texture and a hint of sea salt, which makes a seriously nice pairing with crunchy, spicy chips.

I also accidentally discovered that Txakolina pairs well with Sour Patch Kids. While I wouldn't really recommend gulping down gummy candy with a serious wine, I had randomly just eaten a handful of Sour Patch Kids, and a few minutes later, with their extreme flavor still lingering, I tried a sip just to see. The result was a fun and funny mashup of fruit and acidity, and the spritz element helped the whole thing finish clean.

Will Howard, wine director at Rococo Steak in St. Petersburg, Fla.

I always find myself popping a bottle of Vouvray Moelleux when I’m cooking bacon. There’s something about that sweet-and-salty combination that I can’t get enough of.

Jessica Altieri, director of beverage for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Palm Beach, Fla.

Whenever I would get back to Chicago from traveling, my first stop would always be to grab a juicy Italian beef sandwich from Portillo’s and pair it with a smooth Nero D’Avola from Italy’s Sicily once I got home.

Jaime Pinedo, wine director at Spruce in San Francisco

Snickers, doughnuts and banana splits are all highly touted guilty pleasures. Imagine amplifying those classics with toasted caramel, brûléed bananas and centuries of history. Frasqueira Madeira, particularly 100-year-old Boals from D’Oliveiras, can turn humble desserts into poignant life moments.

Jason Irving, wine director at Topper’s at the Wauwinet in Nantucket, Mass.

I have always loved fried anything—fries, chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, pickles—with bubbles. Roederer Estate sparkling from Anderson Valley, Calif., is a beautiful value sparkler that also has great weight to hold up to the food.

Katey Taylor, wine director at the Essex in Centerbrook, Conn.

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is nachos and Champagne. I love the mix of salt and aged cheeses paired with Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Champagne. The acidity of the wine cuts through the fat and creates a super-indulgent, flavor-enhancing treat!

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