Normally, I'm not fond of suggesting food-wine pairings. Taste is a subjective experience and I prefer to encourage wine enthusiasts to drink whatever they like with their favorite foods, doubling the enjoyment. But some types of wines simply tend to match better and here is an experiment that will help you uncover your ideal junk food-wine combo.
I assembled a group of hungry and willing guinea pigs. We opted for the two basic junk food groups -- salty and sugary -- and their usual suspects: potato chips, pretzels, Cheetos, corn chips, Cool Ranch Doritos, salted peanuts, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Oreos, Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, and Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies. To drink, we chose 10 different varietal wines: sparkling rose, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet and Malbec. All we were missing was a Big Gulp cup. Armed with paper towels festooned with our junk food assortments, we launched our exploration.
Potato chips: Because of their delicate salty quality, lighter white wines tended to meld the best with potato chips. Try a Pinot Gris (PEE NO GREE), a Sauvignon Blanc or a light Chardonnay.
Pretzels: This favorite has a stronger, nuttier flavor than potato chips, so they can stand up to a bigger wine. Try a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet Franc with pretzels.
Cheetos: Believe it or not, Pinot Noir paired very nicely with Cheetos' salty, cheesy action. This was the shocker of the tasting.
Corn chips: The corn chips needed something to tone down the whopper flavor in it, and Pinot Gris did the trick.
Cool Ranch Doritos: This was a tough match, but Pinot Noir finally won this junk food over. The two competing flavors aren't perfect, but will work in a pinch. Cabernet wasn't too bad either.
Salted peanuts: Peanuts hated most of the wines. Sparkling rose wine was about the only wine to match well with the nuts.
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups: This was difficult to pair up with anything because of the peanut butter and chocolate combination. The sparkling wine, ever the quintessential wine that matches everything, was the closest, but the Malbec wasn't bad.
Oreos: These guys practically loved every wine on the table. Malbec, Zinfandel, Gewurztraminer and Merlot all were matches made in heaven.
Milano cookies: A more delicate flavor than the Oreos or chocolate chip cookies, Milano was harder to match. The Gewurztraminer came close, as did the Malbec.
Chips Ahoy: One of the few junk foods that matched with both whites and reds. Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel and the rose sparkling were perfect paired with a childhood favorite.
When conducting an experiment such as this, keep your mind open to the possibilities, and enjoy. Try a couple of these wines to make the exploration more enjoyable: Clos du Bois 2000 Reserve Chardonnay ($20) ; Toasted Head 1999 Merlot ($15) 1/2; and Mumm Cuvee Napa Blanc de Noirs ($18) .
Taylor Eason is a regionally based wino who studied the juice in France and Italy. Comments? E-mail corkscrew@ creativeloafing.com or call 1-800-341-LOAF.
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