Jumping in for Maura Sullivan this month, Catherine Crawford has a few unusual pairing ideas that you may not have thought to try… Maura will be back with her usual column in January.

When it comes to pairing a meal with the perfect glass of wine—whether it be white, red or sparkling—we already know the classics: A crisp white with fish or an antipasto hour of light bites, a full-bodied red with dark meat or rich pasta, and bubbles with briny oysters or to offset a sweet treat. However, what about the more obscure, unexpected, unusual pairings with casual or ethnic food types? 

Champagne and Fried Dishes

A simple fried dish and a luxurious bottle of Champagne is a match made in heaven. Champagne’s bubbles and cool acidity cut the fatty richness and saltiness of most fried dishes, making for a delicious combination. Some of the fried dishes that go well with Champagne are fried chicken, fries, pork chop, and fish n’ chips. A pro-tip is finding a Champagne that is clean and acidic but has a biting nature. Avoid Cava and Prosecco as they are more on the fruity side.  

Pinot Noir and Chocolate Ice Cream

Wine and chocolate are classic and romantic pairs, but pairing top-rated wines with ice cream is a whole new level to discover. A light red pinot noir makes a delightful dessert experience when paired with a creamy chocolate ice cream. The soft, ripe, and red fruits of this wine will work well with the smooth cocoa butter in a chocolate ice cream.

Wine and Mexican Food

We typically enjoy Mexican dishes with Tequila or beer, but wine can be a great pairing, too! 

Tacos and guacamole are perfect with flavorsome and medium-bodied red wines like grenache.  Grenache is also a fantastic partner for burritos, tacos, and loaded nachos. Because of its juiciness and roundness, it works with the savory flavors of rice, beans, cheese, meat, and avocado. 

If you want to enjoy a robust chili con carne dish with spicy peppers and fresh tomatoes, pair it with a merlot or shiraz as these wines have wonderful berry flavors that will complement it perfectly. Sparkling wines, such as Cava or crémant, are perfect for spicy meat like chorizo, or Mexican sandwiches like torta and pambazo. At the same time, the aromatic fruit balances from riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, or Albariño will do great and complement the heat, spice, and complex flavors of Mexican dishes with plenty of lime, cilantro, jalapeño, or tomatillos. The aromatic fruit balances out the heat and spice.

Sushi with Sherry

Many people already pair sushi with wine. However, these pairings usually focus on the fish. Sushi is combined with soy sauce, ginger, wasabi, and seaweed while most of the raw fish has a mineral tang. These flavors are pretty robust and can overpower the palate. The bold flavors of sushi with all its sauces are amazing with Manzanilla sherry. Sherry has layers of flavor and loads of floral characteristics that suit Japanese cuisine, while the saltiness of Manzanilla works beautifully with the raw fish and pickled rice. You surely won’t regret this combination if you give it a try!