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The Spanish Wine that Dominates Comfort Food

mac and rioja 1

Rioja wine could very well be the best wine to match with food.

When I say food however, I mean real food. Not filet, not confit of duck, not even pork belly….I’m talking about food that we all love, the type of food you scoff down with enjoyment level set firmly at 11…in other words, comfort food.

COM·FORT FOOD noun,  ?k?m(p)-f?rt – ?füd – a food that requires very little in preparation, is simple to make or can be ordered on the phone for pick-up or delivery.

Maybe a slightly contrived definition but when a wine is able to match with comfort food, it puts it on a whole new pedestal. Sauternes and foie gras, caviar and Champagne, I smite these pairings with my two hands, the food and wine combinations of beheaded kings and overthrown Czars, give me a number 2 In-n- Out combo above these any day.

To prove my point I acquired a random mix of Rioja wines from Spain, different styles and price points. I then set upon the difficult task, unselfishly using myself as the test subject, to try each wine with a randomly chosen comfort food. I hear the gasps of shock in your voices, as much as it pained me to do so, I did this in the name of science.

What were the wines and food matches?

  • Ostatu Reserva 2006 – $35.00 with Pizza delivery
  • Marques de Caceres Crianza 2008 – $13.99 with Chinese Delivery
  • Palacios Remondo Propriedad 2008 – $45.00 with Lancashire Hotpot
  • Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2007 – $18.99 with Mac and Cheese
  • Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2004 – $25.99 with In-N-Out

And this is how it turned out:

pizza and rioja wine

5. Lancashire Hotpot

Okay, so it wasn’t proper Lancashire hotpot but it was a stew with sliced potatoes on top, instead of lamb I added merguez, semantics really.

The wine went well with this, but more to note, Rioja seems to pair well with spicy stuff. This was really my comfort food constant. Potato, gravy, veg and sausage…most wines should go with this…Rioja performed splendidly.

4. Mac and Cheese

Cheese was a component in 3 out of the 5 dishes. For this particular pairing I used my mac of choice from Trader Joe’s – the organic white cheddar one, powdered mix and pasta shells ready in under 10 minutes. I added some tomatoes and a bit more cheese (just to make sure).

I especially liked how the combination of cheesy/pasta goodness went well with cranberry/licorice flavors of the wine. I think this will always be a winner and is especially good because you can have it all ready in a matter of minutes. I always have Tabasco on my mac and cheese and the wine still went well with it. It’s only fourth place due to the simplicity of the whole meal, I don’t think the Rioja was tested too much.

3. Pizza

Rioja might just have nudged my beloved Zinfandel from its top pizza pairing position…why you ask, something about the combination of oak and fruit berries in the wine and the leathery tannins…also the Rioja matched well to my half and half choice of vegetarian and meatballs. Next time you order your favorite pie (this one was from Escape from New York Pizza) crack open a Rioja, it’ll be cheaper than most and can stand up to the tomato sauce as well.

in-n-out 222. Chinese Delivery

This was the ringer. I wanted to push Rioja a bit more than the usual…so Chinese delivery it was…had a real mix of stuff as well, some beef and broccoli, pork fried rice, chicken chow mien and pot stickers (suffice to say, there were left-overs). The fact that the wine went with any of this is a complete surprise to me. BUT IT DID! I had bowl after bowl of every combination of the above (all in the name of science) the wine didn’t begrudge any of them. The text book always say, Asian foods are best with Germanic and Alsatian whites…my little experiment proved that wrong. Sure, spicy Thai curry might not match well with tannic reds, nor red pepper laden Szechuan but when it comes to generic Chinese take-away…Rioja is a winner.

1. In-N-Out

It’s not just that Rioja went well with any burger, it’s that Rioja went well with the best burger. Unlike Miles, the protagonist in Sideways, who found himself reluctantly finishing up his beloved Cheval Blanc with some sort of cheeseburger. I found that the glorious combination of bun, double meat, double cheese, and that secret In-N-Out spread creates a such a perfect pairing with Rioja it could be considered an instant classic. There is not much more pleasure in life than chomping down on the freshest of burgers to have each bite on slightly interrupted with a sip of wine. Even the animal style fries (fries topped with cheese, cooked onions, and more of that sauce) were to pair well. Pure gluttony at its finest.

Is it just me or does anyone else think this highly of Rioja and comfort food?

Or maybe you have a different favorite and comfort food wine pairing?


Louis Villard

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