Wine has come a long way. Gone are the days when cheese and caviar were the only pairings possible. A whole new school of thinking is in play when it comes to pairing wine with food, specifically fast food meals. Charles Ford is not only a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, he's also the General Manager & Partner at SKY Restaurant in Chicago and an ambassador for the Spanish wine regions of Ribera del Duero and Rueda.
So he is in the business of pairing food and wine. And while fine food is often on the menu at SKY, Charles likes to keep things down-to-earth when he is pairing, keeping guest's preference first always. His keen wine sense earned him a 2014 Jean Banchet nomination for Best Sommelier, as well as a spot on Zagat's 2015 '30 under 30'.
So when we wanted to pair some of the world's most famous fast food offerings with a glass of something, we knew who to call. From Chick-fil-A to cheese fries, Charles says there is a wine for every dish, and these are his favorites.
1. McDonalds Big Mac, Fries, and a Coke
Wine: 2015 Bodegas Tineta Ribera del Duero
As Charles told Wide Open Eats,
Love it or hate it, the Big Mac is one of the best burger creations in history. Call me crazy, but this there's a reason for this pairing! First though make sure you're not driving for this. But it's totally acceptable (I say this from experience) to put a few (or a lot of) splashes of that delicious Tempranillo in your Coca-Cola, it's surprisingly refreshing.
2. Popeyes Spicy Chicken with Cole Slaw & Cajun Fries
Wine: Borgoluce Prosecco 'Brut Lampo'
Prosecco is perhaps bigger now than it's ever been, this millennial generation is booming the wine industry!
Fried crispiness? Keep it cold and bubbly. The Borgoluce won't break the bank either, it's a sub $15 bottle of bubbles that delivers every time.
3. Chipotle Burrito
Wine: 2016 Bodegas Torres 'Verdeo' Verdejo
Same Chipotle grill restaurant, same veggie burrito - trip down memory lane as everything is the same as last year down to the taste! (Except for the prices maybe) throwback https://www.instagram.com/p/BEorosilfXj/ Ordered the veggie burrito with brown rice, pinto beans, guacamole and spicy salsa. 😙 Still wished they served the sofritas in chipotleUK. #chipotle #chipotleburrito #veggies #dinner #fastfood #spicy #vegan #veganfood #plantbased #londonmeals #londoneats
Don't be confused by the spelling of their label 'Verdeo'. This is 100% Verdejo Rueda and it's crunchy and crisp. Bodegas Torres carries quite a reputation throughout the world of wine, and the family lives up to it with this bottle.
When someone uses 'crunchy' as a descriptor for wine what they mean is that the wine has an intense sense of fresh vivaciousness. No need to go to chain fast food for your burrito needs, typically no one does it better than your local family run taco take out establishment! Again, another wine that's easy on the pocket book and widely available.
4. Classic Chinese takeout (Kung Pao Chicken & Egg Rolls)
Wine: 2015 Day Wines 'Mamacita' Pet Nat
Brianne Day is a wine warrior. She's made this Pet Nat for a few years now and it's such a breath of a fresh air.
Kung Pao is super spicy, it needs a lower ABV to help put out the flames, and a natural sparkle from the Pet Nat helps to clean each bite up as well. Can't say enough good things about this hard-working Oregonian winemaker!
5. Culver's Butter Burger with Cheese
Wine: 2014 Dominio de Pingus 'PSI' Ribera del Duero
💛🍟🍔 BUTTERBURGER CHEESE 🍔🍟💛 This cheeseburger was so good 🤤 It has two fresh beef patties seared on the grill and topped with Wisconsin American cheese and served on a lightly buttered toasted bun with a side of hot and crispy crinkle cut fries 💛 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #culvers #butterburger #butterburgercheese #cheeseburger #burger #americancheese #wisconsincheese #fries #burgerandfries #ahungrylife #funwithfries #instburger #eatforcheap #yougottaeatthis #eatandstructure #forkyeah #eatfamous #burgeratti #shareyourburger #foodbeast #munchies #devourpower #instaburger #topfoodnews #bestfoodworld #burgerlovers101 #burgervoyeurs #eeeeeats #alwaysfreshneverfrozen
As Charles told Wide Open Eats,
A couple of stunners right here in this pairing. Pure Ribera del Duero here in this bottle. It's not cheap, but nor is it expensive either. It will go around $30 retail, but it's well worth it. The focus of this wine is the place in which it came from, Ribera del Duero. That's all Dominio de Pingus is trying to do with this wine, is focus on the land.
Now, [at] Culver's, that's all they focus on too, where their product is coming from. Perhaps the best fast food burger in the United States at this point, as many prefer it to Shake Shack or In & Out. This is such a juicy pairing, especially if you've chosen to substitute the fries for cheese curds.
6. Carne Asada Tacos from Taco Bell
Wine: 2016 Bodega Monte Xanic Valle de Guadalupe Sauvignon Blanc
Mexican wine is coming so be prepared! There's not a better Sauvignon Blanc coming from our neighbors to the south. The Valle de Guadalupe is Mexico's premier wine growing region nestled just south of Tijuana!
I think the pairing only gets better if you've got a bottle of Topo Chico, as well. Keep your tacos simple for this one: Carne Asada, cilantro, onions, and lime!
7. Chick-Fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Wine: Pierre Paillard 'Selection de Parcelles Grand Cru Brut'
Quentin & Antoine Paillard are making stand out gems from Champagne. Not only are they producing excellent wine, but they're doing it in an affordable fashion.
I've had this pairing once, twice, a few times now and it's great to raise up Chick-fil-A's sandwich with a heavenly pairing.
8. Portillo's Chicago Dog with Cheese Fries
Wine: 2016 Marcel Lapierre Morgon Beaujolais
[A] Chicago Dog and cheese fries is quite the pairing by itself. People probably think it would be better with a white wine too, but the ML Beaujolais is quite a treat. Can't think of a better made and widely available bottle of Gamay.
Chicago Dogs are rich and flavorful, so use the cheese fries and vino to cut through each bite with a little bit of fruity spice. Marcel lead by example, the same way his two children, Camille and Mathieu are doing now.
9. Publix Italian Sub
Wine: 2015 Le Monde Pinot Grigio
If you're on the eastern coast you know all about Publix and just how GOOD their sub sandwiches are. Properly made, no fluffy over extravagant ingredients either.
The Italian sub sandwich, a selection upon which they've built their reputation, begs for a clean no frills example of what Italian Pinot Grigio should be. Put the two together and you've got a pleasant mouthful that won't disappoint.
10. Pollo Tropical Whole Chicken, Rice & Beans, Plantains
Wine: 2014 Bodegas Shaya 'Old Vines' Verdejo
A go to standout in the world of wine. A relatively young project that started about 10 years ago, these wines are made in barrels as opposed to stainless steel, the result is a smoother mouthful of wine!
Made from older vines, these wines extract all those tropical notes (lime zest, fresh pineapple, ruby red grapefruit). Pollo Tropical can sometimes be hard to come by, but when you see it make a stop! This chain makes delicious citrus marinated chicken.