British sommelier Alexandra Price recently created a furor in her native country when she declared, in an interview, that her favorite food and wine pairing was “Grand Cru Chablis and a Big Mac.” Doubling down in a subsequent piece, she declared the combination to be “naughty and decadent,” and explained that the high acidity of the Chablis “cuts through the fattiness of the burger.”
Given that Ms. Price lives in a culture where the Big Mac might easily be mistaken for haute cuisine, she should be excused for a flippant moment. And considering that she serves as the sommelier for Bar Crispin, a natural wine bar in London, it’s understandable that she would yearn to consume a bottle that wasn’t cloudy, funky or aromatically similar to yoghurt. Her reasoning seems flawed, though: wouldn’t the animal protein in the Big Mac be a better match for the tannins of a full-bodied red?
The ugly truth underlying her remarks is that most of us are eating fast food on a regular basis. We may not be frequenting McDonald’s, but we’re haunting places such as Chipotle, Panera, Jersey Mike’s and Panda Express. Wine isn’t served in most of those establishments, but you’re always free to take the food home and indulge in the wine pairing of your choice (provided that you don’t happen to have it in the car with you). And in all fairness to Ms. Price, many of her colleagues have been offering fast food wine matches for some time.
Josh Wesson, co-author of Red Wine with Fish and former wine consultant to Jetblue Airways, recommends focusing on the basic flavor components of the dish (sweet, sour, salty or bitter) and looking for a simple wine that has an overload of fruit and/or acidity. To accompany a basic cheese and tomato pizza, he suggests Prosecco or a Spanish rosado from Vega Sindoa; for a burger with ketchup, Hogue Riesling or R.H. Phillips White Zinfandel; with tacos and salsa, a Provence rosé or Rosemount Grenache-Shiraz.
Here’s a short list of favorites from other sommeliers and wine personalities:
- Josh Lit: Original Chick-Fil-A sandwich with a glass of Meursault.
- Amy Racine: McDonald’s apple pie with Philippe Foureau Vouvray Demi-Sec Clos Naudin.
- Rael Petit: Domino’s Buffalo wings and Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc.
- Johnny Livanos: Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken and Hermann J. Wiemer Semi-Dry Riesling from New York’s Finger Lakes.
In 2012, none other than Madonna named her “guilty pleasure” as French fries and Krug Rosé—to which Olivier Krug responded, “You don’t need to feel guilty when you drink Krug.”
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His first novel, Friend of the Devil, has been re-released on Amazon in print, e-book and audio book formats.