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10 Wine Pairings for Junk/Comfort/Stoner Foods


An expert’s opinion on which bottles pair best with pizza, popcorn, pork rinds, and other guilty pleasures.

It’s true—I’ll drink wine with just about anything because I choose not to drive myself crazy striving for “perfect pairings” with every cork I pull. Sure, there are ethereal, “classic” matches like Sauternes with foie gras, Chablis with oysters, and Cabernet with a rib-eye steak, but sometimes—whether I’m opening a bottle of Riesling at 11am or decanting a bottle of Bordeaux at 11pm—if the only food within reach is a bag of chips or leftover pizza, then that’s what I’m “pairing” it with.

In fact, I’ve earned a reputation in the wine world as the expert on finding the perfect red or white to go with junk foods. Don’t believe me? Last weekend I hosted “Junk Food & Killer Wines” at the LA Food & Wine conference, where I paired cinnamon-dusted Dunkin’ Munchkins with Tawny Port. They tasted great together and the crowd loved it.

Below are my 10 favorite oddball pairings. I not only encourage you to try them, but also to improvise, and let me know what you come up with. Tweet them to me at @WineWiseGuy.

Fried Chicken + Sparkling Wine.

You could pour Champagne, Prosecco, Cava or anything else that sparkles, as long as it’s dry (Brut), like Scharffenberger Cellars NV “Brut Excellence” from Mendocino, California.

Cool Ranch Doritos + Rosé.

It used to be that Rosé was seasonal, but I drink it all year now and can find it everywhere. One of my favorites is Brangelina’s (for real!) Miraval 2013 Rosé from Côtes de Provence, France.

Pizza + Chianti.

This is a no brainer, given the ubiquity of both products just about anywhere you shop. Out in LA we used frozen pizza bagels for comic emphasis, and the sweet sauce on the bagels did its job to mellow the tight tannins in the Badia a Coltibuono 2010 Chianti Classico from Tuscany, Italy.

Mission Chicharrones Picante Pork Rinds + Moscato.

While Moscato has been surging in popularity recently, I find many to be too sweet and one-dimensional. I prefer the quality of the real deal, from the source—Piedmont, Italy—likeVietti 2013 Moscato d’Asti ‘Cascinetta. The key here is to always pair sweet (or “off-dry”) wines with spicy foods to quell the heat.

Dunkin Donuts Cinnamon Munchkins + Tawny Port.

Often when matching food to sweet wines, I reach for something sweeter, to make the wine taste drier. Try something like Ramos Pinto Ten-Year Tawny, Quinta de Ervamoira, from Oporto, Portugal.

“Smart” Fries + Prosecco.

My kids got me hooked on these crunchy fake French fries sold in supermarkets. My wife and I scarfed down a bag last week with Ferrari Brut Metodo Classico NV from Trento DOC, Italy.

Chips & Salsa + Riesling.

If you like your salsa super spicy, go really sweet on the wine. I like my salsa at medium heat, and think it’s perfect with Brooks 2012 “Sweet P” Riesling from Eola-Amity Hills, California.

Veggies + Ranch Dip + Sauvignon Blanc.

This is all about the creaminess of the dip taming the acidity of the wine. Sauvignon Blanc, preferably one that’s never seen the inside of an oak barrel, is my preference, like Chateau Lamothe 2012 Bordeaux (Blanc) from France.

Popcorn + Chardonnay.

This is a rich, decadent treat I first tried with sommelier Andy Chabot at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. I figured that since we were at one of the most luxurious resorts in the country, surely the popcorn was from dried kernels harvested in their precious farm and that the butter had been churned that very morning out in a goat barn. Then he showed me the box of Orville Redenbacher’s ‘Movie Theater Butter’ microwave popcorn and a bromance was born! We killed several bottles of Olivier Leflaive 2011 Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles from Burgundy, France.

Bittersweet Chocolate + Lambrusco.

Velvety, bitter chocolate blooms when paired with something slightly sweet and effervescent, like this sparkling red wine from Emilia-Romagna in Italy: Cleto Chiarli N.V. Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro.



***Grabbed from: