Low-Rent Wine Pairings You Can’t Help But Love
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Wine pairing is part art form, part guesswork. More than that, it’s deeply personal. Much like movie reviews and home décor, wine pairing is dependent on your preferences, and those inclinations can change with time and experience. For now, though, it’s okay to take a tip or two from someone who’s been around the block stopped for a ton of tastings along the way.

Today’s foray into food-and-wine matchups? It’s cheap eats galore. We’re pairing guilty pleasures with the wines that make each budget friendly, diet-busting bite even more finger-lickin’ good. Low rent doesn’t have to mean low enjoyment – in fact, we suspect you’ll discover that these duos offer just the opposite.

PB&J & White Zinfandel

Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are as humble as they are timeless. No matter how many chefs try to elevate this frill-free dish, the original reigns supreme: white bread (crusts optional), creamy peanut butter, and either strawberry or grape jelly. That’s it. Leave the bacon, marshmallow fluff, and fancy brioche for another day.

Pair your triangle-cut creation with a wine that’s sweet, light, and similarly laid-back: White Zinfandel. White Zin is an oft-maligned wine that’s typically absent from restaurant lists but available in big glass jugs in your supermarket’s booze aisle. In reality, it’s just a sweet rose; sure, it’s not as complex and mineral-laden as those lovely roses from Provencal, but White Zin’s bright and sweet raspberry and strawberry flavors are just what your sticky PB&J needs.

Potato Chips & Cava

Sparkling wine is the one-size-fits-all beverage of the culinary world. Whenever you’re in doubt about a wine pairing, pop the cork on something bubbly and you’re almost guaranteed to come off like an expert. Champagne is most often found cuddled up to high-end goodies like caviar or scallops, but it – and it’s less pricey, non-French cousins – is also a surprisingly fantastic fit for anything crispy, salty, and fatty.

Whenever you’re in doubt about a wine pairing, pop the cork on something bubbly and you’re almost guaranteed to come off like an expert.

Which brings us to Cava (Spain’s answer to Champagne) and potato chips. We reach for kettle-cooked chips for the extra crunch and Cava over Champagne because of its bigger bubbles and earthier, less yeasty flavor.

Donut Holes & Moscato d’Asti

Donuts are one of those foods that are delicious when buddied up with words like “artisan” or “gourmet”, but gas station treats can be just as satisfying. Pairings can change a bit depending on how the donuts are dipped, stopped, or filled, but classic glazed varieties are meant to be matched with Moscato d’Asti.

Moscato d’Asti is a sweet, slightly effervescent dessert wine infused with flowery aromas and a citrus. It’s appealing even to people who don’t typically drink wine, and yet layered lashings of honeysuckle and Meyer lemon make day-old doughnuts taste new and exciting again.

Sub Sandwich & Lambrusco

Few things are more gastronomically satisfying than good Italian hoagie. The crusty bread, the thick layer of real mayo, the funky-fatty bliss of prosciutto, mortadella, salami, and provolone cheese, the fresh filler of iceberg lettuce and tomato, and the zippy acid of pepperoncini and a red wine vinaigrette. It’s “just” a sandwich, and yet there are bands and bands of flavor just begging to be discovered.

For this pairing, try to locate a Lambrusco that’s on the drier side, but don’t fret too much over your decision.

Lambrusco is an Italian wine known for being sweet, light, and sparkling, though there are actually different versions that vary in terms of weight and sugar content. For this pairing, try to locate a Lambrusco that’s on the drier side, but don’t fret too much over your decision; some residual sweetness and the wine’s natural acidity blends with fresh fruit and spice to bring out the very best in picnic-ready foodstuffs like your sub sandwich.

Grilled Cheese & Chardonnay

Much like the PB&J, an ooey gooey grilled cheese is the stuff childhood memories are made of. Also like the PB&J, the grilled cheese is now available in a variety of increasingly ornate iterations, with extra ingredients ranging from spinach to chutney to foie gras. Each of those additives can affect how you choose to pair your cheesy wonder, but we’re sticking with the original: white bread and American cheese.

Chardonnay has the rich, buttery mouthfeel necessary to stand up to the thick strands of cheese and buttery, toasted bread. This is not a pairing for those who’d rather have chlorophyll supplements than a croque monsieur. This is decadence on a dime-sized budget, and it’s delicious.

Jalapeno Poppers & Riesling

Heat, a creamy component, and something that passes for a vegetable. These are the three ingredients required for the ultimate snack food, and jalapeno passes the test with flying colors. Stuff a spicy jalapeno with cream cheese, batter that baby up, then fry it until golden-brown. What are you drinking with it? Why, a Riesling, of course. You need that residual sweetness to cool your mouth off when the pepper threatens to leave a lasting mark, while the wine’s acidity is just what the doctor ordered to fight off the slick of fryer grease.

BBQ Wings & Zinfandel

Whether you’re trying to pretty up your Pro Bowl offerings or just looking for something different to swig alongside your BW3 takeout, snag yourself a bottle of Zin (and a bucket of wet wipes) and let no man judge what’s about to go down.

The fruit-forward, almost jammy quality present in a quality Zinfandel is a good foil for the rich, slightly sweet sauce on BBQ wings. Pepper and spice in the wine help cut through the crispy chicken fat, while acidity adds balance and prepares the palate for another bite.