Food & Drink

Let It Pour: Searching for wine for Taco Tuesday

Do not hope for haute cuisine if you’re invited to Taco Tuesday at our house.

We might have guacamole. We might not. Perhaps I’ll remember to buy chips. Or maybe you should bring those, just in case. If we’re out of red salsa, green will have to do.

I set one rule for myself last year when we decided that we would have folks over for dinner regularly during the week: It’s about being friends, not about being foodies. The first rule of Taco Tuesday is “Do not sweat the details of Taco Tuesday.”

Abiding by this rule is what made sustainment of the Taco Tuesday ritual one of highlights of 2014 for me.

In a previous life, I would have considered the low standards of this weekly dinner a debasement. I’d have let the idea that dinner must dazzle above all else shame me into having no one over for dinner at all, for fear they would discover that I did not garnish with cilantro every time.

By letting go of the Pinterest-perfect ideal, I was able to embrace the greater good of cumin-scented fellowship.

And yet, I can’t help but futz with success. The beverage element of this sloppy equation is not quite right.

Since we host these dinners on Tuesday, the traditional taco accompaniment of margaritas seems a bit brazen. Once you throw tequila into the mix, it’s hard to maintain a low-key, family-friendly, weeknight vibe. And bottled sangria is OK, but I feel compelled to try a little harder on this front. Not as hard as homemade sangria, mind you, but harder.

With that in mind, I decided to build on the success of last year and start 2015 with a search for the almost-perfect Taco Tuesday wine.

In a post on Wine Folly about pairing wine with Mexican food, the advice was that spicy fare calls for cold, sweet wine.

But this isn’t spicy food. We have children to feed here. The guiding principle of the Taco Tuesday menu is to start mild and add heat as needed. The black beans and rice must be palatable enough for the timid taste buds of a 7-year-old. Grown-ups can add pizazz with green chiles, diced scallions, etc. But some wine-drinking adults dwell most happily in the land of mild salsa, too. What seems to go best with the baseline flavors of corn tortillas and tomatoes won’t hold up to the demands of spice of a chipotle-soaked taco.

Among Wine Folly’s suggestions were dry rosé, New Zealand sauvignon blanc and Lambrusco.

A quick survey of post-holiday leavings in the wine rack yielded a 2013 Venus de Pinchinat Vin de Pays du Var 2013. I stuck it in the freezer to chill.

Alas, though the rosé was dry and fruity, it had no affinity for anything but bare, salty tortilla chips. Pleasantly subdued, it seemed flat and one-dimensional when paired with the many flavors of the meal.

We also sipped at the Douglas Hill 2013 chardonnay (Napa and Sonoma) my neighbor brought. It proved to be a better match for the chips with medium salsa, with the richness of the chardonnay standing up to the spice, but the pieces of the puzzle still felt forced.

Despite my awkward attempts at wine pairing, the first Taco Tuesday of the year was a success.

Black beans were eaten, salsa was dribbled on the place mats, stories were shared. And I take heart in the fact that I followed the oft-repeated advice of our era: Don’t be afraid to fail. I believe people say this most often when they’re expecting great success, not actual trial-and-error. I also take heart in the fact that another Taco Tuesday is always just around the corner.

Amber Nimocks is a former News & Observer food editor. Reach her at amberwrites.com.

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