Since Taco Tuesday comes around every week, it seems fitting to share delicious ways to elevate wine drinking by pairing it with the colorful flavors of Latin American food. From fish tacos found in Baja California to the famous rolled Guatemalan tacos, there is something for every palate and nearly every wine. Wine is a complete experience, often enjoyed with friends or family and partnered with connected conversations and dishes that enhance the existing flavor profiles.
Depending on your region, the summer months can be intense and exhausting so a chilled glass of wine and fresh seafood can feel like a breath of fresh air. Fish, shrimp, or scallop tacos are a perfect complement to an Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, or unoaked Chardonnay. Choosing the type of fish is entirely up to preference or availability, but salsa is non-negotiable. This part will add a sweet and spicy element to the juicy and savory flavors of your fish. For a sweet option, try adding pineapple or mango. For a spicy option, add a serrano and if the spice is too much, just take out the seeds and keep the chile for flavor. When it comes to the seafood, keep it simple by lightly seasoning and grilling or battering it up and frying. Whichever you choose, this pairing is sure to have your mouth bursting with joy.
If you are not a fan of anything from the sea, but still want to enjoy a nice cold white wine, try Chile Verde with a Riesling or Pinot Grigio. This stew-style meat is made with pork, poblano peppers, tomatillos, garlic, and lime. The pork offers a tender and juicy flavor, but feel free to try it with chicken.
Guatemalan Rolled Tacos
If those do not suffice, try the Guatemalan approach using either ground beef or turkey, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and bell peppers. Mix them, roll them up, and fry them. This may not sound like your typical taco, but it is a refreshing alternative. Do not be afraid to top it with guacamole or salsa and enjoy it with a nice Rosé of Syrah or an Oaked Chardonnay.
Another unique but delicious choice would be a chile relleno taco. These are less common, but the flavors from this taco will sing when paired with an Albariño or even a Viognier. The cheesy inside and savory pepper go great with the residual flavors of both of these wines. Although salsa is not as necessary here, avocado puree or crema would add an interesting twist. This is a great option for vegetarians.
Of course, not everyone goes for a seasonal white wine, which is no cause for concern because the red wine options are just as good. My personal favorite would be the birria taco. This dish originates from Jalisco, Mexico, and is a burst of flavor. The meat is not only in the taco, but it is cooked as a stew and you're encouraged to dip your taco in the stew with each bite. No salsa is needed here but a bit of cilantro, onion, and a glass of Merlot are phenomenal additions. Many would also enjoy a nice dry white wine as well.
Next up is the mole taco. Mole is a bold sauce that the meat, most often chicken, is either cooked or doused in. This sauce consists of a range of spices, chocolate, and optionally peanut butter. For this dish, enjoy a Zinfandel or Syrah.
For a lighter option, try the Al Pastor. This Spanish-influenced taco is made with pork, but its preparation is inspired by lamb. Its delicate flavors are a great pairing for Pinot Noir and would hold their own across the many Pinot Noir clones. The spices and well-marinated meat will not overpower the Pinot Noir profiles, but rather enhance them.
Tri-Tip or Brisket
In addition to Al Pastor, Pinot Noir goes great with tri-tip or brisket. These can easily make for an excellent taco. The charred flavors of the meat topped with guacamole are perfect for a summer evening. An alternative method of using the meat would be in bolillo, a savory bread similar to the baguette.
El Salvadorean Pupusas
We also have a great vegetarian option for red wine. El Salvador is known for the pupusa, also known as the arepa or empanada in other Latin countries. The pupusa in El Salvador is an enclosed corn cake with cheese and beans on the inside. It is often topped with a zesty slaw and Salvadorian red salsa. This option can easily be non-vegetarian by adding any meat of choice.
Tacos de Lengua
Now, all of the options shared thus far are sure to please the palate of most, but for those of you who prefer to step outside of your comfort zone, try tacos de Lengua, or tacos from tongue (cow tongue that is). With this dish, I would recommend something with a good body and hints of spice, like a Tempranillo or Malbec.
For each of the above pairings, the tortilla choice is completely optional. Even if you prefer to go without one, the flavors of your meat and dressings will stand beautifully alone. When pairing wine with food, be sure to take it all in. Sip your wine and let the flavors sink in. Take an extra sip if you need and then take a bite. Let the flavors marinate on your palate and follow with another sip. Cheers!