Our research for this month’s column involved wandering around the snack section of Common Market in Plaza Midwood, loading up with chips and rinds to our heart’s content, then testing our theory that there’s a chip for every wine.
While we still suspect this to be correct, what we’ve discovered is that there is one wine that has the magical quality it takes to pair perfectly with almost every chip that exists. Again and again, an off-dry riesling was up for anything: give it BBQ, jalapeno, garlic & onion, sour cream, or set it on fire. It’ll do just fine.
But before we cancel all other wines in pure riesling devotion, there were some other winning pairings we want you to know about.
Doritos Cool Ranch Chips
Cool Ranch Doritos embody what it means to be the picpoul of chips. Used to make picpoul de pinet, the picpoul is a southern French grape with a name that translates to “lip stinger” thanks to higher-than-high acidity, which leaves you smacking your lips.
Personality-wise, picpoul has a lot in common with the seasoning in Cool Ranch Doritos. You might say the same for Chablis, a toothy chardonnay that can sometimes feel like licking an oyster shell (if you’re into that kinda thing).
But you might also find a sense of harmony in choosing a wine that has a round, creamy feel to smooth out the bite of these chips. Albarino, muscadet, and North American chardonnays all fit that bill.
Zapp’s VooDoo New Orleans Potato Chips
If Cool Ranch Doritos are the picpoul de pinet of chips, then Zapp’s are riesling. With Cajun seasoning on the front and sweetness to follow, these chips embody the mysterious girl in the back of the glass that you want to win homecoming queen. The flavor of the chip makes the riesling stand up straight, boldly entering the dance floor as a golden delicious apple with honey.
Dare we suggest a Creole seasoning rim for your riesling? We’re not too proud to try, and so in the name of research, we brushed our chips along the rims of our glasses and took a sip. Just like the Romans did it! It actually wasn’t bad.
Pirate’s Booty Cheddar Blast Puffed Rice & Corn Snacks
When it comes to what’s in the best interest of Pirate’s Booty lovers, we’re a bit divided. Jerry knows what he wants: a blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay) to pair with these cheddar puffs, but Kara is feeling a Provence-style rosé. So we tried both.
The sharpness of the cheddar and the intense bubbles that only Champagne can make are like two friends that bring out the best in each other. The Champagne softens the smack of cheddar, while the cheese acts like shapewear for the wine, giving it smooth curves, making us all do a double take. Jerry remains committed to blanc de blancs.
And after trying a light-as-a-feather rosé, Kara is also not budging from her position. On its own, the wine expresses grapefruit and lime pith, salinity, and minerality. But pop a little Booty in your mouth first, and suddenly juicy strawberry and pear make an appearance.
This is the beauty of wine-and-food pairing: A bite of food can coax out the juiciness in a wine that was otherwise hiding before sharp tart qualities.
Wallace’s Fried Pork Skin Strips
Our bag of pork rinds sent us on a scavenger hunt. We tried a crushable red, our trusty riesling, and of course, sparkling wine. Then we poured an aromatic orange wine — rose petals and white pepper. This floral expression of an ancient form of winemaking found itself an intoxicating dance in the American Southern delicacy that is pork rinds.
Pork rinds are quirky. They’re gamey and crispy, and intellectually, the whole meat-in-a-bag thing can feel wild. The pretty flowers of the orange wine we chose offered a moment of repose, as well as a dose of astringency to give the rinds something to stand on.
In the end, riesling is the perfect chip wine
The answer to your deepest chip desires lies in the beauty of riesling, one of the most fascinating wines out there. There’s a reason that most wine nerds eventually end up on the doorstep of this versatile grape, and there’s no reason chronic snackers can’t as well.
The other lesson of our research is that wine is not just for lavish dinners. Wine is a hedonistic pleasure, Jerry loves to say. To which Kara suggests it’s more than that; wine is a way of life. But, then again, so is hedonism.
We’re wired for both, so don’t reserve wine only for anniversaries or dry-aged Tomahawk steak. Consider this your permission slip to break it open for your Fritos, your Cheetos, and your popcorn-worthy moments, too.
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