Since our friend, wine and spirits writer Anthony Giglio had the inspired idea to lead a seminar on Junk Food & Killer Wines” at the LA Food & Wine conference in 2014, the media world has become flooded with somewhat dubious recommendations. So we combed through The Splendid Table and the late great Details, to compile a list of “the best of” Anthony’s solid pairings, and the illuminating thinking behind them.

Armed with his thinking, we find ourselves tasting fries, Cheetos, pork rinds with a little more acuity.  We find that serving a delicious low-brow food at a dinner party can bring a lot of unexpected joy. Now we know what to serve with them…

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.

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 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—like Vietti 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.

French Fries + Champagne or “Smart” Fries + Prosecco
My kids got me hooked on the 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 and 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 “Sweet P” Riesling from Eola-Amity Hills, California.

Veggies with Ranch Dip + Sauvignon Blanc.
This is all about the creaminess of the dip taming the acidity of the wine and dry white wine lightening and brightening up a creamy, rich dressing.. Sauvignon Blanc, preferably one that’s never seen the inside of an oak barrel, is my preference, like Chateau Lamothe Bordeaux (Blanc) from France.

Doritos + Lambrusco. I say you have to have sweet to beat the heat. That’s a rule of thumb in all wine pairing from spicy Doritos straight through to spicy curries, spicy Sichuan, you name it.

I’d go red because we’re talking about “cheese” with the Doritos. I would pair it with maybe a nice Lambrusco or even a Brachetto d’Acqui from Piemonte.

Cheetos with Sauvingon Blanc. We’re not talking heat anymore, we’re just talking “cheese.” I’d probably go white with this. Maybe some bracing acidity from a nice sauvignon blanc like a Sancerre or a twist-off sauvignon blanc from California.


Our favorite for the story behind it as much for the brilliance of the combo is Popcorn + Chardonnay (check out our Popcorn Improvisations):

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.

We’re filing this away for our next dinner party.


Anthony encourages you to improvise with your own pairing, and let him know what you come up with. Tweet them to him at @anthonygiglio

photo via Blackberry Farm

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