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Anyone else out there feel like they’re just eating the same things on repeat now that we’ve been on lockdown for more than a month? Another day, another meal, right?
In the early days of COVID-19 isolation, many of us were flexing our culinary skills, using the downtime to sample new recipes and take some gourmet risks… but at this point, the excitement may be starting to fade.
Well, here’s an opportunity to bring a little fun back into the dining doldrums, whether you’re microwaving at home or backing local businesses by ordering takeout. There’s a wine out there for even the most mundane, no-frills food. Find the right sip and you instantly elevate any supper — even grilled cheese or frozen pizza.
To help put a little pep back into dinner (or even lunch, because who are we kidding?), here’s a wine-pairing guide for your favorite self-isolation meals, as recommended by winemakers who know their stuff.
The picks below range in price from around $10 to $40 per bottle, but there are plenty of options at every price point. If you prefer to shop online, read on for tips on ordering vino via the internet.
If you’re like many people, you’re definitely keeping your local pizza joint in business during this time of isolation. Maybe even multiple times per week (no judgment here). It’s a noble cause, and someone has to do it.
So, what do you pair with your favorite cheese-slathered pie? It depends on what you’re ordering…
Your classic pizza Margherita calls for an acidic wine. Acid loves salt, and most pizza (if it’s good pizza) is salty. The same goes for the (delicious) fattiness that the cheese brings. Cut that salt and fat with a wine with a bright acidity, like a Sangiovese-based red wine from Tuscany.
Try: Empson 2015 Monte Antico Toscana IGT
Amping up your pizza with a little pepperoni calls for a wine with acidity but also a silkiness to balance out the spice of the meat. Look for a medium-bodied wine with stone fruit flavors like plum.
Try: Oak Farm Vineyards 2017 Barbera
There’s something a bit indulgent about BBQ chicken pizza with its complex mix of tangy, smoky, and sweet all in one bite. Make sure to pick a wine that can match its intensity. Malbecs are great because of their dark fruit flavors, like blackberry and blueberry, which play nicely with barbecue.
Try: Santa Julia Organic Malbec
Not into ordering in? Elevate your favorite frozen pizza by enjoying it with an effervescent red. The refreshing bubbles will make things feel downright festive, even if all the evening calls for is a Netflix marathon.
Whether you’re grilling your burgers in the backyard, cooking them on a George Foreman grill, or baking them in the oven, opt for a spicy, oaky red, like a zinfandel.
This West Coast chain has a cult following for a reason. In-n-Out may sell burgers, but they’re certainly in a category all their own. If you’re choosing the California burger, go with a California wine. This is the perfect opportunity to pair a Cali cab with the classic All-American cheeseburger.
Another comforting classic for uncertain times. A quick and delicious grilled cheese and tomato is warming inside and out. It’s also a great pairing for a chardonnay — especially if you add some sharp cheddar shreds to the soup to give it a boost.
Try: Clos du Bois 2018 Chardonnay or J Vineyards 2018 Chardonnay
America’s favorite takeout may seem to lend itself to a beer pairing, but believe it or not, Chinese takeout makes an excellent companion to the right wine. Go for a fresh and elegant wine with a vibrant fruit palate to balance out the salt in the Chinese food.
Tip: Try pairing with an order of chow mein and blistered green beans.
Sushi takeout plus four past seasons of your favorite show isn’t just a great night during self-isolation — it’s a great night literally any time. The only thing that can up that game is the right wine.
A bright, floral wine with hints of tropical fruit is just what you need to enhance the refreshing flavors of your favorite hamachi, ebi, or spicy tuna roll.
Whether it’s straight out of the blue box (we’re all grown up, but we still love ya, Kraft) or you’re mixing artisanal cheeses for your own recipe, macaroni and cheese is one of America’s ultimate comfort foods. And while the flavors may remind you of childhood, you can certainly make this meal 21+ with a perfectly paired glass of something delicious.
Flavors of ripe stone fruit and juicy tropical notes, along with a hint of vanilla, can be surprising (and a little exciting) with a heaping bowl of piping hot mac and cheese.
It doesn’t matter how you “meat and cheese,” whether you’re going for an easy cheddar and pepperoni plate or leveling up with an artisanal spread. Charcuterie boards are a classic no-cook combo that can offer a much-needed break — and they’re soooo easy to make.
Grab three or four of your favorite cheeses and select a meat or two (or go meatless if that’s your jam). You can even add some olives, fresh fruit, and nuts. Bam! You’ve got a happy hour snack to please even yourself.
Nothing comforts quite like carbs, so many of us have been digging deep into our recipe stash these last few weeks, cooking up pots of succulent pasta slathered in creamy, dreamy sauces. Pasta and wine is an obvious pairing, but if you’re unsure which sauce goes with which sip, here’s a breakdown to point you in the right direction.
If you’re going classic pasta pomodoro (pasta with tomato sauce), a smooth red from Chianti complements a throw-together meal effortlessly.
Try: Tenuta di Arceno 2017 Chianti Classico Riserva
Cacio e pepe
While we can’t actually visit Rome right now, we can certainly take a culinary adventure in that direction. Cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) pasta is an iconic dish that hails from Italy’s beloved capital. Do it justice by ensuring it gets paired with the perfect wine.
A sauvignon blanc offers a perfect bright and elegant taste to balance out the salt and fat of the four-ingredient Italian staple.
Try: 2017 Heritance Sauvignon Blanc or 2019 Aperture Sauvignon Blanc
Spaghetti and meatballs
Rustic, hearty, and an all-around crowd-pleaser, spaghetti and meatballs can be as lowbrow or as haute as you wish. No matter which direction you choose, you’re going to want a lighter Italian red with versatility.
Feeling snacky? You don’t have to commit to a full meal to enjoy a delicious glass of wine. Most of us are probably snacking throughout the day anyway, so why not pair your favorite munchies with the right wine?
Pita and hummus is an easy go-to snack that can quickly transition into its own meal. Because the base is plain, it leaves a lot of options for wine pairings. A good place to start is a medium-bodied rosé for its versatility.
Try: 2019 Willamette Valley Rosé or Chateau Guilhem Pot de Vin Rosé
When you’re losing track of what day it is, do you really need to adhere to just Taco Tuesday? Any night is fair game, we say. And while margaritas or light beer might be the standard, consider pairing your homemade carne asada tacos with vino instead.
The best part about tacos is you get to pick the filling, meaning there are many ways you can go with the wine. Spicy seasoned ground beef screams for cabernet sauvignon, especially one with rich flavors of dark fruits. If you’re going chicken, shrimp, or fish, you may want to opt for something light, crisp, and refreshing, like a sauvignon blanc.
It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s usually in the cupboard. And it’s Olivia Pope’s favorite snack (um, meal). Light, airy popcorn calls for a crisp, fruity wine to balance out its saltiness, according to winemaker Danele Vurich.
Just because it comes in a foil package doesn’t mean it’s not deserving of an equally delectable dessert wine.
Let your favorite childhood snack play nicely with your favorite adult one: rosé. Pick a rosé with crisp acidity, morality, and hints of strawberries. Floral undertones will help bring out the taste of the marshmallow while leaving your mouth refreshed.
Chances are you’re not running to the liquor store quite as often these days — and if you are, you may be buying in bulk. Skip the trip and order your favorite wines online. Here are some of the best places to do it:
- Drizly offers quick delivery — like, less-than-an-hour quick — with a lot of options. The online store has teamed up with wine shops in more than 100 cities across the country.
- Wine.com has a sweeping selection categorized for everyone from neophytes to master sommeliers. Choose by varietal, region, occasion, or, hey, color. And they ship to every state (where wine deliveries are legal, that is — sorry, Utah, Alabama, and Oklahoma).
- If you’re looking for variety (and a bargain), you may want to consider joining Nakedwines.com, a club with a $40/month membership that saves you up to 60 percent on international wines.
- Winc, another membership-based service, curates monthly boxes for you based on a six-question quiz. Of course, you have the option to customize your cases, but it certainly helps them to get a sense of what you like. Winc memberships start at $39 per month.