An Enchilada is where a corn tortilla is stuffed with rice, meat, veggies and cheese, and then covered with a savoury sauce. Medium-bodied white wines with tropical flavours such as Vermentino, Riesling, Viognier and Gewürztraminer pair best with Enchiladas, as their tropical notes can hold up to the strong flavours of an Enchilada. Meanwhile, lighter reds, such as Beaujolais, Barbera and Lambrusco are low enough in tannin, and high in acidity to handle the spiciness of a proper Enchilada. Sparkling wines like Cava, Sekt, and Prosecco are ideal with Enchiladas as they keep your palate cleansed of all the gooey cheeses and thick sauces that clog up your tastebuds.
Riesling & Enchilada Pairing
If you are eating out, Riesling might be one of the more accessible options to obtain by the glass as it appears on wine lists about 50% of the time (at least in North America). Riesling is one of the most food-friendly wines on the market, yet it isn’t overly popular. When I was a wine sommelier, I finally gave up on putting Riesling on the wine list after about a decade as people typically wanted their old favourites of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Even with samples, which people enjoyed, I could never move the wine, as when given a choice, people fall back on their comfort wines. And there’s nothing wrong with this. People should drink what they enjoy. But this is a blog about food and wine pairing, so allow me to explain why Riesling is qualified to pair up with a spicy Enchilada.
An Enchilada is dense with flavour as you’ve got rice, beans, corn, grilled onions, seasonings, sour cream, salsa, cheese, meat, and a variety of other ingredients stuffed into a tortilla. The carbohydrates in the rice and beans, along with the fats in the sour cream, cheese and guacamole are going to clog up your tastebuds. This means by the time you hit your fourth bite, the Enchilada won’t taste as amazing as the first bite.
Riesling saves the day as it is acidic. It’s this vibrant acidity that swoops in and cleans your palate off. This makes every bite taste as grand as the last. The acidity also sharpens flavours, so you’ll taste the beans, the rice, and all the other ingredients individually.
So what does Riesling taste like? Riesling comes in various forms, such as dry, semi-dry, sweet, syrupy sweet, still, slightly fizzy and bubbly. Regardless of sweetness levels, the wine has citrus notes of lemon, lime, tangerine and petrol as in gasoline or kerosene. The petroleum flavours are a bit unusual, but you learn to love it, and it imposes no danger to your body as the flavour is the result of aging, not from someone tampering with the wine. The petroleum is all derived from a chemical compound called TDN that forms over time in the wine.
If you’re still with me, you’re probably asking what style of Riesling is best for an Enchilada. My preference is an off-dry Riesling, but I have a bit of a sweet tooth. An off-dry Riesling has a touch of residual sugar, in that it won’t taste like candy, but it will certainly make your eyes light up with pleasure. As I like my salsa spicy hot, and I enjoy hot sauces, the sweetness in an off-dry Riesling helps put out the heat and allows you to discover some surprisingly delicious flavours hidden behind the wall of fire. An off-dry Riesling also has enough acidity to keep each bite fresh.
Phew, I wrote way more than I had intended to, however, if there is one takeaway here, it’s that if you love Enchiladas, give Riesling a chance. While I do rave about Riesling, I only give it 4 out of 5 stars as while the wine is excellent with an Enchilada, there are so many directions you can take your Enchilada so your mileage may vary.
Viognier & Enchilada Pairing
Viognier is tropical fruit bomb, which allows it to hold up to the dense flavours of an Enchilada. Expect refreshing flavours of peach, honeysuckle, tangerine and mango that will follow through until the finish, so you taste both the wine and the Enchilada upon each swallow.
With the creamy texture of a Chardonnay, Viognier complements any creamy sauces smothering your Enchilada, such as sour cream or guacamole. Viognier also has a balanced acidity, which ensures the cloying sauces, and dense carbohydrates of any rice or beans will be scrubbed away from your cheeks between bites.
Beaujolais & Enchilada Pairing
Beaujolais is a light and fruity red wine with lots of crisp acidity to keep your mouth refreshed. Beaujolais, in and of itself, might be a little too light with an Enchilada, so I’d strive for a Beaujolais-Villages, which is the same wine but has a touch more ageing to give it more personality.
Beaujolais is always best served slightly chilled, as this promotes its fruity strawberry, cherry and cranberry flavours to shine brightly.
Lambrusco & Enchilada Pairing
Lambrusco used to be considered the soda-pop of the wine world as it was a sticky-sweet red wine during the 1970s that I’m guessing was popular with teenagers as the sweetness masked the alcohol content, much like peach schnapps or hard lemonade are today.
While your Italian grandmother might still have a bottle of Lambrusco tucked away in her fridge, modern expressions of Lambrusco tend to be drier, while remaining a touch fizzy. My preference would be a Lambrusco Maestri, which is a slightly bolder version of Lambrusco, that remains fruity and slightly fizzy, but you’ll find hints of chocolate and grape flavours which will hold up to the smothering Enchilada flavours.
Cava & Enchilada Pairing
Like Reisling, sparkling wines like Cava go with just about everything. The acidity, plus the bubbles, ensure your palate is always sparkling clean. Cracking a bottle open also brings a lot of joy, as it stirs up a celebratory atmosphere.
Cava is the Spanish expression of sparkling wine, and they’ve created a dry sparkling wine with notes of citrus along with a touch of nuttiness. I find the nutty flavours complement the rice stuffed within the Enchilada, which makes me recommend Cava slightly more than other sparkling wines such as Prosecco or Champagne.