Cheetos And Sancerre: The Pandemic Art Of Junk Food And Wine Pairings

Posted: Feb 11, 2021

It took a bag of Cheetos and pile of Arby’s roast beef sandwiches to remind me that wine can be a culinary experience. That, and Vanessa Price’s book "Big Macs & Burgundy."

I don’t think I’m alone in viewing wine for the last year as just one of the major food groups seeing us through pandemic life. I’d honestly forgotten the joy of appreciating a new-to-me bottle, when COVID-19 has called for a box of wine that I serve in bistro glasses to be on the grocery list on repeat. Besides, I’m more of a bourbon girl.

Then I heard about this book written by a fellow Louisvillian that pairs nice (read: not boxed, and upwards of single digit price tags) wines with the food we eat in the real world. Yes, Cheetos. Also grocery store sushi (Grüner Veltliner); Trader Joe’s cult favorite cauliflower gnocchi (Langhe Nebbiolo); Krispy Kreme doughnuts (Crémant de Bourgogne), cheap pizza (Montepulciano D’Abruzzo); and Shack Burgers (Australian Shiraz). And suddenly nothing in the world sounded better than a tasting menu of junk food with wine paired by an expert who wants us to understand wine doesn’t have to be a stuffy, snooty affair reserved for fancy dinners. No, even breakfast cereal (Lucky Charms!) and ice cream deserve a wine pairing.

So I called my trusty quarantine crew to reel them in to this dietary catastrophe, and spent a delicious afternoon studying the book and dreaming up an epic wine pairing event at home. Better still, when I got to my local wine shop, Louisville’s institution Old Town, the employee helping me with my shopping list was thrilled to hear about the project. She grabbed her copy of the book, because she, too, is excited to try the pairings, and steered me to reasonably priced bottles (all below 30 bucks) that would go with my dream team line-up of junk food — even going so far as to lend me her copy since I only had an e-version and wanted the pleasure of flipping through the pages.

Maybe it’s a result of a year without jet travel or splashy restaurant experiences, or the fact that I so rarely eat the likes of these foods, but I was nothing short of giddy at the promise of the dinner (do you call it dinner when there’s not a vegetable to be found?).

By Dana McMahan
February 8, 2021

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