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Top 10 fine wine and junk food pairings

While we’d all love to be able to kick back on a Tuesday night with a rare fillet steak slathered in truffle butter, some nights you find yourself staring into an empty fridge with a growling tummy.

If you do succumb to a takeaway, the wine side of things needn’t have to suffer. In fact, pairing fine wine with junk food can be a joyous voyage of discovery. It’s a well known secret in the wine trade that many of us enjoy cracking open a bottle of vintage Champagne to enjoy with our fish ‘n’ chips on a Friday night.

But with the continued meteoric rise of casual dining and the emergence of the single dish restaurants, everything from burgers, hot dogs and fried chicken have been given the gourmet treatment and deserve to be paired with a decent drop.

There’s something wonderfully irreverent and subversive about drinking a fine wine with fast food – the Sideways experience if you will. Read on for our round-up of top 10 fine wine and junk food pairings. If it inspires you do try one of them out or ignites your rage, then let us know in the comment box below. Bon appétit!

1: Krug and fish ‘n’ chips

There are fewer more enjoyable things in life than a bottle of vintage Krug paired with a generous plate of crispy fried fish and fluffy chips. The lightness and freshness of the Champagne cuts through the fat and lifts the ensemble to heavenly heights. Madonna admitted on Twitter that her guilty pleasure was Krug and French fries – and if it’s good enough for Madge…

Salon works equally well as a Champagne pairing for fish ‘n’ chips – a few years ago Corney & Barrow had the canny idea of launching the 1999 vintage at posh chippy Geales in Notting Hill, which turned out to be one of the most memorable lunches I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy since working in the wine trade.

2: Popcorn and Puligny-Montrachet

Okay, so I haven’t officially put this one to the test but I imagine it would be a match made in food and wine heaven – the rich, creamy, buttery notes of the Puligny echoing the flavours in the warm salted popcorn. To enhance the pairing further, enjoy with a French classic like Un Homme et une Femme or À Bout De Souffle.

3: Pizza and Barolo

An Italian dish requires and Italian wine, and, depending on the topping, few would make for a more wonderful union than a top Barolo from Piedmont, the power of the wine working well with the rusticity of the dish and the acidity of the tomato base. For the full-on Piedmont experience, add white truffles.

4: Palo Cortado and a salted caramel donut

Sherry remains one of the world’s best value wines, and for me, Palo Cortado is the king of the category. Just thinking about how well it would pair with one of St. John’s famous salted caramel donuts is enough to make me want to jump on the next tube to Farringdon. Rich enough to stand up to the donut’s heavy hitting flavours, but with enough acidity to dance through the grease, the two go together like Ginger and Fred.

5: DRC and a hotdog

Unfortunately I’ve yet to try out this winning combo, but Pinot Noir and pork make for fine bedfellows, the delicacy of the red respecting the graceful flavours of the meat with enough bite to tackle the fat. For the full-on decadent experience, go for an older vintage of DRC, La Tâché, Richebourg or Echezeaux and watch while others weep with envy. 

6: JJ Prum and a curry

Pairing wine with spicy food is notoriously tricky, but aromatic whites are generally considered to work the best, particularly if there’s a bit of sweetness in the mix to pair with the spice, so a J.J Prum Spätlese should be heavenly with a chicken tikka masala, or a korma, rogan josh or madras for that matter.

7: Chave and a burger

While there are arguably a lot of hearty reds that would pair perfectly with a dirty burger, for the sake of this feature we’re looking at the top of the wine tree, so a Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage would certainly hit the spot, the warm, spicy notes in the wine complementing the rich, juicy meat.

8: Rioja Gran Reserva and a kebab

We all know Rioja is pretty much the best wine out there to pair with lamb, so a silky gran reserva will work a treat with a shish kebab, harmonising with the herbs in the meat and slicing through the fat with its silky tannins.

9: Catena and chocolate

Rather like wine and cheese pairing, the chocolate and wine matching debate is one that continues to divide the wine world, but in Malbec we may have found the ultimate match. Given the grape’s rich, chocolatey character, if paired with decent chocolate, the two harmonize beautifully and become inextricably linked, enhancing the other’s flavour. Forget Port, it’s all about Catena with your cocoa.

10: Silex and fried chicken

Given the quantity of fat and grease involved, fried chicken needs a fine wine that’s super light on its feet to cut through the fat like a Samurai sword through silk. Enter Silex, created by the late, great, “wild man of Pouilly”, Didiger Dagueneau. Made from 80-year-old Sauvignon Blanc vines on flint soil, the wine combines richness and power with minerality and freshness, making it an ideal companion for KFC with its mouth-watering notes of citrus and herbs.

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