Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
But if you want to put on a palate-pleasing taco catering dinner, it helps to understand how the beverage can complement the food.
Gourmands often assume that Mexican food, tacos in particular, are to be consumed with Mexican beer or tequila. Indeed, the German settlers in Mexico and Texas have a lot to do with that impression. But in fact grapes for wine were some of the earliest imports from Spain to the New World, dating back to the 16th century when Mexico’s venerable wine traditions began. Tequila traditions (fermented agave and mescal, what was called pulque) have pre-Columbian roots in Mesoamerican religion. The Mexican beers are popular but far from required for finer taco dining.
So how does one accomplish wine pairings with the pedestrian taco? We perused the oenophile files of articles on the topic – reviewing excellent articles from WineFolly.com, WineSpectator.com and WineWelfare.com – to discover some fundamental ideas on where vino meets salsa. The better taco caterers might be familiar with these rules of thumb:
Respect your own tastes – If your selection of a taco cart catering company is because of their menu (as it should be), don’t immediately allow a wine selection to be a determinant factor. Wine Spectator says “choose a wine that you would want to drink by itself…the same holds true for the food: if you detest liver, there is no wine pairing with it on earth that will work for you.”
It’s about balance – Pair heavy with heavy and light with light. For example, if you a mobile taco catering crew for an event and you theme it to tilapia tacos, your wine more likely will be a lighter Soave. But if the dish is a carne asada, with a higher level of fat and perhaps a higher spiciness temperature, you might lean toward a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sometimes the sauce speaks the loudest – Very good taco caterers typically offer a list of signature sauces and salsas that might have inspired the chef on his last trip to Puebla (about 75 miles from Mexico City, known for its cuisine). Those sauces sometimes can be very hot or, in the case of a rich mole sauce, dominant in the dish even without a lot of capsaicin (chili spice heat). So if it’s a chicken taco with a fiery sauce, or a taco filled with chorizo with crushed arbol chili, the diner might prefer the balance of a sweet, chilled wine (Moscato d’Asti, perhaps).
But there is a short list – Not everyone has the nose, palate or patience for divining the pairing based on the above criteria (hey, we’re all busy!). So WineWelfare.com gives us this cheat sheet: Chicken tacos are best with Reislings, Gewurtztraminers or sparkling wines and champagnes. Beef tacos in citrus marinades match up with the acidity of Rieslings, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrahs and light red table wines. Pork tacos are good with a Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, a dry Riesling or a rosé. And Fish tacos are excellent with a Chardonnay, Grenace, Pinot Blanc, Chenin Blanc, a Rosé or a sparkling wine or champagne.
Does this mean dispense with the mobile margarita bar? Talk to your taco caterer about your anticipated crowd. They should know how much variety to offer based on the demographics of your guests.