At the end of a long shift spent pouring glasses, opening bottles, and answering questions about oak aging in haute restaurants, sommeliers want nothing more than to kick up their feet and relax with something tasty and unfussy. As you might imagine, that includes a glass or two of wine—but what about that growling stomach?
A lot of somms know that wine is a delicious pairing for junk food, guilty-pleasure treats, and all manners of snacks and desserts. We asked sommeliers around the city to share their preferred wine (and in one case, beer) pairings for the diet-unfriendly foods they most crave.
Kimberly Prokoshyn, Rebelle:
"A guilty pleasure of mine is Kraft Mac & Cheese, with bacon, tomatoes, lots of cracked pepper and a delicious bottle of Champagne. It's darn good. Champagne just works with everything, especially fattier dishes—that I can testify to!"
Bryn Hagman, The Dutch
"Karthauserhof 'Kabinett' Riesling 2013 is amazing with spicy Indian take out. The wine is like liquidated sweet tarts but in a very good way. It's exactly what you want Riesling to be. The sweetness unlocks that tartness, and allows you to feel it all over your mouth. With a lot of Mosel Rieslings, the acid floods the back of your throat, but the sweetness here kind of counteracts that. A little bit of residual sugar is great when you're pairing a wine with spicy food."
Victoria James, Piora
"For staff meal at Piora, served family style while we're getting ready to open, hot dogs are a regular in the rotation. If there are leftovers after dinner service, nothing beats a dog topped with kraut and a glass of slightly chilled Savoie Mondeuse from André & Michel Quenard. This red grape is genetically the mother of Syrah, another French red grape. In the region of Savoie, located in Eastern France, the Mondeuse grape finds its own unique expression. The wine is lean with brambly fruit aromas, which juxtapose the richness and funkiness of the food. Slightly chilled, the bright acidity is even more pronounced, breaking up the rich meat. If they served this instead of beer at ball games, they would sell a lot more hot dogs!"
Caleb Ganzer, Compagnie de Vins Surnaturels
"My favorite late night junk food is the Chata Pata Paneer Roll from Thelewala, the tiny late night Indian Street Food restaurant on MacDougal Street. It's a wrap with Paneer, fried onions and what is essentially an Indian BBQ sauce. It's out of this world good. It's a little spicy, and the roll has a bright lime juice acidity. I have found that East Coast IPAs tend to work best with this late night hunger fix. The light, typically citrusy hops cut through the pepper spice and enhance the brightness of the roll. A current fave pairing is the Bronx Session IPA. I'm not normally an IPA lover but this one is relatively mild on the hops and it's quite the refreshing quaffer alongside this Paneer situation."
Eduardo Porto Carreiro, Untitled at The Whitney
"I'm a sucker for Original Pringles—the one that comes in the red canister—with Brut Rosé Champagne. I remember being on a road trip with some friends a few years back. There were several of us on a bus with a cooler of great wine, and someone had brought along a great bottle of Laherte Frères Brut Rosé Champagne. I had stocked up on Pringles for the ride. Once we tasted the combo of the bright, fresh, and raspberry scented Brut Rosé along with the salty and crunchy Pringles, we couldn't get enough of the pairing!
Also, when I used to live in L.A., there was a terrific late night taco truck a couple of blocks from my apartment. This truck churned out the best Al Pastor tacos that I've ever had, and my go-to pairing for it was vibrant young German Riesling. A youthful Kabinett from the Nahe or the Mosel was always a homerun with those late night snacks."
Dean Fuerth, Betony
"I have two favorite pairings. The first is demi-sec (off-dry) champagne and Chinese food. The fact that sparkling wine and greasy food are a harmonious match is no revelation, but I think the touch of added residual sugar here provides a nice juxtaposition alongside the umami quality of things like fried pork dumplings. The wine also complements the sweeter flavors found in egg rolls and sesame chicken, while warding off the tingly spiciness of Szechuan peppercorn.
Then, there's Coteaux du Layon, a sweet Chenin Blanc wine from the Loire Valley, in France, with cheesecake. I don't have much of a sweet tooth at the end of the day, but I absolutely love this pairing. I prefer a young Coteaux du Layon, as opposed to aged. The chalkiness and acidity of this wine works great texturally with the cream cheese component. The wine, since it is late harvested to retain the residual sugar in the grapes, holds flavors of candied Golden Delicious apple and Anjou pear, perfectly complementing the sweetness of cheesecake."
Guillem Kerambrun, Benoit
"Cheese is my one, true guilty pleasure. My favorite one is when I open an older bottle of Champagne Blanc de Blancs to have with a creamy, flowing Camembert, because the flavor and the mostly sparkling nature of the wine enhances the amazing flavor of the cheese."
Rachel Signer is a food and wine journalist based in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.