Wines to Pair with Southwestern Cuisine

Southwestern Cuisine – some rights reserved by stevendepolo

It’s Saturday morning Bears! Since we’re playing a team from the spicy state of AZ, today’s focus is on wines that pair well with Southwestern cuisine.

You might be somebody who reaches for a beer at the very mention of spicy Southwestern food. Beer is an incredibly refreshing complement to a spicy meal. But the right wines can be an amazing addition to a spicy meal as well. According to, wine can “complement spicy flavors in one of two ways: First, wine’s acidity boosts the layers of flavors in a dish while softening its extremes… Second, wine’s fruitiness or sweetness tones down spicy heat, letting the dish’s other flavors shine.”

On the wine and food-pairing front, I’m a big advocate of experimentation. I love the idea of serving a few different wines with a spicy meal and having everybody try the wines and talk about which ones they like best with which dishes and why. While I love experimenting, I do have two gotcha advisories:

  1. Avoid Chardonnay. This wonderful white wine just doesn’t work well with spicy food. The exception is a sweet Chardonnay, but these are hard to find.
  2. Avoid heavy red wines. These wines are also a bad fit. They will compete with the food in unpleasant ways and result in a very heavy tasting experience.

Now for my recommendations. Southwestern dishes typically feature chili, lime, citrus and cilantro. These flavors pair beautifully with a similarly tangy, herbal wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc. If your dish has a lot of meat in it, you might want to look for a Fumé Blanc, which is a Sauvignon Blanc aged in oak.

Regardless of which wines you serve, make sue to have fun before the game, during the game and after the game 🙂



Betty Kaufman is a wine lover and a consummate wine student. Her love of wine started when she was a student at Berkeley. Back then, wineries didn’t check IDs the way they do now. So it was a lot of fun to head up to the wine country and be treated as an adult. Over time, she grew to really appreciate wine and the wine country lifestyle – the laughter, the clinking of glasses, the good food, the friends, the deliberate pace.

Her wine career started in 2006, after nearly 20 years in high-tech marketing, when she became an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home.

One of her favorite things about wine is that you always get to be a student. Whether you know a lot or a little about wine, there’s always more to learn. Betty really enjoys learning about wine and helping others explore the world of wine.

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