Restaurants may be inching their way open in some cities, but, let’s face it, we’ve started to get used to the idea of eating takeout from the safety of our patios, porches, and roofs (if we’re lucky enough to have access). If the aforementioned isn’t available, a nicely set dining table with some retro tunes and a cool summer breeze blowing through the room ain’t half bad either.
Indian, Chinese, Mediterranean, and BBQ often beckon different wine styles to complement and balance their unique flavors. Like a well-practiced comedy duo, food and a good wine pairing deftly play off of the other one’s strengths, making the entire experience that much better. Another way to level up your takeout dinner affair to a more exciting place is with a perfect wine pairing. Our favorite takeout cuisines, like
So instead of just reaching for the first bottle with a pretty label (no shade), why not put a little research in, or better yet, let an expert like Mercado Little Spain’s Beverage Director, AJ Ojeda-Pons, guide you toward the right bottle of fermented grape juice. We pressed this knowledgeable wine fella who runs the wine program for one of New York’s best Spanish eateries for his thoughts on what wines to uncork with some of the most popular takeout cuisines and dishes. We even slid in some links to buy his wine selections online so you don’t have to brave the liquor store IRL.
Cheers! Don’t forget to tip the delivery guy.
- Spicy green curry
- Butter chicken or chicken tikka masala (cream curry)
Wines to Try:
The general rule for spicy dishes is to go for a sweeter wine, and the default answer is usually Riesling or something along those lines. I like to experiment with other grape varieties, including reds. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good Pinot Gris from Alsace or a Jurancon from the Southwest of France—even a full-bodied Chardonnay is a good match. There are so many different spices and aromas that a single wine pairing is almost moot.
Related Reading: Chetna Makan Dishes on Her Favorite Spice & More
For Indian cuisine, I have tried a broad range of wines, from the racy, mineral, focused wines to the rich and creamy bold ones. I love Austrian Grüner Veltliner with Indian food. The bright white fruits, elegant, crisp, flinty notes, citrus acidity, and stony minerality pair well with these dishes.
- Beef with broccoli
- Peking duck with sweet hoisin sauce
Wine to Try:
- Muri Gries, Lagrein Rosso, from the basin of Bolzano in Südtirol/Alto Adige, Italy
Chinese food is another cuisine that is super fun to explore when it comes to wine pairings. In fact, most somms in New York City know the best places to go in Chinatown—many of them BYOB. We often get together in large groups and each somm brings a bottle (or two, or three). Then we order everything on the menu and share the different wines as they go around.
Related Reading: The History of Peking Duck: What It Takes to Get That Crispy Skin
For me, bubbles have always been a go-to, as well as off-dry German and bone-dry New Zealand Rieslings. We’ve been surprised by some great Valtellina from Piedmont, too. I am going Alpine here, to the region of Südtirol/Alto Adige in the Northwest of Italy specifically, and an ideal red grape to have with Chinese food. With its red/black fruit character, notes of violets, and spicy aromas, I recommend a hearty Lagrein. Its savory, spicy, mineral character and elegant velvety tannins go well with both of these classic Chinese dishes.
- Thai coconut and lemongrass soup
- Pad Thai
Wine to Try:
I have a fun surprise on this pairing. I absolutely love Thai food and every dish I generally order is an explosion of flavors. I particularly like the flavor combination of coconut and lemongrass. I had friends over for takeout dinner, back in the days where we could get together and watch movies and order in, and we had six bottles that we drank between the four of us. During the movie, our commentary was based on the blind wines we were having with the (too many) dishes we ordered from our favorite Thai spot around the corner. The winner—to our surprise and delight—(because of the amount of white and yellow fruits and layers of tropical fruits with elegance and good acid) was a domestic Viognier from Santa Barbara. Try it and you won’t be disappointed.
- Assorted sushi (tuna, salmon, eel, crab)
- Chicken teriyaki
Wine to Try:
- Julian Ostoloza Manterola ‘Gañeta,’ Getariako Txakolina, Basque Country, Spain
With Japanese food, I tend to go more delicate than not, especially with assorted sushi. But when teriyaki is in play, the game is acid and a touch of restraint. I go for more zippy, dry, crisp, refreshing wines here, and Spain is not short on them when you are selecting from Galicia and Basque. I also tend to drink bubbles with sushi, and when I want the best of both worlds I’ll choose a vibrant, lemony Txakoli from Getaria in the Basque region of Spain.
Related Reading: Omakase: The Popular Japanese Tasting Tradition Explained
- Lamb shawarma
- Falafel and chicken platter with tahini and hummus
Wines to Try:
- Dolores Cabrera Fernández, ‘La Araucaria’ Tinto, Valle de la Orotava, Canary Islands
- Luis Seabra “Xisto Ilimitado” from the Douro in Portugal
Mediterranean food is particularly fun to pair wines with anywhere from Morocco to Spain, France, Italy, and Greece. But going with the theme of warm weather and stunning places, I went a bit further down the coast of Africa to the Canary Islands and picked a Dolores Cabrera Fernández with bright red fruits and black pepper and Volcanic-mineral character.It’s a bit funky and definitely earthy, but with great texture and versatility. If you want to go more mainstream, try this terrific Portuguese blend full of red fruits, hints of smoke, and a terrific tannic structure.
- Pizza margherita
- Chicken/veal/eggplant parmigiana with marinara sauce
- Cacio e Pepe or spaghetti carbonara
Wines to Try:
Here we have three very contrasting dishes: One American by origin, and the second and third very traditional Italian, which merit the selection of two quite different wines. With pizza or anything featuring the ubiquitous red sauce, I chose a terrific big, bold, chewy, smoky wine from Cilento in Campania, southern Italy: De Conciliis, Donnaluna Aglianico, Campania. As for the Cacio e pepe and carbonara, considering the richness and spice, I am going for an easygoing yet delicious, balanced, and creamy white Falesco Tellus Chardonnay from Umbria.
- Fried chicken and mashed potatoes
- BBQ ribs or pulled pork (sweet sauce)
Wines to Try:
- Mariotti, Bianco Dell’ Emilia ‘Smarazen’ Emilia-Romagna, Italy
- La Caravelle Brut Rosé Champagne, France
- Turley “Fredericks Vineyard” Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California
Fried chicken? Bubbles all the way. You need the refreshing, cleansing acid and bubbles to wash away the richness of the oil, and they really go well with the flavor of the breading (especially if it is a bit spicy). But there’s a catch, try a sparkling rosé or pét-nat. I love the ones made with Malvasia or other aromatic varietals like Mariotti, Bianco Dell’Emilia ‘Smarazen’ Emilia-Romagna. Or if you feel like splurging a bit more, try a rosé Champagne, like La Caravelle Brut Rosé Champagne.
For BBQ ribs I like to match bold and rich and sweet and somewhat vinegary with a bold, juicy, concentrated wine like a Zinfandel or a big and bold Grenache and Carignan blend from Priorat like the Turley “Fredericks Vineyard” Zinfandel from Sonoma County, California.
- Burger or steak and French fries
- Fried chicken sandwich with spicy aioli and pickles
Wine to Try
- Babylonstoren ‘Babel’ Western Cape, South Africa
For all the wines that I have had with burgers and fries and fried chicken sandwiches, there is one we always keep in stock around the house. It ticks all the boxes if you are a Cabernet or Merlot lover, and it’s really a lovely blend from one of the most beautiful wineries on the planet. It is also well-balanced with all the sauces and toppings you may want to add to a burger or sandwich.
- Jerk chicken with rice and beans
- Spiced Jamaican beef patties
Wines to Try:
- Domaine Weinbach, Gewürztraminer “Réserve Personnelle” Alsace
- Clos Des Fous “Pour Ma Gueule” Maule Valley, Chile
For this cuisine, I don’t mind going with a rich, aromatic, floral wine, and perhaps even something on the sweeter side. I chose another iconic Alsatian varietal, Gewürztraminer with notes of lychee, roses, and spices, that would be an amazing sidekick to jerk chicken and beef patties. Domaine Weinbach, Gewürztraminer “Réserve Personnelle” Alsace, is my selection here. If you insist on red, go wild and try a smoky and crunchy red-fruited Pais from Chile.
Header image courtesy of Getty Images / Charday Penn