Chipotle Wine Pairings

What pairs best with your burrito - and more!


We are at it again! Looking to pair your favorite foods with wines that work. It’s not always easy and some people don’t even think it’s worth the time. The truth is we can’t always sit down to a crown roast, but that should not mean we can’t enjoy a glass of wine with our dinner.

Today’s installment sees us pairing the Mexican fare of Chipotle with wine. At first glance, this might seem like a pretty simple task. Mexican food can seem like a simple rearrangement of basic core ingredients (which is true), but every combination happens to yield something different and each of those dishes presented their own wine-related challenges. Spicy, tart, oily, savory, vegetal, the flavors ran the gamut and most dishes had a winner, but only one wine went with almost everything – a $10 gem that surprised me!

The Wine List

I chose another broad spectrum of wines to pair with Chipotle, as I did last time for our McDonald’s. While you can search out these specific wines, I suggest you treat these simply as representative examples of their types and look for the type that seems to appeal to you.

2009 Alamos Torrontes, $10: An unoaked, bright white wine.

2010 Kenwood Chardonnay, $10: A modestly oaked Chardonnay.

2010 Cupcake Riesling, $10: A gentle, sweet white wine.

2010 Pianissimo Rosé of Malbec,$12: A fuller style of rose.

2009 Kris Pinot Noir, $13: A light style Pinot Noir.

2008 Valley of the Moon Zinfandel, $13: A full-bodied red.

2010 Jam Jar Shiraz, $10: A sweet red wine.

The Menu

We went all out and loaded up on all your Chipotle favorites. As I will always do, I tasted the food as it was prepared, forgoing the salsa and sour cream that can really change the way the wines and dishes interact; so keep that in mind when considering the pairings.

Pork Carnitas: soft and crispy tacos
Adobo-marinated Chicken: soft and crispy tacos
Barbacoa Beef: soft and crispy tacos

Vegetarian Burrito
Chicken Burrito
Steak Fajita Burrito

Chicken Tacos

You wouldn’t think that a tortilla would have a big effect on a wine pairing, what with the cheese, chicken, salsa and lettuce being the same overpowering part of the dish; but in reality, the warm flour soft shell turned out to be a much more wine-friendly choice than the sweet and somewhat greasy crispy corn tortilla.

Having said that, this dish was pretty easy to pair with the white wines, but the reds tend to overpower the dish. The adobo’s sweetness made it a challenge for the rosé and Pinot, something I had not thought about, stripping the fruit out a bit. The whites on the other hand tended to pick up on that sweetness, throwing the wines off balance.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

One wine really stood out in the chicken taco pairings: the Kenwood Chardonnay. I’m not usually a big fan of Chardonnay, but this wine really worked perfectly with the chicken tacos. The dish tempered the toastiness of the wine and somehow the combination highlighted both the creaminess of the wine and its bright fruit.

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Pork Tacos

The pork tacos were only marginally different from the chicken tacos and once again I found that the flour tortilla made for an easier pairing. But in this case, there turned out to be distinctly different winners for each. The added fat of the pork, not to mention the corn tortilla, overpowered the Torrontes and flattened out the fruit of all the reds. The rosé worked fairly well with both taco shells, showing good fruit, but lacking the intensity to really hold up against the richness of the pork.

A Pair of Winners

There were two winners with the pork tacos. The Riesling worked best with the crispy pork taco. It was still fairly sweet, but the fruit really handled the flavors well, with the sweetness of the corn tortilla complementing the sweetness of the wine.

The flour tortilla, on the other hand, created a really fine textural blend with the Kris Pinot Noir. The intensity of both the wine and the pork were well-matched as well, allowing every flavor element of both the taco and the wine to express themselves, a really successful pairing!

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Barbacoa Tacos

The beef barbacoa is fairly intensely flavored and negated much of the difference between the two taco shells. The whites really didn’t have much of a chance here, though the Chardonnay exhibited a fine leanness with the beef, somehow gently accentuated by the toasty sweetness of the wine. The Jam Jar began to find its groove with the beef, offering nice sweet/spicy interplay of flavors that reduced the overt sweetness of the wine. The Pinot, on the other hand, just lacked the intensity necessary to pair with the beef.

Say What?

And that leaves the rosé as the winning pairing here. In this case, the rosé offered a nice contrasting pairing to the beef. The bright freshness of the wine was a cleansing counterpoint to the richness of the beef. A lighter rosé would have been crushed by the beef, but if you look for one with a little bit of richness and some savory depth of flavor, you won’t be disappointed with this pairing.

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  • Very entertaining piece. I am a Chipotle Veggie Bowl regular and I've often taken my food to go, sat down at home and tried to decide if I should bother opening a bottle of wine, only to find out it clashed with the flavors. Reislings do tend to taste good with mexican food, though. Thanks!

    Jun 22, 2011 at 3:07 PM

  • Snooth User: ichito
    46202 103

    with all due respect, but those of us familliar with "real mexican", cuisine, the only drink that pairs well with the food is beer. You see, a successful taco is well dressed with salsa, this naturally will tend to overpower, unless one is used or is inclined to use a milder type.
    I found that mild chipotle pairs well with a white that is more oakley, like a California Chardonnay, since chipotle has this smokey taste.Stronger salsa, and you would switch to beer, it handles it better.
    For me wines are best for a lot more refined mexican cuisine, that does not relay so much on strong spices. Like the dishes from the east.

    Jun 22, 2011 at 3:16 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,943

    Holy moly, Greg, you're earning your way towards a medal (and likely a health check) if this series continues further.

    'Real Mexican' really has nothing to do with these dishes. This is TexMex (or CalMex), with a hint of Brazil, transliterated from its native US regions by chains, etc. to the remote eastern seaboard. Nothing to do with the sauces of Oaxaca, or of Veracruz, or of a dozen other lregions, and all sorts of other preparations of meat and fish, much less tortillas.

    But the mission Greg defined is a useful one. I usually go for beer, too, but why not throw some wine in the mix with takeout? Still this is a much more difficult challenge than the McDonald's installment. Who is actually not going to use the salsa?

    Anyway, if your health holds up, Greg, keep it up. I can invision another dozen or two or three of some interesting matches....

    Jun 22, 2011 at 8:27 PM

  • Snooth User: SandraG05
    870339 9

    I too love Mexican Food, both TexMex and the authentic dishes. I often try to pair my foods with wines from the region where the cuisine is from but have found it hard to get Mexican wines in the US. Mexican beer and tequila is everywhere but where’s the wine? I’ve heard Baja is making some great wines and they’re coming to the states through Baja Wines, anyone know more about this?

    Jun 23, 2011 at 12:07 PM

  • Snooth User: Huaino
    811541 105

    Tasty article, but ...what happened to fish tacos (ahi tuna) and giving a vino Mexicano a try ??!! (I live near Ensenada, Baja CA., their place of origin and also the epicenter of the ground-gaining Mexican wine industry).
    If I may, a suggested article if you are not familiar with this interesting trend known as 'Baja Med'(iterraenian), a renaissance of food and wine happening in northern Baja:

    Salud y buen provecho !

    Jun 23, 2011 at 12:22 PM

  • Snooth User: karat
    541180 345

    thanks greg - now i'm craving mexican. never gave much thought to the wine pairings past sangria (and the beer mentioned above!) but i'm going to try some of those whites. my mom is coming to town and i'm seeing chipotle and a few of these suggestions on the menu!

    Jun 23, 2011 at 11:52 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    Thanks everybody! Yes I'm going to do my best and see what works with all the most popular restaurants here in the states, and then some of the less popular. No fish tacos here in NYC's Chipotle, but a trip to Rubios might be in the cards!

    Baja, will have to follow, maybe very closely indeed!

    Jun 24, 2011 at 6:10 AM

  • Snooth User: esstee1
    837917 15

    I don't like Chipotle however I think this is a great article & shared with my friends that do.... :)

    Jun 29, 2011 at 5:18 AM

  • Snooth User: lakenvelder
    Hand of Snooth
    544484 519

    We eat a lot of Mexican food but it is mostly prepared at home. Chardonnay is what I have found too to go well with the spicy meal. Riesling is another one.

    Aug 15, 2012 at 5:18 PM

  • good

    Aug 30, 2013 at 2:52 AM

  • wonderful

    Aug 31, 2013 at 4:59 AM

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