Frequent Fryer: Top Pairings for Fried Foods

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By Courtney Cochran

As the chorus of tirades against trans fats swells to an almost deafening roar, it seems only just to pen a counter piece on fried foods.  After all, Americans still splurge - some more often than they'll admit around calorie-obsessed pals - on fare that's seen the fryer.

If the Fare Fits
And it just so happens that when it comes to the universe of food, fried items are among the most in need of a glass of wine to lend levity to their full flavors.  That's right, trans- or no, fats of all stripes are responsible for making dishes seem rich and filling thanks to fats' savory taste profile, while the highly seasoned (and yes, highly caloric) breading batter in which fried foods are often immersed prior to cooking packs some seriously intense flavors, as well. 
Happily, wine - thanks to its signature high acidity - is just the thing to mitigate all of this intensity. Wine, you see, performs the same mitigating role as a lime that's served alongside fatty and spicy Mexican fare - it cools your palate and readies it for its next bite of über rich chimichanga or tantalizingly crispy taquito.  And while, in this sense, wine is also - as your calorie-counting cronies may harang - an enabler of fatty fare consumption, it's also one half of a seriously glorious food and wine marriage.  It's a marriage that I firmly believe ought to be enjoyed with full abandon - just not, perhaps, with great frequency.   

Wine Best Bets
But really - if you're going to splurge on something that's seen the fryer, you might as well go the whole hog - wine and all.  And if you do decide to partake (to heck with those calorie-conscious hecklers!), here are a few of my favorite wines for the job:  

Bubble Bubble
Sparkling wines tend to pack lots of refreshing acidity alongside zippy bubbles whose lively texture seems tailor made for pairing with crispy fried fare.  Try a cool climate bubbly from Anderson Valley's Roederer Estate with savory and salty fish and chips - the wine's lemon squirt flavors are just the thing to marry with this mega rich dish.

Advantage Albariño
The darling grape of northwestern Spain, tangy, medium-bodied Albariño is now being made by a handful of adventurous vintners stateside.  Try Hendry Ranch's Napa Valley Albariño for a lime-driven white with tasty banana and herbal notes that's just the thing for sipping with jalapeño poppers or fried green tomatoes.

Rightly Riesling
Particularly when it comes to highly salted fried fare (French fries, anyone?) little pairs better than a crisp, lightly sweet Riesling.  The wine's sweetness plays deftly off of the saltiness in the food, while the wine's light body is a stellar foil to the richness of the dish.  Try versions from Germany's Dr. Loosen or Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle.    

Beaujolais & Beyond
If red is your bag, reach for a crisp, fruity Beaujolais-Villages from eastern France (I like Georges Duboeuf's eponymous renderings).  These easy drinking reds are low in tannin - rarely a friend to food! - and offer up bright fruit flavors that partner superbly with fried fare like calamari and fried chicken.  For a bubbly take on red (remember, bubbles are terrific with food that's seen the fryer), try sparkling Shiraz from Australia; Fox Creek makes superb versions. 

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