5 Unexpected Wine Pairings You'd Never Think to Try (but Taste Amazing)

Go beyond steak and cab with these unique wine pairing ideas that work surprisingly well.

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"What grows together goes together," goes the old truism in the wine pairing world. In other words, when in doubt, you'll likely be on a tasty track if you serve a wine made with grapes that grow in one country with a classic dish from that same area (say, Italian chianti and a Margherita pizza).

But what if you're planning to savor a supper of fast food, food truck fare, or cuisine from a region not known for wine? As a general rule, any varietal you enjoy drinking on its own will work with your preferred foods.

pouring wine
Cropped close up of couple pouring rose wine in forest. Chad Springer

But if you're open to experimenting and are looking for some inspiration, consider these unique wine pairing ideas that either complement or contrast the flavors and weight of the recipes to make both your dinner and your drink taste even better together.

Chef John's Buttermilk Fried Chicken

1. Fried Chicken and Sparkling Wine

You might be more familiar with pairing Champagne with cheese, chocolate, or 11:59 p.m. on December 31, but it pairs surprisingly well with salty fried foods like fried chicken, potato chips, and French fries. That's because Champagne (and other sparkling wines like Spanish Cava and Italian Prosecco) have enough acidity to cut through the fatty snacks, and the bubbles help lighten up the palate, too.

Try it: Chef John's Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Buy it: Finke's Sparkling Chardonnay ($17.99; winc.com)

2. Tacos and Sauvignon Blanc

Take a break from margaritas — just for one night — to try this unique wine pairing idea next Taco Tuesday. Crisp and citrus-forward sauvignon blanc pairs beautifully with many Mexican dishes, especially tacos. Just think: Many traditional street tacos come with a fresh lime wedge to squeeze on top, so the just-acidic-enough, lime-flavored white wine will work beautifully to wash down that spicy filling.

Try it: Ground Beef with Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Buy it: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($16.99; wine.com)

Indian Tandoori Chicken

3. Indian Food and Sparkling Rosé

Beer, tea, or water are more common Indian food drink pairings, but we're fond of fizzy, dry and berry-forward sparkling rosés. The effervescence will help cool off any chiles included in the Indian food recipe, while the fruit flavors will balance out the warm spices like cumin or coriander.

Try it: Indian Tandoori Chicken

Buy it: Lubanzi Rosé Bubbles ($20 for four 250-milliliter cans; lubanzi.com)

4. Chili and Shiraz/Syrah

Rich in body and bold with peppery notes, the definition of syrah/shiraz (same grape, just varies by name based on where it's grown) sounds remarkably similar to how you might explain a bowl of chili. If you're more into complementary wine pairings than contrasting ones, try this next tailgate or at-home chili night. The tannins — that mouth-drying quality that comes from a wine that's aged with the skins — help this red wine stand up to even the most powerful and spicy chili recipe.

Try it: Boilermaker Tailgate Chili

Buy it: Stolpman Vineyards Para Maria De Los Tecolotes Syrah ($19.99; wine.com)

Grilled Mushroom Swiss Burgers
Baking Nana

5. Beef Burgers and Bordeaux

With a pleasantly earthy flavor alongside the dark fruit of this French red wine, we recommend opening a bottle of Bordeaux instead of cracking open a can of beer for your next burger night — especially if said burger includes or is smothered in mushrooms, another lusciously earthy item. (Wine pairing pro tip: For pork or turkey burgers, you might want to consider pinot noir.)

Try it: Grilled Mushroom Swiss Burgers

Buy it: Chateau de Francs Les Cerisiers Bordeaux Red Blend ($19.99; wine.com)

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