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How to Pair Wine with Nachos

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In the 1990s, America’s heartland was obsessed with nacho cheese—the golden-yellow, ooey-gooey dip you couldn’t wait to sink your tortilla chips and soft pretzel bites into. Though you couldn’t really call the plastic chip-and-dip platter at the local roller rink, sports game or movie theater “nachos” per se, so many of us cut our teeth on those nacho flavors that it became an unforgettable taste. It seems, too, that it’s back in full force—if nachos-centric restaurants like Vamos. Vamos in Santa Monica and fancy snacks like the crab and uni nachos at Empellón in New York City are any indicator. 

The ubiquitous dish has so seamlessly assimilated into American culture that many of us forget about its Mexican heritage. The dish was born in the 1940s, in a small town just across the Texas border called Piedras Negras, Coahuila. As the legend goes, a crew of U.S. military wives dropped in and maître d’ Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya couldn’t find the cook, so he hastily threw some fried chips, cheese and jalapeño together under the broiler. The addictive snack spread like wildfire across Texas, and the rest is happy hour history.

You May Also Like: From Guac to Pimento Cheese, How to Pair Dips with Wine

Like most bar foods, nachos have been upgraded over the years, from simple renditions topped with cheese and chilis to brisket-crowned versions and even “totchos”—that’s tater tot nachos, for those unfamiliar with the lingo. In spite of the dish’s glow-up, it’s still far more common to wash nachos down with beer or a margarita rather than a nice glass of wine—a major mistake.

“A beer like Tecate might cleanse the palate and you don’t have to think about it, but for people who love wine and flavor, it’s so much more exciting to layer more flavor,” says Rebecca Phillips, co-owner and wine director of Los Angeles’s Vintage Wine + Eats and Buvette LA. “Wine can have a beginning, a middle and an end with a long finish, and with a beverage that’s so complex and so much on its own, to pair it with a dish like nachos, you’re really cranking the dial. You’ve elevated the whole situation—not because it’s fancy, but because of the additional flavor.”

She has a point. If we can dress up nachos with steak and nopales, why can’t we dial it up another level with a well-matched wine? We took to the pros to find out how to do it. Here are the best nacho and wine pairings, according to sommeliers.

Nachos and Guac on red tablecloth
Photo by Scott Suchman

The Best Wine for Classic Nachos: California Cabernet Franc

Classic nachos—the kind you might find in a sports bar or neighborhood pub—often come piled high with seasoned beef, black beans, queso, sour cream, jalapeños and other toppings. Phillips, who has been posting “Fast Food Fridays” wine pairings on her Instagram account for five years, says it requires a wine that can stand up to all “the salt, the spice, the fat, the acid, the heat.” Her favorite pairing is a just-as-multifaceted California Cabernet Franc, which often boasts notes of caramelized fruit, like red raspberry and ripe blueberry, as well as poblano pepper, jalapeno and “dusty basement vibes” from the pyrazine.

“The bigger fruit from the New World version can stand up to bold flavors like beef and beans,” Phillips says. “And the pepper from the wine matches the nachos’ cumin, chili powder and pickled jalapeños so beautifully.”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Breaking Bread 2022 Mizany Vineyard Cabernet Franc (Dry Creek Valley)

Fruit-forward but also nicely structured, this light-bodied wine exudes fresh blackberries and raspberries that are lifted by good fruit acidity and restrained slightly by tannin. It’s remarkably appetizing and food friendly. Best through 2028. 92 Points — Jim Gordon

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

McGrail 2020 Cabernet Franc (Livermore Valley)

Deep ruby-purple in the glass, this 100% Cab Franc emits immediate aromas that speak to varietal specificity: light rose and violet petals interwoven with a mixture of red and black fruits. The palate offers a modest acidity against warming alcohol and a coarse tannic texture, knitting additional flavors of cacao and dried tomato leaf. 90 Points  — Stacy Briscoe

$52 McGrail Vineyards

The Best Wine for Chilaquiles: Chenin Blanc or Baja Wines

Chilaquiles—a dish of tortilla chips topped with salsa, queso fresco and whatever other ingredients the maker desires—are basically super flavorful nachos crossed with enchiladas. Master of wine Martin Reyes owner of importer WineWise and co-founder of Wine Unify, loves to make his own and sometimes turns it into a layered lasagna-like dish packed with beans, forbidden rice, squash, carrots and his own homemade enchilada sauce. His favorite pairings for these bold flavors are light-hearted and aren’t overly serious, much like a good Chenin Blanc. Following the age-old locavore ethos of “what grows together, goes together,” Reyes looks for examples from Baja Mexico.

“It’s easy to fall back on European wines, because that’s the hegemony, but there is plenty of wine that pairs easily with Latinx and Caribbean foods,” Reyes says. 

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Husch 2022 Chenin Blanc (Mendocino)

This juicy wine has a little extra spritz in conjunction with generous acidity that brings flavors to life. Notes of vibrant capsicum, cut grass, just-ripe pineapple, lime leaf, lemongrass and a sea-air salinity bring to mind a tropical island. Suggested pairings include Thai green curry, fresh crab cakes with mango salsa, or seafood ceviche. Best Buy. 92 Points  — S.B.

$15 Total Wine

Outward 2022 Cat Canyon Vineyard Chenin Blanc (Santa Barbara County)

Old-vine Chenin Blanc is all the rage, and this winery is one of the first in recent years to showcase these 1978 vines. Stony aromas of chiseled granite, lime peel and grassy hay show on the nose. The palate bites back with a sharp texture as flavors of grapefruit peel weave into the grape’s familiar wooly tones. 92 Points  — Matt Kettmann

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Mary Taylor 2022 Pascal Biotteau Chenin Blanc (Anjou)

This is a Chenin Blanc for palates that crave complexity. This wine has an aromatic nose of golden apple, orange blossom, white peach, ripe pear and lemon zest. There are additional notes of chamomile tea and pencil shavings on the honeyed midpalate that lend intrigue and depth. Best Buy. 91 Points  — Reggie Solomon


Monte Xanic 2020 Edición Limitada Cabernet Franc (Baja)

After a few minutes in the glass, the nose exhibits aromas of baking spices and hints of berries. Slightly drying tannins and a tangy acidity support a palate of herbs, red fruit and aniseed. 88 Points  — Jesica Vargas

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Salsa Verde Nachos: Sauvignon Blanc or Orange Wines

Tomatillo-based salsas, like the avocado-infused version that Vilma Mazaite, general manager at California’s Donnachadh Family Wines, likes to make at home requires a wine that can stand up to the acidity and mild spice of the tomatillos. That’s why she reaches for Sauvignon Blanc to go alongside her “Baja Nachos,” which are also topped with shrimp cooked with fresh tomatoes, melted Oaxacan cheese, pickled onion and parsley. The crisp wine’s acid complements the sauce, as do its fresh herbal notes and fruity aromas. “Fruit helps bring out the sweetness of the sauce,” she says.

For a more adventurous matchup to those spicy, herbal flavors, Randy Clement, co-owner of L.A.’s Silverlake Wines and Vamos. Vamos., recommends an orange wine. It’s his go-to choice for the braised pork-topped chile verde nachos served at the Santa Monica restaurant. But which oranges?

“The oranger the better, the weirder the better and the more exciting the better,” Clement says. “The skin contact and oftentimes slight cloudiness add a wonderful savory element to the wines, and those elements juxtaposed with their oftentimes slight fruitiness and less-than-racy acidity make for a perfect pairing.” 

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Storm Wines 2022 Sauvignon Blanc (Santa Ynez Valley)

Dried grass and lime peel aromas give a familiar and welcome sense to the nose of this bottling. The palate is jam-packed with acidity that shoots through the lemon and grapefruit-skin flavors, proving enticingly sharp. 92 Points  — M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Gainey 2022 Sauvignon Blanc (Santa Ynez Valley)

Light in the glass but exuberant on the nose, this bottling leaps out with aromas of passionfruit, lime sorbet and cut grass, blending tropical notes with a classical profile. The palate is more grassy and lime-driven, with a wet stone minerality adding depth. Best Buy. 91 Points  — M.K.


Beckmen 2021 Sauvignon Blanc (Santa Ynez Valley)

Lightly effervescent in the glass, this bottling smells of wet lawn, green pineapple and pomelo on the tightly woven nose. A vibrant blast of acidity kicks off the sip, and the quick hit of tension gives way to riper passion fruit and light guava flavors. 90 Points  — M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Organic Wine Tribe 2021 Pure Est. Orange Wine Macabeo (Spain)

Medium-amber colored in the glass, this wine has a bouquet of apricot preserves and almond paste. White peach, nectarine and marzipan flavors are infused with a touch of peppermint tea. A bright note of apricot endures on the palate. 87 Points  — Mike DeSimone

$19 Sterling Grapes & Grains

Birichino 2022 Skin-Fermented Orange Wine Malvasia Bianca (Monterey)

This is an orange wine done right, starting with aromas of lime tonic, jasmine and tuberose that emerge from the lightly hazed glass. The palate shows a rich mouthfeel and ample weight, carrying orange-blossom flavors. Serve with fried chicken and spicy foods. 92 Points  — M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Neighborhood 2022 Dawn Orange Wine-White Blend (Central Coast)

This is not technically a rosé, but the blend of 75% Pinot Grigio and 25% Chardonnay is a pinkish hue in the bottle, offering joyous aromas of cherry creamsicle and tangerine spray on the inviting nose. The palate grips with a firm mouthfeel, as citrus acidity snaps through the strawberry flavors. Fun and delicious. 92 Points  — M.K.

$35 Pali Wine Co.

The Best Wine for Seafood Nachos: Albariño or Sauvignon Blanc

Seafood nachos can take many forms. Though many versions call on various forms of shellfish—shrimp, mussels, scallops and beyond—one of the most decadent versions we’ve seen is the crab and uni nachos at Empellón. Noah Small, beverage director at the restaurant, often pairs the dish with sparklers and orange wines. But, if he had to reach for just one varietal or style of wine to match, it would be Albariño. The wine has become a classic seafood pairing because Albariño vines are often planted in soil rich with the remains of old seashells. 

“The expressions are bright and crackling with acidity, and those little hints of salinity really tie things together,” says Small. “Albariño is great for anything briny, so uni and oysters are perfect.”

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Do Ferreiro 2021 Albariño (Rías Baixas)

This wine has a bouquet of mango and clementine. It is bright at first sip, with flavors of pink grapefruit, ripe summer peach and a touch of dried Mediterranean herbs that evaporates in a lemon zest finish. 92 Points  — M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Granbazán 2022 Etiqueta Verde Albariño Albariño (Rías Baixas)

Aromas of ripe summer peach, lemon zest, wet river rocks and honeysuckle waft from the glass. This wine is full in the mouth and has brilliant acidity. It offers flavors of orange marmalade, peach pie, lemon, and dried herbs de Provence. Editor’s Choice. 94 Points  — M.D.

$19 Total Wine

Viña Costeira 2022 Meu Albariño Albariño (Ribeiro)

Not from Rias Baixas but from nearby Ribeiro, this wine has a nose of Fuji apple and freshly chopped parsley and basil. Peach, Granny Smith apple, cocoa-butter, orange-blossom and mint-leaf flavors are set into a full-textured wine that offers a closing note of citrus zest and saline. 93 Points  — M.D.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Spicy Beef and Cheese Nachos: Furmint

Spicy is the key word to consider when choosing a pairing for spicy beef and cheese nachos. For Thomas Dunn, general manager and sommelier at LittleMad, a Korean-inspired New American restaurant in New York City, the crisp acidity of a dry Furmint provides an ideal contrast. The varietal, which is best known in decadently sweet Tokaji dessert wines, goes particularly well with those big flavors and all the common toppings. 

“The Furmint cuts through the richness of the fats and bold flavors of a spicy, meaty nachos,” he says.

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Somlói Vándor 2022 Furmint (Nagy-Somló)

Aromas of peach, honeydew and nutmeg waft from the glass. Peach and honeydew transition to the palate alongside flavors of dried apricot, a hint of honeycomb and a touch of salinity that lingers in the mouth. 93 Points  — M.D.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Weninger 2021 Vom Kalk Furmint (Austria)

A fresh, crystalline white, this offers lemon, quince, blanched almond and salty mineral flavors. Very lithe, it is detailed and well defined by vibrant acidity. It shows good balance and length, leaving a hint of wild herbs on the finish. 92 Points  — Aleks Zecevic

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Günter & Regina Triebaumer 2022 Furmint (Burgenland)

This is silky in texture, with a light, elegant profile that features notes of yellow apple, peach and citrus. Savory mineral elements emerge on the well-knit finish. 89 Points  — A.Z.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Carnitas Nachos: Chardonnay or Riesling

Chris Benziger, vice president of Benziger Family Winery, can’t resist a succulent carnitas nachos, with the tender pork dripping the perfect amount of fat onto the chips. Given how rich and heavy it can be, he suggests seeking out wines with vibrant acidity and the bright aromas of tropical fruits. Off-dry German Rieslings and high-acid Chardonnays fit the bill. 

“A sip of Chardonnay brings a burst of freshness, cutting through the richness of the dish while harmonizing with its savory elements,” he says.

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

MacRostie 2021 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay (Russian River Valley)

Generous, appley and fresh, this medium-bodied wine offers clean, appetizing fruit flavors, light dashes of butter and vanilla, and a smooth, rounded texture. It should please butter lovers as well as balance seekers. 93 Points  — Jim Gordon

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Gundlach Bundschu 2021 Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)

Brilliant in apples, vanilla, butter and pineapples, this full-bodied and silky-textured wine grabs attention with its sunny aromas. It follows up with a generous palate of fruits, mild spices and a melted texture that’s so easy to sip. 92 Points   — J.G.

$22 Total Wine

Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium 2022 Off-Dry Riesling (Mosel)

This is light and elegant, with notes of orchard blossom and oolong tea, followed by crisp apple and nectarine. Moderate length. 87 Points  — A.Z.

$36 Cost Plus Dollar Liquor

The Best Wine for Gochujang Chili-Cheese Nachos: Riesling

Up until recently, gochujang—an umami-rich fermented chili paste—was best known as a Korean cooking staple. Today, the sweet, savory and slightly spicy an international culinary superstar—even working its way into the canon of nacho toppings. Gochujang-anointed nachos are a favorite of Charles Gaeta, director of Dedalus Wine in Vermont.  

“With all that salty and fatty goodness, I am pulling for something with ripe fruit, high-flying acidity and a complementary touch of residual sugar,” he says—which means Riesling. The layers of cheese, spiced salsa and jalapeños and fresh herbs go particularly well with off-dry German Rieslings, powerful Alsatian Grand Crus with some age on them and slightly fizzy, unfiltered blends from Swabia. 

“In all these various forms, Riesling’s famed acid and sugar are a perfect foil to rich and spicy nachos,” says Gaeta. 

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Willm 2021 Kirchberg de Barr Grand Cru Riesling (Alsace)

This is expressive and finely knit, featuring tangy acidity that brings out aromas and flavors of Meyer lemon and verbena framing the core of juicy yellow apple and wet-stone notes. Stays focused on the lingering finish. 90 Points  — A.Z.


Trimbach 2020 Schlossberg Grand Cru Riesling (Alsace)

This is all about its corduroy-like texture at this stage; layers peel off with air. It starts with subtle notes of flint and matchstick, then mixing in fresh quince, nectarine, green pear and lemon-curd flavors, with a long finish. The acidity needs a few years to fully integrate, but this has an admirable potential. 93 Points  — A.Z.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Theo Minges 2021 Feinherb Riesling (Pfalz)

Super aromatic, this offers notes of baked pineapple, papaya and mango, all wrapped in a perfumed profile marked by orchard blossom. Moderate length. 88 Points  — A.Z.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Barbecue Chicken Nachos: Red Blends

Barbecue chicken makes just about everything better—nachos included. Jamie Benziger, head winemaker at Imagery Estate Winery (and niece of Chris), thinks the ideal wine pairing has to highlight the smoky flavors in the meat. To do so, she calls for a red blend. 

“With rich dark fruit flavors and subtle spice notes, the right red blend enhances the bold, smoky flavors of barbecue chicken nachos,” she says. 

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Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Tablas Creek 2021 Cotes de Tablas Red (Adelaida District)

This Rhône blend of 47% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Counoise and 8% Mourvèdre recalls the charming wines found on so many unassuming European tables. Roasted cranberry, sour cherry and rose petal aromas lead into a bright, appropriately tense palate of snappy raspberry, cracked pepper and crushed thyme. Editor’s Choice. 94 Points  — M.K.

$38 Total Wine

Sebastiani 2019 Gravel Bed Red (Sonoma County)

Smooth and supple, this full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a dash of Barbera is laced with ripe blueberries, cherries and dark-chocolate flavors on fine-grained tannins. Light oak spices let the delicious berry and cherry flavors shine through. 91 Points   — J.G.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Chronic Cellars 2021 The Unteachables Red (Paso Robles)

Concentrated in the glass, this dark blend of 41% Syrah, 34% Petite Sirah and 25% Tannat packs stewed-fruit aromas together with hints of violet. The palate is dense with baked blueberry and blackberry flavors. Creamy tannins are soft yet show just enough edge to ensure an interesting cellar bet. Drink now–2031. Cellar Selection. 92 Points  — M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Raw Tuna Nachos: Chilled Reds or Chardonnay

Technically tuna is a type of seafood, but tuna tartare- or poke-topped nachos deserve a different wine treatment than other seafood variations. That’s because they often feature Asian flavors—soy sauce, sesame oil and other ingredients—which can steer a pairing in a different direction.

T.J. Provenzano, beverage director and co-owner of New York City omakase spot Bar Miller, likes a contrasting pairing for the fatty elements—the rich aioli and the fish—in the soy- and sesame-marinated bluefin tuna tartare nachos served at the restaurant. He thinks the ideal foil is a chilled red—especially those that have gone through carbonic maceration and have a good sense of fruit and acid and softer tannins. “I like a nice bright wine to cut through the fat,” he says. “A Beaujolais or Gamay would work well, something easy drinking but equally as elegant.”

But Danae Smith, general manager at Riverbench Vineyard and Winery, prefers a buttery, light Chardonnay with her poke nachos. If there’s avocado on the poke nachos, it perfectly complements the slightly buttery and vanilla undertones from oak aging in many Chardonnays. Like our reviewers, she particularly appreciates the complex, fruity, medium-bodied Presqu’ile 2021 Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, which has a mineral finish.

Wine Enthusiast recommends:

Moillard 2020 La Roche Rose (Beaujolais-Villages)

This muscular Beaujolais-Villages has finesse. Ruby in color, this wine has a perfumed nose of black raspberry, rosehip, cranberry and black plum. Well integrated, red-and-black fruit concentration on the midpalate continue through to the long finish. Best Buy. 92 Points  — R.S.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Louis Jadot 2022 Beaujolais

This is a robust Beaujolais that holds its own. Deep-purple in color, this wine has a perfumed nose of black plum, blackberry, dried violet blossom and dried black cherry. Additional notes of forest floor and hay reveal themselves on the palate, which is concentrated with a slightly velvety texture. Age for five years or enjoy now. Best Buy. 90 Points  — R.S.

$14 Total Wine

Lucy 2022 Gamay Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands)

Pay attention to the rise of Gamay in the Santa Lucia Highlands, because the grape shows tremendous character and charm in the appellation. Tightly woven aromas of dark cherry, boysenberry, rosewater and lilac lead from the nose into a juicy palate, where lovely cherry and berry flavors are lifted by candied lilac and a loamy minerality. Editor’s Choice. 93 Points  — M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Presqu'ile 2021 Presqu'ile Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley)

Fresh and crisp aromas of lime skin and margarita spice are tightly wound on the nose of this bottling. The palate is acid driven and taut in texture, showing brisk citrus flavors that dance into a lightly brined finish. 93 Points  — M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

World's End 2019 Rebel Rebel Reserve Chardonnay (Napa Valley)

Pastry-like flavors give this fun, creamy-textured wine an almost sweet effect as notes of vanilla, croissant and butter bathe the palate in richness. Good fruit acidity and elevated alcohol keep it powerful through the finish. 91 Points   — J.G.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Aeris 2021 Chardonnay (Sonoma County)

Milky aromas and a subtle blend of oak, butter and baking spices invest this medium-bodied and well-balanced wine with good complexity. Balancing richness with a tang of acidity, the wine is both appetizing and rather deep. Best Buy. 91 Points   — J.G.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher