Despite the odd run-in with the boys from Top Gear, Mexico continues to make its mark on the UK – and nowhere more so than when it comes to food. Whether it’s cookery shows on the TV or restaurants lining our high streets, Mexican food is clearly growing in popularity.
It’s not just in dedicated eateries either. Peruse the menus of many mainstream chains and you quickly come across a selection of Mexican food or its close cousin, Tex Mex. Chilli con carne, fajitas and enchiladas are just the tip of the spicy iceberg.
Lager feels like a natural choice when sitting down to a Mexican, whether it’s at home or in a restaurant. But what happens when you want to share a bottle of wine over dinner and your party has opted for a mix of Mexican and Gringo dishes?
Fortunately, there are plenty of good options if lager isn’t going to hit the spot.
Paparuda Syrah, 2013 (£5.99 at Adnams)
Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe used to be a regular feature on our supermarket shelves but have lost out as the New World has surged ahead. This Syrah from British winery owner Phillip Cox shows that it’s perhaps time to venture back behind the old Iron Curtain for a closer look. Blackcurrant, vanilla and earthy notes on the nose lead into brighter redcurrant and raspberry flavours on the palate. The acidity and body make it a good match for food.
The Pullhams Bin 22 Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2011 (£12.99 at Virgin Wines)
Sticking with Syrah – or Shiraz as it’s known in most of the New World – and we reach its spiritual Australian home, the Barossa Valley. Made from a single vat of wine, this full-bodied red has a silky smooth and velvety texture, with flavours of blueberries and violets. Classic Barossa Valley Shiraz, with the body and rich flavours to match chilli con carne and other Mexican dishes.
Simply Zinfandel California (£4.99 at Tesco)
There are some real stars in Tesco’s “Simply” range of entry-level wines including this Zinfandel from California. Zinfandel is a great match for Mexican food but this example really stood out from the crowd, offering tonnes of red cherry and blackcurrant flavours for the price, along with silky tannins and a milk chocolate finish.
Undurraga Candelabro Reserva, 2012 (£6.95 at Wine Society)
This shouldn’t work but it does. An eye-catching blend of Carmenere, Malbec and Carignan – all French grape varieties that have found a new lease of life in the New World – make this Chilean red a good match for the spicier dishes. Dry, with high acidity and firm but well integrated tannins, the cherry and plum flavours strike a good balance with the tannins.
Quinta de Vale Veados, 2011 (£10.99 at Virgin Wines)
With its indigenous grape varieties and complicated names, Portuguese wines can be a mystery sometimes but it’s well worth getting to know them as there is good value to be found. Here, winemaker Rui Reguinga has used Touriga Nacional, arguably the country’s flagship red grape, and added a splash of Syrah. The result is an inky dark colour that hints at the meaty and spicy flavours, along with the bright redcurrant and blackberry fruit. Dry, full-bodied and intense, yet with beautifully-integrated tannins. An excellent match for food.
Domaine De La Clairiege, 2012 (£5.50 at Marks & Spencer)
Classic French red from Herault, with Merlot showing off all its plum and damson flavours. Smooth and juicy, with enough dryness to complement the Mexican food. This was surprisingly popular when a bottle was plonked down on a table with friends.
Garganega Pinot Grigio, (£6.29 at Spar)
Not your standard Pinot Grigio. Blending the ever-popular Italian white grape with Garganega – one of the varieties used to make Soave – adds body and creaminess. Lots of lemon flavours with a rounded mouthfeel, making it a good match for food.
Exquisite Collection Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 (£4.99 at Aldi)
On the nose, you could be forgiven for thinking this might be a New World Sauvignon Blanc or something exotic from the Loire, with aromas of cat pee. But it’s the gooseberry and greengage flavours that shine through on the palate, with bags of acidity to stand up to food.
Pedroncelli Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay, 2012 (£8.95 at Wine Society)
This Californian white doesn’t give much away on the nose, with hints of peach and lemon rind. But it packs a punch on the tongue, with the peaches joined by tropical flavours of mango and pineapple. A real crowd pleaser, with vanilla and cream flavours from the well-integrated oak.
Explorer’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 (£6.49 at The Co-operative)
Lots of classic asparagus, green pepper and cut grass Sauvignon Blanc aromas on the nose, with apricot and white peach notes joining the party on the palate. Refreshing acidity and a savoury finish make this a really impressive wine at the price – plus it has the pedigree of having picked up bronze medals from both Decanter magazine and the International Wine Challenge.