Many of us like wine and McDonalds (sometimes), but too few of us have tried them together. After all, what kind of person would be mad enough to drink wine with fast food?
The reality is that wine goes perfectly well with a burger and fries. In fact, Shake Shack in the US successfully sells wines on tap (in plastic cups too) to go with their famous burgers and fries.
So why aren't more people aware that they can drink wine like this?
Too many people see wine drinking as a snobbish activity. They think you should only drink wine at expensive dinners in a fancy setting, and in casual settings they reach for beers or cocktails instead. This is how they miss out on the wonders of pairing food and wine.
I thought it would be interesting to try pairing wine with McDonalds' items for two reasons:
- McDonalds' foods can be a reference for learning about pairing food and wine because a lot of people are familiar with the taste of McDonalds foods.
- I want to kill the idea that people drink wine to look more classy, talking about wine and McDonalds does that pretty quickly.
Disclaimer: McDonalds probably isn't the best food to eat with these wine examples, however, for educational purposes the concept still remains true.
If you’re ready to turn food and wine pairings upside down, read on.
The truth about food and wine pairing is that it's very simple and very enjoyable.
The key to it is balance. When you combine the flavours of the right wine and the right food, you get a unique taste in which neither the wine nor the food dominates. It's like drinking Piña Coladas and relaxing on the beach. They work much better together than either does alone.
Some food and wine pairings are famous from history such as Prosecco and parmesan, or Bordeaux red and lamb. Others are more recent discoveries like Koshu and sushi.
But for each well known food and wine pairing, someone had to take a leap of faith and be the first person ever to combine a certain food and wine.
The point is that there are a lot of good but unknown food-wine pairings out there. Now let's learn how to pair McDonalds with wine.
New Zealand, Vavasour Pinot Noir 2013, HK$150
Overall the subtle beef and mild cheese flavours of the double cheeseburger are a good match with the rich and fruity flavours of New Zealand Pinot Noirs.
The double cheeseburger has a mostly soft texture with a little bit of fattiness from the patties and the melted cheese. A lot of the stronger flavours comes from the ketchup, mustard, onions, and pickles, but the flavours blend together easily so that no single flavour dominates.
This wine is a classic example of New Zealand Pinot Noirs. Its concentrated fruity flavours—think strawberries and stewed cherries—complement the mild blended flavours of the double cheeseburger. The wine's medium body and alcohol (14%) help it cut through the light fattiness and sauces of the burger. The finish of the wine is decently long and flavourful, which prevents its dark fruit flavours from being overpowered.
Pairing Pinot Noir wines with meaty/earthy dishes without powerful spices or acidic flavours is a classic combination.
Chicken McNuggets (No Sauce)
New Zealand, Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2015, HK$300
Overall the McNuggets’ savoury, nutty, and salty flavours combine with the rich and creamy flavours of the wine, resulting in a unique umami-filled complexity. It's reminiscent of the legendary combination of Nutella and white bread.
Whether you hate or love them, chicken McNuggets are a product of food engineering genius. That’s why you can buy them nearly anywhere in the world and get the same four shapes of soft white chicken, always encrusted with that familiar golden fried shell.
The nuggets' much loved mild taste is carefully engineered to go well with McDonalds' classic sauces: sweet & sour and barbecue. When you bite into one, there's no need to describe its mild, consistent and well-blended flavours; everyone knows what a chicken McNugget tastes like.
The Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay is a beautiful wine with strong flavours of peach and pineapple with a little nuttiness. The wine dominates the subtle flavours of the chicken, and the resultant flavours are like those of a chicken roasted for 2 hours with garlic, rosemary, and peach.
The wine’s creamy body is balanced with good acidity, which makes it a rich delight that acts like a sauce. Kumeu River certainly earned its reputation as one of the best makers of Chardonnay in New Zealand.
Oaked Chardonnay and poultry is another classic pairing (this particular Chardonnay was matured in oak for 11 months). If you insist on having your McNuggets with a sauce, you'll want to drink a fruity red wine made from Grenache, Zinfandel, or Syrah instead.
Sausage Egg McMuffin
Terenzi Purosangue Morelino di Scansano Riserva 2013 (Sangiovese), HK$254
Overall the Sausage Egg McMuffin's spicy meat flavours are a great match with the intense red fruit flavours and oakiness of this Italian Sangiovese. It's like eating sausage patties with a spicy red sauce.
The Sausage Egg McMuffin is a classic breakfast item and a good example of why less is more. It only consists of a sausage patty, egg, and a slice of melted American cheese on an English muffin (of the American kind). Yet it is perhaps the go-to breakfast sandwich, especially if convenience and price are important.
The sausage egg McMuffin’s flavours are quite strong compared to McDonalds’s other foods. The spicy sausage patty and melted cheese is a very peppery, meaty, and mouth-filling combination. The English muffin and egg also create substantial texture.
This Tuscan red is bold in red fruit, laced with spicy characters from 12 months of oak ageing. The high acid and tannin structure holds its own against the savoury flavours of the McMuffin and the fat from the cheese. The white pepper, clove and sage notes in the wine perfectly complement the same spicy flavours of the sausage patty.
Perfectly cooked spiced sausages with slight char marks paired with a juicy Italian red from Tuscany, it just works.
French Fries (No Sauce)
France, Whispering Angel 2016 (Grenache, Vermentino, Cinsault), HK$150
Overall, the rosé refreshingly cuts through the saltiness of the French fries with its minerality while adding some floral flavours. It's also fitting to pair McDonalds' best seller with one of the best selling rosé wines in the world, Whispering Angel.
Salty, oily, and the perfect size for eating 3 at a time, McD's golden French fries are perhaps their most versatile and beloved item. The worst thing about them is that after eating a few handfuls, the oil and the salt can overwhelm your ability to taste. But that's not enough to stop people from indulging in this seductive treat.
A cold glass of Whispering Angel is perfect for cutting through the fat and salt of French fries. It tastes of some tangy fruit with nice acidity, which balances out the flavour extremes of the French fries. Served cool, the rosé is extremely easy to drink, so you can eat as many fries and drink as much rose as you want.
I know you usually eat fries after drinking, but just think it about it.
France, Champagne de Sousa Brut Rosé Distinguée N.V (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir), HK$480
The Big Mac is no joke. One man (unsurprisingly from the US) eats two Big Macs a day and has eaten over 29,000 Big Macs so far.
The Big Mac is an icon. Three slices of sesame seed bread, two beef patties, one slice of cheese, lettuce, pickles, onion, and the almighty secret sauce that some say was derived from the ambrosia of the Greek gods. Besides, nothing screams—I don't care that I'm eating at McDonalds and I'm going to enjoy it dammit—more than having a Big Mac meal.
So for a big sandwich, we need a big wine. Champagne de Sousa's Brut Rosé Distinguée fits the bill. This pink wine is fresh and vibrant and is quite dry, with very tiny bubbles. The fruitiness of the wine plays well with the tanginess of the secret sauce.
The effervescent and dry palate of the champagne really cuts through the fattiness of the double patties, preparing your mouth for another bite. But then the delicious saltiness of the Big Mac makes you thirsty so you finish off your glass. Don't be alarmed if you finish the bottle before the Big Mac.
So now you've learned something. Hopefully you'll try pairing food with wine or at least get to try one of the wines on this list.
Want to learn how to seriously taste wine by itself? Read our article How To Taste Wine Properly