March 14, 2017 is National Potato Chip Day, and I thought it was time to put the world’s favourite snack food to the test with wine.
Pairing wine and food is a notoriously complicated game, fraught with peril and demanding years of dedicated study and great expertise – just ask a sommelier.
At least that’s the myth. But in truth, many of the greatest food and wine matches are profoundly simple. Leonardo da Vinci said ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ and chips with wine is a classic example. It works because the combination of simple elements creates a sum greater than its parts.
Wine is acidic, chips are salty, and they are meant for each other, creating a classic ‘contrast marriage.’ Throw in a few flavour bombs like truffle oil, vinegar, ketchup, or chocolate and the fun with wine begins.
Regular chips show off potato’s earthy flavour, quality of the frying fat, and salt (unsalted chips are an outrage!). Wine pairing is easiest with plain chips, where salt leads the flavour charge. Try a zesty BC Pinot Gris, bone-dry rosé or vivid local Pinot Noir. If you are eating generously salted chips, you may boost the red to a more robust beast like Syrah, as salt smooths tannins. If you want to look like a wine insider, serve chilled Fino Sherry.
Salt and Vinegar chips demand wines with high voltage acidity. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will spar expertly with tangy vinegar, creating a rounder, well-balanced chip flavour. Gamay is a good bet too – it’s the grape of Beaujolais – with juiciness to spare and a core of cherry fruit to brighten up the vinegar. Feeling like an Italian red? Chianti’s raspy acid and edgy tannins will do nicely.
Get your tang on with Canada’s (alleged) favourite flavour, Ketchup chips. Skeptics, just try a few – they are inexplicably more-ish. Tart, sweet, and salty, ketchup chips require wine with a kick of fruit plus frisky acidity. Off-dry Riesling is a hit, where sweet citrus succulence matches ketchup’s sugar, and a blade of acid slices through umami richness. You can match a red with ketchup chips, as long as there is bold fruit and velvety texture, like a smooth Valpolicella Ripasso. Italian Lambrusco is all the rage, and it’s a cutting edge choice for those who are always ahead of the curve.
All Dressed is a heady umami-bomb combining flavours of barbeque, sour cream and onion, ketchup, and salt and vinegar. Also considered uniquely Canadian, you need a wine that will throw everything at the All Dressed chip’s flavour mash-up. Multi-grape blended wines can do this, such as this white from Evolution and this Old Vines Red.
Decadent Truffle chips are the gold standard snack for Champagne. The chips are scented, rich and salty, matching champagne’s brioche-y complexity, toasted nutty flavours, and sizzling acidity. It’s a match that shows exactly what pairing alchemy can be – and this combination is highly addictive. French bubbly is optimal, but so are other versatile dry sparkling wines like Haywire’s The Bub and Unsworth’s Charme De L’ile.
Like the sound of chocolate covered potato chips? Imagine dark chocolate – barely sweet and slightly bitter – thickly coated on one side of a salty ripple chip. Melty, savoury, and crazy-good with fruit-drenched, new world Cabs or plump Merlot. Make your own or get from Royce.
Chips used in pairing trials: Lay’s Classic, Miss Vickie’s Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar, Old Dutch All Dressed, Hardbite Ketchup, Quince Truffle Chips, Royce Chocolate Potato Chips.