Good reasons for going to our State Fair abound. But let’s face it, we’re in it for the food as much as anything.
The good news is, you can buy or prepare most of these delectables to enjoy at home and pair them with our favorite beverages. (OK, you would need a deep-fat fryer and a serious sweet tooth to prep those amazing deep-fried Snickers bars.)
Here are a dozen of the Great Get-Together’s most popular edibles and an appropriate wine for each:
Pronto Pups/corn dogs: Invariably these guys are topped with dollops of spicy condiments. Whether it’s mustard, ketchup or both, zinfandels have the spicy, zesty flavors to provide a perfect fit. Primitivo, zin’s twin sibling from Italy, works, too.
Sweet corn: This is easy: Open up the chardonnay, the more buttery the better. Rich, plump flavors embody both, and the creaminess of many domestic chards factors in as well. But no-oak chardonnays, even chablis, can provide a nice contrasting element, the acidity cutting through, but also punching up the corn’s lushness.
Turkey drumsticks: Is this white meat? Not for many of us, given the leg’s large-and-in-charge nature. So break out a barbera, with its ample fruit and acidity. The former stands up to the drummy’s bold flavors, while the latter pierces through the grease.
Cheese curds: Sauv blanc all the way. One of the world’s best matches is Sancerre and goat cheese, but for this fairly straightforward item, sauvignon blancs from nearby Touraine, grassy/grapefruity ones from New Zealand or even lusher California renditions will cozy right on up to these bite-sized munchies.
Pork chop on a stick: Pork might be “the other white meat,” but when it’s grilled and spiced like this version, red wine is the better option. Blends from the Côtes du Rhône are affordable and suitable (actually they would work with all the protein items listed here). Layers of flavor and texture, plus a hearty but refreshing finish, make for a swell marriage.
Big ol’ pretzels: Gotta go with bubbles here, from Champagne if money is not so much an object (or New Mexico if it is). It’s not just the tartness, either: Most of these wines have a yeasty aspect that, of course, is perfectly suited for pretzels. Sparkling wines also can deal deftly with all that salt.
Bacon on a stick: It’s tempting to go with French syrahs here because so many of them have that smoked-meat element. But a safer bet is malbec: fruity, hearty enough, often smoky, with plenty of tang to stand up to bacon’s heft. Malbec for breakfast, anyone?
Deep-fried pickles: We need something briny here, so grapes grown close to the ocean make sense. Either albariño from Spain’s Rias Baixas region or Muscadet from the Loire in France will fill the bill. With a few exceptions, these wines have the fruit to add some oomph to the occasion.
French fries: Partially because of the potential condiments, a lighter, more sprightly white is called for. That could mean a vinho verde from Portugal or a picpoul de pinot from France. These wines have a snap, crackle and pop that can dance with the mealy potatoes and robust ketchup.
Chocolate chip cookies, mini-donuts and deep-fried Snicker bars: Only wines that are at least as sweet as these confections will work. That probably means moscato, both for its perfume aromas and luscious fruit, or one of the sweeter rieslings. Sparkling moscatos are especially welcome here.
Of course, once the festivities begin, we can’t bring wine into the fairgrounds. But fortunately there is a Minnesota Wine Country building for that. Try the Saint Croix Vineyards Marquette with the protein; the white flight (Falconer Snowy White, Cannon River Frontenac Gris and Garvin Heights La Crescent) for the fried and/or breaded stuff, and the Winehaven Sweet Mead for the sugar-bomb delights.
That way, you can glean something about pairing and about our state’s ever-improving wine scene.
Bill Ward writes at www.decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.