by Paullette Gaudet

Cinco De Mayo_Cactus_BlogPut down that ketchup and pick up some salsa: it’s Cinco de Mayo!!! This anniversary of the Mexican army’s underdog win against France in the 1862 Battle of Puebla has become an all-encompassing celebration of Mexican culture here in the US, featuring a wide variety of alcoholic beverages. Tequila and cerveza notwithstanding, our Neighbor to the South boasts a long history of vino-centric innovation, starting in 1597 with the oldest known winery in North/Central America, located in Coahuila, Mexico. Currently, Mexican wines from the Baja Peninsula—featuring untraditional blending—are getting raves.

Wine drinkers can absolutely get in on the Cinco de Mayo fun, starting with their Mexican food dinners and appetizers: the rule of thumb is to pair spicy food with wine that is low in alcohol. Chiles intensify the taste and effect of alcohol, so lower-alcohol reds like Pinot Noir and chianti are good when paired with a dish like carne asada. When in doubt, that old rule of red meat/red wine and white meat/white wine applies well with Mexican food: Cabernet Franc and Malbec are good for reds, while Cava and Vinho Verde are fantastic choices for whites. Taking note of the colors in one’s dish is also wise: a preponderance of green herbs screams out for a white wine with higher acidity and pronounced herbaceous flavors, like a Sauvignon Blanc; Spanish whites from Rioja are also good.

Cinco de Mayo gives everyone a reason to celebrate Mexican culture with a glass of their choosing—consider pairing a great wine with your meal before ordering those tequila shooters this year!