Pairing Off: Big Mac

Revisit your old grade school or the patch of neighborhood grass where you played football as a kid and you'll likely find the once-vast expanses, um, seriously shrunken.

Maybe it's the workings of global warming. Or perhaps the earth contracts naturally as it spins through space--I don't know. But the same force clearly affects McDonald's Big Mac. I mean, decades ago this was a daunting, dripping monster of a sandwich. When I ordered one over the weekend for the first time since...oh, the 70s...the box contained a tiny, insignificant, disappointing thing.

Hardly daunting, except when it comes to picking just the right wine to go along.

The two all-beef patties, the lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions or even the sesame seed bun--none of those trouble the experts. "I do burgers and wine all the time," says Richard O'Neill of Centennial on Preston.

No, complains Neal Caldwell of Pogo's, "it's that special sauce that does it."

Yep, that Thousand Island-ish glop can shred ill-chosen bottles, carving through prized subtleties, attacking pleasant quirks. "Miller Lite doesn't work," O'Neill asks before considering the problem. "I'd start with a powerful, full-bodied red," he finally decides. "Just not Pinot.".

Caldwell agrees. "Pinot is not big enough," he says, ticking off a few other no's, as well--including Bordeaux. "You want something brash and new."

After drifting toward Malbec-Cabernet blends, the Pogo's sage pauses: "I wonder if you did something off the wall--a Sicilian, full-bodied Nero d'Avola? I'm gonna go with that...just 'cause."

Sound reasoning. Arancia's Nero ($8.79 at Goody Goody) performs magnificantly, quelling the sickly bite of McDonald's special sauce and washing out the burger's remaining, um, less-than-pleasing aspects. Don't worry, the slop and grease and artificial character will return to haunt you later--the wine lacks an antacid element. But the bold, simple, fruit-forward blast of Nero d'Avola takes control throughout the meal.

And that's a good thing.

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