Pairing Off: Microwave Popcorn

With apologies to Orville from our usually unrepentant graphics guy.

During the uncertain days of economic depression and the threat of global war, America needed a hero, someone to vanquish all wrong, to protect us from evil—someone fictional. So in 1938, the folks at Action Comics gave us Superman.

Well, these are tough times, as well—particularly for those accustomed to the good things in life forced by the onslaught of necessity to scale back their caviar tastes and settle for Orville Redenbacher. So we present a new hero for this age of trepidation and cheap foods: good old, all-American sparkling wine.

In this case, a bottle of Gruet from Albuquerque, New Mexico, more powerful than a box of microwave popcorn. “It will cut right through the fake butter,” assures Brooks Anderson, owner of Veritas, looking up the less-than-sky high price ($15.99 retail). Last week, a bit of the bubbly outwrestled Col. Sanders and all his herbs and spices…although it was a cava from Spain, something Lisa Petty, food writer, blogger and author of an upcoming book on Texas wine also recommends with popcorn.

“To me, this combination makes perfect sense due to bubbly’s celebrated ability to pair well with salty, oily foods,” she explains.

Even the venerable wine sage Vincent McGrath from Nana suggests something sparkling. “I would do a Vinho Verde,” he says, praising “the low alcohol”—about nine percent—“and good acidity to absorb the salt.

“Now, I’ve never tried it side by side—this is hypothetical,” he adds.

Ah, but I sipped a glass or four (just to make sure) with some Orville Redenbacher buttered popcorn on Monday night. Gruet is crisp and somewhat sweet. This character washes away much of the popcorn’s salinity while finding an almost floral note in the butter substitute, turning the once salty kernels into a kind of dessert. It may even be a bit too much for Orville and his comrades. If so, Petty points to Jean-Paul Trocadero Brut Blanc de Blancs ($9.99 at Whole Foods).

“It would pair well with your popcorn in the classic ‘Champagne and salty snacks’ way,” she says. “Plus it’s French, so it feels fancy even if you’re drinking it right from the bottle.”

Almost any sparkling wine is worth a look, Anderson agrees, adding that “Champagne goes well with everything—the acidity and bubbles, it’s a great junk food mix.”

But if that’s not your thing, and you still insist on wine with popcorn, he suggests a dry Riesling such as Noble House ($12.99). Petty might go with an Italian Pinot Grigio like the stylish Voga Italia (about $10 at Goody Goody). Almost any light, refreshing, “unoaked” wine would work, McGrath concludes—just be careful.

“You can’t do any oak with salt,” he warns. “You’d be screwed.” --Dave Faries

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries