You don't have to cook, clean or even stomp on grapes to have a delicious dinner when you tap into Chicagoland's takeout scene.
Because takeout is often a quick fix for dinner plans gone AWOL and summer nights when it's just too hot to cook, keep a few all-purpose wines at home, especially: light-to-medium bodied red, off-dry white, Sauvignon Blanc and Rose.
Ÿ Suggested retail and availability: About $20 at wine and liquor shops (distributed by Wirtz Beverage of Illinois, Wood Dale)
Ripened in the sun-drenched hills of northeast Italy, this pinot grigio -- usually a simply refreshing variety -- offers uniquely juicy pear, raw almond and mineral accents, with a pleasing mouth feel and pure outline of acidity. Serve as a satisfying cocktail and complement to lighter international cuisine including egg rolls and dolmades, Caprese and Greek salads, pad thai and linguine with clams, tuna tartar and seafood tacos.
Light-to-medium bodied reds with moderate tannin and forward fruit complement the widest range of meats, poultry and veggie dishes. Look for Italy's Mazzoni Barbera, Spain's Vina Zaco and Thymiopoulos Vineyards "Young Vines" Naoussa from Greece (all former Ross' Choice selections), as well as Italian Chianti and many blends from France's south.
Off-dry whites include off-dry Riesling, Oregon Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc and certain Spanish Albarino (like Terras Gauda "Abadia de San Campio"). With delicate sweetness, these wines balance spice and complement dishes with sweeter sauces.
Sauvignon Blanc pairs with the herbs in so many cuisines, it's a good idea to have several selections. A few mouthwatering favorites are listed below.
Dry rose is an adaptable style, especially during warmer months, but shops are running through their supply. Ask your retailer for recommendations.
This basic cellar will satisfy your takeout craving, from pizza to Peruvian, Mexican to Middle Eastern, fast food salad bars to gourmet food trucks. If your takeout grants you extra time, tweak wine specifically to these popular takeout cuisines:
Chinese: Pork and poultry, along with rich cooking methods make Chinese cuisine rich enough for red wine. Pick one from your stash, or select an earthy Pinot Noir, including Saxon-Brown from California's Sonoma Coast. For white wine, richness and spice call for off-dry flavors and bright acidity. For a dramatic complement, choose bone-dry Australian Riesling including Pewsey Vale or True & Daring.
Thai: Lighter than Chinese cuisine, sometimes spicier and often sweeter -- in fact, too sweet for most wine. Ask the restaurant to reduce sweet sauce, and then pair with light-to-medium-bodied red or off-dry white.
Sushi: Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are my hands-down picks for sushi. To splurge, choose a classic French Sauvignon Blanc such as Sophie Bertin Pouilly Fume with mineral, fresh herb and honeysuckle complexity.
Indian: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir complement the diverse flavors of India. Unoaked Chardonnay enhances creamy sauces in tikka or chana masala. Those who savor a singed palate will enjoy a spicy Cotes du Rhone or Spanish Garnacha.
Middle Eastern: Roasted vegetables, grilled meats, poultry and green herbs call for rich white and red wines, including Washington State's Chateau Ste. Michelle "Horse Heaven Hill" Sauvignon Blanc. Also from Washington is Rotie Cellars "Northern Rhone Blend," an homage to France's Cote Rotie, with dense, smokey flavors within an elegant structure.
Mexican: Soften the acid and heat of Mexico's peppers, tomatoes and citrus with fruit-forward, light-to-medium bodied reds. Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, with dynamic herb and citrus flavor, echoes ceviche, green moles and other verde dishes. Look for producers including Chilcas Reserva or Cono Sur.
Peruvian: Oregon Pinot Gris shares soft flavors of tropical fruit, blanched nuts and delicate spice with Peruvian dishes. Look for producers including Adelsheim and Elk Cove. With Peru's predominance of seafood, poultry and potatoes, I haven't found a successful red wine match.
• Write to Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.