Your guide to the perfect wine with takeout
Where else in this world can diners have their pick of international cuisines, delivered right to their door, but Sweet Home Chicago?
And even if another order-in Mecca does exist, there certainly isn't Chicagoland's wine selection, in all prices and sizes from Austria to New Zealand, to create gourmet taste sensations in the comfort of your own sweet home.
Because takeout is often a last-minute fix for plans gone awry, keep a few all-purpose wines at home, especially: unoaked sauvignon blanc, off-dry white and light-to-medium bodied red.
Sauvignon blanc, with its characteristic herbal accents, pairs with herbal seasonings and vegetable ingredients in cuisines including Asian (such as stir fried broccoli), Mexican and South American (salsa verde), Mediterranean (Greek Chicken), Middle Eastern (roasted eggplant spread) and the all-American salad bar.
For a unique alternative to sauvignon blanc, ask your retailer for a Spanish Verdejo.
Choose an off-dry white, with delicate sweetness to protect the palate from spice, including the three-alarm singe of Mexican chili peppers, Japanese wasabi, Thai sriracha and spicy barbecue. Ask your retailer for a riesling labeled "dry" or "Kabinett."
Red wine lovers have herds of takeout options. (My new favorite is Anticuchos de Corazon -- Peruvian Grilled Beefheart.) Most meats, meat-based dishes and rich veggie recipes call for a red with moderate tannin and modest alcohol. France's Cotes-du-Rhone region is a widely-available and good value go-to.
To broaden your takeout-friendly wine selection:
Don't fight the logic of serving meat -- Argentina's culinary specialty -- with Argentina's signature grape -- Malbec.
Argentina's Bodega Ruca Malen is a new entry to the U.S. market. The "Yauquen" Malbec is a great-value quaff, with bright red fruit flavors, black pepper spiciness and pleasing tannin (about $12.99), perfect for moderately-spicy dishes and long-cooked meats.
Chicago-style steak and other rich and/or rare meats call for firm tannin. Ruca Malen's "Kinien de Don Raul" makes an occasion of carryout, with supple entry that evolves on the palate with complexities of spice fruit, espresso and meaty flavors, and firm tannin (about $75).
African cuisine has blossomed from a few city-centric spots to a full-fledged trend throughout city and suburbs. Dishes are dynamically-seasoned, with vegetarian, meat and even gluten-free options to satisfy all diners.
African vineyards grow in South Africa, where brilliant sunshine and cool, ocean wind combine in wines of luscious fruit and balanced acidity.
Chenin blanc is the signature white grape, though it's dubbed 'Steen' in S.A., and known as Vouvray in France. Whatever the passport, well-made chenin blanc balances zippy, stone fruit flavors and mineral accents in wines that range from very dry to very sweet.
To pair with African cuisine and other spicy and/or rich vegetarian dishes, look for South Africa's Indaba or Fairview Chenin Blancs. America's chenin stalwart is Dry Creek Vineyards. (All about $12.99).
Pinotage is South Africa's signature red. The best pinotage offers saturated fruit with unique mulberry and blueberry aspects and chewy texture, often accented with appealing funk.
To pair with the deep flavors of maheberawi (an Ethiopian mixed meat platter), slow-cooked barbecues, smokes and stews, wines from Man, Fairview and Robertson are great under-$12 pinotage values. For finer cuts, Kanonkop is an established leader in racy and elegant red (about $40).
Greek food lovers are in luck: Chicagoland is home to one of our country's finest importers of Greek wine. Ask your retailer to recommend a wine from Diamond Wine Importers.
"A chicken in every pot" was once symbolic of the American dream. Today, America's hearth relies on rotisserie chicken. With universal "it tastes like chicken" flavor, rotisserie chicken has wine pairing potential limited only by what you have in stock.
In red, pair the moderate fattiness of chicken with a moderate tannin red, including the Cotes-du-Rhone, Malbec, pinotage and Greek red recommended above. In white, choose low- to no-oak chardonnay to enhance the chicken's richness; sauvignon blanc to accent herbal seasonings; chenin blanc or riesling to balance barbecue or spice.
• Write to Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at food@daily herald.com.
Ross' choice Ross' choiceName: Vermouth Royal "Extra Dry"
Region: Charentes, France
Producer: La Quintinye
Availability: In boutiques and major wine and spirits chains, $23.99
(Distributed by: Tenzing, Chicago IL)
"France's Louis XIV ordained a vast garden to supply his table at Versailles, the task falling to Jean-Bapiste de La Quintinie, namesake of this fine vermouth. The stunning bouquet seems fresh-picked from the Sun King's garden, with twenty-seven botanicals (including artemisia, angelica, licorice and quassi amara) aromatizing fine French cognac and grape juice for opulent mouthfeel, complex yet lively flavor and a finish that excites the next sip. By the splash, Vermouth Royal turns your favorite cocktail, recipe or tea into a new sensation. By the glass, the wine's delicate sweetness and exotic flavor add dimension to delicately sweet (and maybe spicy) cuisine, including sushi, Thai and ribs. Also available in Rouge and a sweeter Blanc."