As many of us try to navigate the evolving circumstances surrounding COVID-19, some of us are finding ways to keep a sense of brightness and normalcy without completely breaking the bank. While physical nights out and dinner dates are put on pause, virtual cocktail meetings and wine tastings linger.

With more and more people looking into their pantry to stretch out the duration of time in-between caving in for that pizza delivery order, they are also finding ways to replace those in-person happy hours in the interim. Here is a fun little wine pairing guide to go with the pantry staples you might happen to be staring down while still wanting the home situation to feel — as SWW always says — baller on a budget!

And if your wine stockpile is running low, please consider supporting your local neighborhood stores. Use as a reference for new wines to ask them about. Some are even offering their services to just put a box assortment together for you. Think like an omakase but for your wine purchase. Reach out and see what they can put together for you or assist you with!
Another thing to consider is that many restaurants are also offering up their wine selections curbside in order to get through this time. This is a huge deal for the consumer! You might be able to score some really great selections that you might usually not see outside of a restaurant wine list.

Nuts (Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans…)
Madeira has such a unique flavor profile! Dry Madeira specifically has the high acidity and snap to pair with a wide array of nuts.

Muscat is a great accompaniment to a bowl of this hot stuff. It offers a sense of complexity and warmth. Like a hug.

Not all pastas are created equal, especially when you take into account the sauce. The pairing really is toward the sauce than it is anything else. Generally, I reach for Barbera, notably in a heavy tomato sauce scenario. It’s an extremely versatile option, light in tannins. The “pair like with likeness” also works in this case — the tart, depthy nature pairs with the high acidity of tomatoes. For an unctuous mac ‘n cheese? Chenin Blanc offers a crisp contrast to the bold, cheesy creaminess.

Vintage Port is a fabulous pleasure for this, but it might be a hard swing at the moment. So do if you can. If you can’t, find yourself a Tawny or a Ruby Port to send you into a sweet reverie. 

Instant Ramen
Cru Beaujolais is a lovely way to feel fancy pants with your dehydrated noodles. French wine at a banging price, from underdog-like regions. If your ramen packet leans to a spicy profile, you might also consider Gewürztraminer to offset some of that spiciness!

Canned Beans (Black, Red, White…)
Dry Rosé is an easy breezy option for this pantry staple. Even some of the low sodium versions of canned beans can be salty. Saltiness can aggravate super tannic and high alcohol wines so that freshness of a Rosé is a good way to go.

Potato Chips
I don’t know about you, but for me personally I have been caught at two extremes this quarantine — being super healthy making some sort of green juice concoction… or mass chomping on potato comforts like chips and fries. There’s no in-between! Bubbly is a great match for the fatty, salty make-up of potato chips. If you’ve got a nothing-to-lose mentality and can reach for that bottle of Champagne, got for it! Otherwise, more budget-friendly options like Cremant and Cava are top bill.

Jarred Salsa
Sauvignon Blanc, especially a New Zealand style is a yummy way to go when looking for a wine pairing. Whether you’re using chips or veggies to dip with, salsa snacking is a quick way to feel a level-up with your next bite. It’s also a quick way to get a salsa stain or two on your shirt, but who’s watching anyway, right?

Canned Fish
Txakoli. If you’re unfamiliar with Txakoli, just remember it’s not the name of a grape, but a style of wine. While white is the most popular, you’ll find red versions as well. I love Txakoli (white) with canned fish, especially sardines. From the Basque region, it’s light bodied, yet packs a punch! Canned fish doesn’t have to feel like a sad snack. Elevate canned sardines or tuna on a soft baguette or cracker with your favorite cheese, sprinkle fresh or dried herbs… voila! Mini hors d’oeuvres.

Chardonnay is a classic option, something that matches both the buttery and salty components of popcorn.

Bread (and Butter)
It seems like every possible variation of a bread recipe is out on the interwebs right now. If you happen to be participating in some of that at-home bread baking (or gave up and ended up buying a loaf instead), make a little spritzy spritz by mixing some citrus — like orange juice — and Prosecco. Cheers!

As always, this isn’t a definitive list or an end-all formula for pairing wines with pantry staples, just an injection of an upbeat and lighthearted wine pairing for your quarantine madness.

If you have your own two cents, do share! We would love to hear. Happy snacking, and stay safe!