11 Fast Food and Wine Pairings That Will Blow Your Mind


By Hillary Eaton. All photos: iStock 

When it comes to food and wine pairings, there’s no shortage of classic combos that always work: oysters and Champagne, Cabernet and steak, Zinfandel and BBQ. But, what about the nights when you’re craving a glass of vino with something that you can pick up and devour at home? Perhaps even something you can score from, dare we say, a drive-thru?!

As you’ve probably already guessed, we’re talking about the ultimate in high/low food pairings: the perfect glass of wine to punctuate your favorite takeout. (Admit it: Doesn’t an In-N-Out burger and a glass of light red sound simply divine for dinner tonight?)

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Of course, Southern California’s original fast food haunts all seem to be lacking a skilled sommelier for a reco, so we called upon Matthew Kaner for help. Kaner is the wine director and co-owner of some of L.A.’s coolest wine bars, like Bar Covell and the just-opened Augustine Wine Bar — i.e., the perfect person to help us pair some delicious eats with a perfectly-selected libation.

From SoCal favorites like Winchell’s Donuts and In-N-Out Burger to Taco Bell and Panda Express, we’ve got all the best new wine pairings that you could possibly need. Cheers!

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Arguably California’s most classic burger, the In-N-Out Hamburger deserves a new classic pairing of its own. To make your heavenly burger experience all the better, Kaner suggests you pair yours with a glass of something with a touch of acidity for the perfect balance.

“What I love about an In-N-Out burger is the sauce, which has a lot of really amazing sweetness,” Kaner told us. “Chenin Blanc has a very apple-y character to it. Depending on where it’s from, you’ll also have two to 10 grams of residual sugar, but it’s also got high acidity,” he says. Translation: The acidity will cut through the meat in the burger and the sweetness of the sauce for the perfect pairing.

Try Château de Brézé Chenin Blanc Saumur, France 2011 or
Jérémie Mourat Moulin Blanc, France 2013.


Panda Express

If Panda Express is your takeout of choice, you know orange chicken reigns supreme. For the perfect combo of bowl and beverage, look for a white wine with a touch of sweetness to go along with that sticky sweet chicken, like Alsatian Gewürztraminer.

“You have texture on texture, so you want something with a little more residual sugar to balance with the sweetness of the food,” Kaner explains. “Gewürztraminer has a very floral bouquet with spicy aromatics, lots of ginger notes and apricots, and the body is more towards medium or full body.” Moral of the story: Don’t fight the sweetness, just pair a wine to it.

Try Hugel & Fils Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France 2011 or Louis SIPP Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France 2011.

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Winchell’s Donuts

Who says wine and food pairings only work for dinner? If you’re feeling like a donut (or a dozen!) for your Sunday morning brunch party, Kaner suggests going with something on the sweeter side to accompany it. “For a classic, easy-drinking-in-the-morning mindset, I would probably recommend a Moscato d’Asti,” Kaner says, noting that the wine’s low alcohol content (around 5-7%) is good for a weekend brunch.

“This particular type of wine has a floral quality, almost peach, like an orchard of fresh flowers.” While it may seem counterintuitive to pick something sweet to go with a sugary donut, it actually makes perfect sense: “A lower alcohol content means higher residual sugar, which pairs well with the sugar in the donut,” Kaner says.

Try Coppo Moscato d'Asti, Italy 2012 or Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'Asti, Italy 2012.


California Pizza Kitchen

Now it’s on to our two favorite things to pair together: pizza and wine. For a classic taste, we’re all about California Pizza Kitchen’s Pizza Margherita. What do you pair with gooey cheese and sweet, fresh basil? “Lambrusco all day!” Kaner says, noting the best options are from Emiglia Romagna, Italy. “The wines can also be kind of chalky and slatey, which gives a nice balance to a margherita pizza.”

But, the best part may just be the bubbles: “Those made in a classic style are frizzante, meaning ‘with bubbles,’ so you get the texture and a round palette profile with lots of fruit,” Kaner says.

Try Medici Ermete Lambrusco “Quercioli” Reggiano, Italy Non Vintage or Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco, Italy 2013.

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Taco Bell

Biting into a crunchy-shell Taco Bell taco is all kinds of wonderful, especially when followed by a sip of something aromatic and spicy, which adds even more dimension to your taco experience. For just this reason, Kaner likes to go something that is traditionally revered for a peppery taste profile. “I would say go with the Rhone Valley, something with a little pepper to it, like a Côtes du Rhône, Grenache dominant, or wine that’s all Grenache,” Kaner tells us. “It plays with the simplicity of the way the meat is seasoned.”

Try Chateau De Segries Côtes du Rhône, France 2012 or
Domaine Gramenon Grenache “Les Laurentides” Côtes du Rhône, France 2013.

Note: Adding sour cream changes everything. Look for something with a higher tannin content, like a Piedmont Nebbiolo, which adds intensity to the creamy texture and flavor of the sour cream. “When you add sour cream you change the feel of the taco to more of a hug than a punch, so you want the wine to be a punch,” Kaner says.

Try Damilano Marghe Nebbiolo Langhe, Italy 2012 or G.D. Vajra Nebbiolo Langhe, Italy 2011.



There’s nothing like a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin in the morning, unless, it’s an Egg McMuffin and a delicious glass of cold Riesling on the side. So what type of Riesling works best with this fast food breakfast favorite? “An off-dry Riesling, probably from the Mozel region,” Kaner says, noting that the ham-and-egg combo pairs well with the wine’s sweet, fruity flavors. “Something with purity of fruit, maybe a little slatey, but not daunting, with residual sugar but just a little off-dry,“ he says. Sounds perfect to us.

Try Clemens Busch Riesling Trocken Middle Mosel, Germany 2012 or JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnen Spatlese, Germany 2011.

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Jack In The Box

If Jack In The Box’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich is one of your go-to fast food faves, this pairing is exactly what you need to try — if you can get your hands on a bottle of the wine, that is. “This is a more controversial one,” Kaner says. “There’s this interesting little wine no one’s ever really heard of called Tressalier from a little appellation where the Loire River jettisons south from the Loire Valley, about 100 miles southwest of Paris, called Saint-Pourçain.”

So, what’s so special about it? “This grape has an amazing vein of salinity. It’s new for America, and depending on who made it, will have different levels of body. But it’s always mineral, and always dry, and I think that would do really well with the spicy nature of the chicken sandwich — especially because of its crunchiness, you need something like a high mineral, high acid white.” Okay, we’re officially impressed…and hungry.

Try Domaine Nebout Tressalier Saint-Pourçain, France 2013.


Wetzel’s Pretzels

If you’re in the mood for some twisty pretzel goodness, it’s all about Wetzel’s Pretzels. (With wine, that is!). This modern pairing is all about cutting the salt and heading down under. “I’d go to Australia for this,” says Kaner. Although he admits it’s an unusual choice, a Hunter Valley Semillon is his pick. (It’s usually paired with oysters.)

“Here’s my thought on this,” Kaner explains. “A pretzel has a lot of salinity, and the wines from the Hunter Valley, though they are the warmest region in the southern hemisphere, they have the shortest growing seasons. So they tend to have this amazing salinity to them as well, even though they aren’t next to a body of water. Think of this as a balancing act of salt.” It may sound technical, but your mouth will appreciate the thought. Trust us.

Try Brokenwood Semillon Hunter Valley, Australia 2013 or Tyrell’s Vat 1 Semilllon, Hunter Valley, Australia.


Original Tommy’s Hamburgers

When it comes to chili, SoCal residents know there’s no place like Tommy’s. Luckily for us, Kaner’s been hitting up Tommy’s for many years. “I’ve been eating Tommy’s chili since I was 5 years old,” he says, so you know he definitely has that perfect pairing on lock.

“This is a meal that can handle a very big fruit, low tannin red wine,” Kaner explains, noting that he’d go with something from our own California backyard. “I would say something from Paso Robles would make a lot of sense, like a Grenache or Syrah, Mourvèdre-style.” The wines that are a bit higher in alcohol, with lots of purity of fruits, will balance the chili perfectly, he notes. Dinner tonight? We say, go for it!

Try Tablas Creek "Patelin de Tablas” Red Rhone Blend, Paso Robles, California 2013 or Zenaida Cellars Wanderlust, Paso Robles, California 2012.


Fat Burger

Craving Fat Burger’s insanely good veggie burger? We’ve got the perfect wine pairing for you. To keep everything on the cruelty-free path, Kaner selected an unfined and unfiltered option, which is considered the vegan way to make vino, Kaner informed us.

“I’d say a Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley; something with a lovely balance and purity of fruit, but also with a nice bit of acidity,” Kaner says. Why? “You’re lacking meat in the burger, but you still want that burger experience, so you need a wine with a little more savoriness.” Vegetarian pairing of the year? We think so.

Try Donkey & Goat Pinot Noir “Helluva Vineyard,” Anderson Valley, California 2013 or UNITY Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California.



Love a big red? This pairing is for you. Look no further than a Wienerschnitzel hot dog, and prepare to put on your happy face, because these hot dogs work perfectly alongside something full-bodied and Italian, says Kaner. “I’d go with a super Tuscan: Either a wine that’s made with Sangiovese and Bordeaux varieties, or just Bordeaux,” he explains. “You’ll get some fun texture and, depending on the producer, you’ll get some interesting oak in there as well.” Both of which make for the perfect partner for your takeout.

Try Fattoria Lourauo Rosso Toscana Helena, Italy 2013 or
Marchesi Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli ‘Siepi’ Toscana, Italy 1996.

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