Frontera Grill and Topolobampo
445 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Wine Tips: Jill Gubesch, Sommelier,
Wine offers more thrilling complexity than any other beverage –
more intricate layerings of aroma, more diversity of flavor, more spirit.
Which means wine is absolutely the most perfect match for the complex,
varied dishes Mexico’s classic cooks have turned out for centuries.
Here’s a guide to classic Mexican flavors and wines that harmonize
with them, which I’ve put together in collaboration with our Executive
Chef Rick Bayless.
Achiote – uniquely aromatic, earthy, orange-red
spice that defines Yucatecan specialties. Explore Chianti
Classico to match achiote’s eathiness.
Ancho Chile – ruby-red heart-shaped dried chile,
medium to mild, with dried fruit/dried tomato flavors. Very wine
friendly: Tempranillo, Northern Rhone Syrah (smoky,
earthy) or Australian Shiraz (jammy).
Cascabel Chile – smallish round brick-red dried
chile, medium to spicy (back-palate heat), with earthy nuttiness. Explore
California Pinot Noir for its soothing, lingering fruit.
Chipolte Chile – smoke-dried jalapeño,
quite spicy, backed up with welcome sweetness. Explore Argentine
Malbec (rich, forward fruit with smoky, earthy finish) and
Tempranillo from Spain’s Ribera del Duero (fuller
Epazote – pungent herb with piney aroma used
extensively in Central, Southern, and Eastern Mexico. Explore Argentine
Torrontes (floral notes) or New Zealand Pinot Noir
(bright, lively fruit).
Escabeche – tangy, aromatic blend of vinegar,
olive oil, rich broth, herbs, and sweet spices. Explore New
Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for its ripe fruit and crisp, clean
Guajillo Chile – light cranberry-red, long,
smooth-skin dried chile, medium to spicy, with a bright liveliness (some
say it’s “aggressive”). Explore California
or Languedoc Syrah (supple, forward fruit to balance
Habanero Chile – lantern-shaped chile, amazingly
spicy, with thrilling tropical flavors. Explore New World
Chardonnay or Viognier (both typically tropical,
Hoja Santa – bold herb with alluring sasparilla
and anise flavors integral to Southern and Gulf Coastal food. Explore
Riesling or Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) to match
the sweet anise.
Huitlacoche – inky-colored, earthy-sweet corn
mushroom that is a delicacy in Central Mexico. Explore Tempranillo
or full-bodied Pinot Noir (French of California) for
their earthy fruitiness.
Lime – as essential as salt in Mexican cooking;
featured grandly in the lime-marinated fish called ceviche. Explore
Oregon Pinot Gris or New Zealand Sauvignon
Blanc for a crisp, fruity balance.
Pasilla Chile – very dark, long, dried chile,
medium spicy, with deep flavors that hint at (yes!) bitter chocolate
and coffee. Explore Zinfandel (rich, spicy fruit),
Chilean Cabernet blends (dark fruit, soft tannins).
Poblano Chile – large, dark-green chile, medium
spicy, with rich, complex earthy flavors. Explore Austrian
Grüner Veltliner, Moscatel, or dry Riesling
(all have welcome citrus flavors).
Serrano or Jalapeño Chile
– fresh green chiles, medium to spicy, with fresh bright-green
punch. Explore Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc (grassy
freshness) or Oregon Pinot Gris (more fruit, but great
Tomatillos – green husk “tomatoes”
usually roasted to add sweet richness to their citrus tartness. Explore
Côtes du Rhône, lighter California
Syrah (soft, youthful fruit), or Alsatian Riesling
(fruity with good minerality).
Tomatoes – sweet/tart red icons, usually roasted
to add unexpected depth and sweet complexity. Explore Sangiovese
or Barbera (their brightness matches the tomato flavors).