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Apr 14, 2009
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Wine With . . . Guacamole

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas       


With warm weather heading our way, we find ourselves somehow in a more sociable frame of mind than we tend to be during the drab days of winter.  It's time to clean off the grill, uncover the garden furniture, and invite a few friends over to celebrate the advent of spring flowers and longer hours of sunlight.  This sort of seasonal gathering is the kind of occasion that's a lot more fun when it includes crispy chips, a big bowl of guacamole, and some scintillating wine.  Yes, we know, Margaritas and/or beer are the traditional drinks to accompany guacamole; but, as we discovered one recent evening when we were putting the theory to the test, this gustatory experience can be enhanced with wine.  More than any other beverage, the right wine forms a bond on the palate with the rich, buttery avocado mixture, creating a sublime synergy.


It was just the two of us the evening of our experiment, with candlelight, a mountain of guacamole, a bag of corn chips*, and twelve open wine bottles lined up in front of us on the kitchen table.  We sipped, and swirled the wines, scooped up mashed avocado, crunched fragments of corn tostadas, wrote down tasting notes, re-filled glasses-- and vowed to eat guacamole more often.


Few things are easier to prepare than homemade guacamole.  You can, of course, purchase prepared guac in most markets these days, but all too often this commercial product contains water, sugar, additives such as sodium acid pyrophosphate, and xantham gum, or other emulsifiers.  None of these things will poison you, but if you love real guacamole you'll find this commercial stuff has a disappointing texture and subtly unpleasant flavors.   


There aren't really any set rules for making guacamole other than being sure the avocados are fully ripe.  To test, rest the avocado in the palm of your hand; if it is firm but yields to gentle pressure, it's ripe.  (If it feels mushy, it's overripe and shouldn't be used.)  There are hundreds of different varieties of avocados grown in the United States, but the most popular by a long shot is the Hass, whose pebbly, blackish skin is very distinctive.   The Hass has a particularly appealing nutty flavor and higher oil content than many avocados.  And remember that avocados are blessed with 'good' fat.  According to writer and NPR commentator Howard Yoo: 'The fat in an avocado gets a bad rap.  While it does contain saturated fat-a little more than 1 gram per quarter-segment-the fruit is high in fiber, has more potassium than bananas and is loaded with folates and vitamin E.  Of all fruits, the avocado is highest in protein.'


We prefer our guacamole slightly chunky rather than pureed to smooth baby-food consistency.  Many recipes we've looked at call for the addition of olive oil, sour cream or even mayonnaise, but in our view this is overkill since avocados are blessed with their own luscious natural oils.  Purists maintain that the best guacamole is the simplest -- nothing more than mashed avocado, a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime. 




Approx. Price



Casalinova, Prosecco Del Veneto (Italy) Extra Dry NV

(Imported by Quintessential LLC)




Finding 'the right' wine to serve with guacamole proved trickier than we expected.  We tried twelve-one sparkler, one rosé, two reds, and eight whites.  While none made for a terrible match, many seemed too light, and a few (mostly the reds) were definitely too heavy. 


We learned that, because the dish is rich, you need a fairly full, fleshy wine.  At the same time, the lemon or lime juice in guacamole makes it somewhat piquant, so the wine needs to taste refreshing.  Our favorite wines all emphasized either richness or crispness - often one at the expense of the other.


We learned two other things with this pairing.  First, wines with an overt overlay of oak taste bitter with guacamole - so much so that they make the avocados seem sour.  Second, wines with overt sweetness do just fine.  We only opened one such wine (a Vouvray, described below), but it worked so well that we wouldn't hesitate to recommend other off-dry whites-Alsatian Pinot Gris, for example, or German Spatlese, or even, dare we say, White Zin.


This Extra Dry Prosecco offers a hint of sweetness, and that note helped make it sing with the guacamole.  The bubbles were an added bonus.  Not only did they help the wine feel festive, but they also seemed to cut the richness of the dish, making us eager for another helping.




Famiglia Bianchi, San Rafael, Mendoza (Argentina) Chardonnay 2007

(Imported by Quintessential LLC)






We tried two Chardonnays.  One, from California, was heavy with oak.  This one, though a tad woody, was much fresher and livelier.  Its great virtue with the guacamole, though, was its fleshy texture, as the feel of the wine echoed the feel of the dish.   




Natura, Valle Casablanca (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc 2008

(Imported by Banfi Vintners)





This wine, made in a style that many consumers associate with New Zealand Sauvignons, wasn't perfect because it's a touch too light in body.  Nonetheless, its aggressive citrus flavors proved deliciously refreshing with the rich guacamole.  If you could find a Sauvignon with similar flavors but a bit more heft, you'd have an ideal match.




Domaine Pichot, Vouvray, Loire Valley (France) 'Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette' 2007

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)




Definitely off-dry (and in fact verging on outright sweetness), this peach and pear-scented wine tasted luscious with the guacamole.  We were surprised, as we had guessed that the avocados would want dry wine partners.  Well, we were wrong.





Sofia by Francis Coppola, Monterey County (California) Rosé 2008






A classy rosé, fairly bursting with strawberry and cherry fruit flavors, this wine is dry but very fruity.  Those ripe flavors were what made it work so well with this dish.  It doesn't display the dried herb and spice notes that distinguish Provencal and other southern French rosés.  Their absence might be missed in other contexts, but not in this one.