Popcorn’s origins may predate U.S. history, but Americans can’t get enough of this timeless snack. From movie theaters to county fairs, game nights and weekends at home with Netflix, popcorn has a permanent place. The snack can be both nourishing and comforting.
Whether you prefer your bucket or bowl with savory flavors, a buttery topping or sweet and sticky, there is a wine from one of the many diverse regions across the country that will really make it pop.
Classic buttered popcorn is like a warm hug. It’s toasty and creamy, with a fluffy, yielding texture. Pair with a bold Chardonnay from Napa Valley, California. Choose one with oaky notes of vanilla and nuts and the buttery richness produced from malolactic fermentation. A chilled sip following a warm mouthful will land you on cloud nine.
Pop your kernels in duck fat, sprinkle with salt and porcini mushroom powder and be immediately transported to a log-cabin adventure. Meaty and smoky flavors pair well with earthy Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. These wines exude a truffle-like decadence along with wild herbal notes that will bring out the gamy flavor of duck fat, while the high acidity cuts through all the richness for a perfect balance.
Swap butter for herb-infused olive oil for a fresh flavor and a coating effect. Olive oils infused with dill, mint and thyme go great with sparkling wine from Carneros, California. The bubbles lift the grassy notes and the crisp acidity transcends the olive oil’s balm. Sprinkle some parmesan for a salty touch and bring the wine’s minerality to the forefront. Be sure to choose a low dosage brut style, as too much sugar may overwhelm delicate green notes.
For those with a sweet tooth, dress popcorn with sugar melted in corn syrup, with a touch of salt. Desserts are tricky to pair, but a rule of thumb is for wine to be sweeter than food to avoid the perception of bitterness and overt acidity. Warm caramel goes great with ice wine from the Finger Lakes in New York. These rare beauties, made from grapes frozen on the vine to extract maximum flavor, are honeyed and toffee-rich—the perfect complement to your chewy, sweet treat. The wine’s citrusy, zingy acidity cleanses the palate, inviting another bite.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!