The Best Pairing for French Wine? French Fries

Wine Enthusiast held its annual Wines of Southwest France french fry pairing competition in NYC last month, complete with chefs from five of the city's hottest restaurants. The competition was broken up by wine variety into five categories of wines from the oft-ignored region including Dry White, Rose, Fruity Red, 100% Malbec and Full Body Reds, with one chef preparing fries to match the grape at each station.

Try to choose your favorite from the following five match-ups, and scroll down to find out who took the #VinoFries win—it's no small feat to pair potatoes perfectly with the region's native wine aromas including grapefruit, truffle, violet, black pepper, coconut, and banana! 

  • 01 of 05

    Dry White Wines

    Carnitas fries at Wine Enthusiast competition
    Wine Enthusiast

    The dry whites of the Southwest France region included an Alain Brumont 2011 Les Jardins de Bouscasse blend (a rare white from a producer known mostly for reds), a couple of bottles from the famous Cotes de Gascogne region—including a Domaine Guillaman 2015 Les Pierres Blanches and a Domaine Chiroulet 2015 Terres Blanches—and several more options with the crisp and citrusy notes characteristic of the variety.

    The duty of pairing fries here went to Chef Ricky Camacho of Mexican restaurant Anejo. Camacho threw a curveball with his carnitas fries, which were cut from yucca instead of potato, and topped with pork shoulder, poblano lime aioli, garlic crisps, cilantro and pickled onions. 

  • 02 of 05

    Rosé Wines

    Asian food
    Elspeth Velten

    Yes way – rosé is taken seriously in France, so you don't have to feel guilty about limiting your summer repertoire to only this pink drink. Southwest France's rosés are typically made from local Negrette, Malbec, and Tannat grapes, and the options at this event included bottles from the Fronton region, which boasts a Protected Designation of Origin designation. Wines with this designation can only be produced in the certified location for terroir reasons. 

    A Chateau Lagrezette 2015 Le Rose de Julie in the same category was dry, and a perfect pairing for the daring Thai-style fries served up by Chef Christopher Stam of Spice Market fame. These hand-cut fries were topped with kaffir lime, garlic crumbs, pungent nuoc cham mayonnaise, chili sambal, scallions, and cilantro.

  • 03 of 05

    Fruity Red Wines

    Wine Enthusiast French fries and French wine competition
    Wine Enthusiast

    The Fruity Red station focused on the lighter-tasting darks—Negrette grapes from the PDO Fronton region featured here as well, along with Duras and Mansois, from the PDO Gaillac and PDO Marcillac regions. The spicy notes across these wines made an indulgent fry pairing from Chef Greg Rubin possible.

    Chef Rubin's American Cut restaurant knows how to handle a steak, so it's no surprise that his pairing for the Fruity Reds was cooked up in hot beef fat and tossed with parsley, rosemary salt and (more) dry-aged beef fat. Vegetarians might cringe at the sound of this dish, but the black pepper notes in the paired wine cut right through the rich fries.

    Scientists have found that the molecule that creates the black pepper note in these wines—rotundone—is only discernible by 80% of humans. The remaining 20% taste and smell wines with this aroma completely differently!

  • 04 of 05

    100% Malbec Wines

    French fries
    Elspeth Velten

    Thought Malbec was exclusively a South American export? Think again. Vines producing the grapes for these strong reds cover almost 9000 acres of the Southwest France wine region, which is actually the variety's true origin. 

    This dark, truffle-tasting wine pairs as well with French fries as oil from the rare tuber itself. But dousing golden potatoes in truffle oil would have been too obvious. Instead, Chef Pedro Duarte of SushiSamba turned to black garlic, balsamic, rosemary and sea salt, all topped off with rich shards of duck crackling. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Full Body Red Wines

    French fries and red wine
    Elspeth Velten

    Station 5 represented the region's full-bodied reds. Amongst others here, Alain Brumont showed off its famed reds, including a high-rated 2010 Chateau Bouscasse and a 2011 Chateau Montus. Full-bodied reds are some of the Southwest Region's most celebrated products — Tannat grapes lend earthiness to these wines and sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. 

    Chef Aaron LaMonica from hot spots Seamstress and Belle Shoals was up for the challenge. Bravely, LaMonica paired rich with richer — the chef topped twice-blanched Kennebeck potatoes with Midnight Moon goat cheese, chives, smoked brisket and hearty pork gravy. Tangy orange zest saved the rich wine-and-fry pairing from being too heavy to handle.

    The Winners

    Five Southwest France wine varieties literally met their match in five New York City chefs, but only two pairings would be called winners at the end of the day. Once all of the votes were cast, The People's Choice award for best wine and fry pairing went to Chef Greg Rubin's beef fat fries and their best fruity red match: the Domaine des Terrisses 2014 Grande Tradition. 

    But the event's three official judges did not agree. The Judges' Choice award for best pairing went instead to Chef Ricky Camacho of Anejo, for his Mexican yucca fries — a momentous decision that French fry traditionalists probably did not see coming. 

    So the ultimate pairing for French wine is actually... yucca fries? We may just need to conduct more taste testing to be sure.