Hot Dogs and Wine

By Ray Isle Posted August 29, 2012
Depending on whether your frank is made of beef, pork or simply dipped in batter then fried, F&W's Ray Isle has the perfect hot dog wine pairing for you. / © Doug Ridgway

© Doug Ridgway

There are some folks who might think it a bit much, pairing wine with hot dogs—but think about it. What is a hot dog, after all, but a subspecies of sausage? And sausages, in all their varied everything-but-the-squeal wonderfulness, go great with wine.

Of course, as with all proteins, what you slather on the meat itself makes a big difference when it comes to what wine you might want to drink with it. And hot dog toppings definitely have their partisans—the kraut-and-mustard fan will look with scorn upon the Chicago-dog aficionado; the chili-cheese-and-jalapeño lover will consider the Coney Island dog adherent (chili, chopped onion, yellow mustard) a tiny-brained nit who ought to be living on a barge; and no one has any respect for the corn-dog eaters, despite the fact that the corn dog is one of the genius inventions of the 20th century. (Like many genius inventions, it’s of disputed origin: Some claim the 1920’s Krusty Korn Dog baking machine as the ur-source, others say the corn dog originated at Pronto Pup in Portland, Oregon, in the 1930s, and still others argue for the Texas State Fair in 1938, where it was called a “corny dog.” Anyway, we’ll be announcing the date for the cage fight soon.)

But all that aside, should you feel like venturing into the arcane realm of hot-dog-and-wine pairing, here are some thoughts on the matter.

New York Style Dog (kraut & deli mustard)
When you come down to it, the NY-style dog could be fairly assessed as a really stripped-down version of the Alsatian classic choucroute garnie. (I was going to say without the pork knuckles, but when you’re talking hot dogs, who really knows?) Appropriately, a substantial Alsace white variety like Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris will stand up to the sourness of the kraut as well as the spice of the mustard. There are any number of good American producers, but for a start try the lychee-scented 2010 Husch Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer ($14) or the vibrant 2010 Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions Pinot Gris ($13).

Chicago Dog (tomato, pickle, onion, mustard, sport peppers & celery salt)
A little heat, a lot of tang, plenty of salt, yet not much fat, except for the dog itself. Acidity is the answer, as it matches well with tanginess and also with salty flavors. I’d suggest a good dry Riesling, for instance the focused 2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling ($10), which is a separate bottling from the winery’s regular, off-dry Riesling, or the complex, peachy 2010 Trefethen Estate Dry Riesling ($20).

Chili-Cheese-Jalapeño Dog (chili, melted cheese & jalapeños)
Beloved of my Texas youth, especially when made with jarred, sliced jalapeños. Heat, fat and meat are the order of business here (which sounds kind of alarming, but let’s just run with it). A full-bodied red, with some tannins to cut through the fat and a lot of ripe fruit to balance the heat, would be ideal—like the meaty 2010 Big House The Slammer Syrah ($10) or Bogle’s plummy 2009 Petite Sirah ($9), which is less aggressive in character than many Petite Sirahs.

Coney Island Dog (all-beef hot dog, chili, chopped onion & yellow mustard)
The Coney Island version of the chili dog actually doesn’t have much to do with Coney Island itself. It originated instead at a restaurant called Todoroff’s Coney Island in Jackson, Michigan, in 1914, where Mr. Todoroff apparently sold 17,000,000 of the things over the next 31 years. And that, my friends, is a whole lot of cow. Regardless, less fat than the chili-cheese version above, more tanginess from the mustard; try a red that’s a bit lighter bodied, or even a substantial rosé. The juicy 2010 Castello di Luzzao Carlino ($15), from Italy’s Oltrepo Pavese region, would be great; so would the raspberry-scented 2011 Domaine de Nizas Rosé ($15), from France’s Languedoc.

Corn Dog (deep-fried corn-battered dog-on-a-stick, plus mustard)
I suspect the majority of corn dog consumers aren’t actually legal to drink, but for those of us adults who languish in eternal childhood and love these things, there ought to be a vinous option. Go long, go wild, have Champagne—salty fried foods are ideal with it. For actual, honest-to-God Champagne, Piper Heidsieck’s Non-Vintage Brut ($45) is crisp and citrusy; for a bit more richness, go for the Louis Roederer Non-Vintage Brut Premier ($45). For much more affordable but still appealing sparkling wine, look for the lightly yeasty NV Bisol Jeio Brut Prosecco ($15) from Italy or the fragrant NV Bouvet Brut ($15) from France’s Loire Valley.

Related: 15 Rules for Great Food and Wine Pairings
Versatile Wine Pairings
Brilliant Hot Dog Recipes

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