Folks keep asking me about wine pairings with grilled foods, like hot dogs. I’d never given it much thought, as I prefer beer with hot dogs. At least one of my more persistent oenophile correspondents has, however, persuaded me to give the matter greater consideration.
According to the Washington-based National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans spent more than $2.5 billion on hot dogs in 2015. Los Angeles is the top hot dog consuming markets. Washington is number 9. We are reaching the end of what the council calls the “peak hot dog season” between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when “Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs” which breaks down to “818 hot dogs consumed every second.”
Kosher hot dogs, according to the council, “are a small, but growing part of the hot dog category” and “growing at twice the rate of the total category.”
I decided to stick with just one producer for my wine pairing tests — Abeles & Heymann, one of the top national kosher brands (OU certified), and my go-to brand.
I find the Abeles & Heymann hot dogs to be dependably great, and I’ve lately also become a big fan of their beef salami. Indeed, while tasty as-is, their salami dries nicely, and I’ve found it to be especially tasty if sliced into rounds and grilled until crisp over charcoal.
As for wine pairings, obviously final preparations — method of cooking, toppings — matter greatly. A poached hot dog, tastes different from a grilled hot dog. A chili dog — hot dog topped with chili — is a very different experience from a simple hot dog topped with yellow mustard and ketchup. Some folks like relish, others sauerkraut, or even hot peppers atop their hot dogs. Presumably the only limit is one’s imagination. Folks obviously ought to consider personal tastes to make, or at least finalize, appropriate wine pairings.
That said, based on my own extensive, happy research, if limited to conventional mustard and sauerkraut, a dry medium-bodied, refreshingly crisp rosé should do nicely. A light pinot noir also works quite well, ditto for a light California zinfandel (the Baron Herzog label does nicely here for both) or even a nice Sangiovese. A slightly chilled Beaujolais works very well, as it so often does. Gewürztraminer and Riesling, both of which have a natural spiciness, also make for convivial accompaniment. Pinot gris also works pretty well.
For a chili dog, consider a full-bodied Israeli or California syrah. My favorite pairing, however, was a sparkling brut — proving once again that it does, in fact, go well with virtually everything. The natural carbonation cuts the richness and salt well, giving it the edge over most other wines. Since hot dogs are so American, I thought it best to stick with a California brut instead of a French Champagne (cava or prosecco would also work nicely, though).
One generally cannot go wrong with: The mevushal Hagafen Brut cuvée 2012 ($38) is a full-bodied dry sparkling wine, with a lovely, bright peach hue and a robust head of large, lively bubbles, offering aromas and flavors of peach, apple, strawberry, a touch of melon, citrus, dollops of cream, a touch of yeast and an inviting smidge of brioche; there is also a generous hint of sweet syrup, finishing in a long citrus and green almond finish. L’chaim!