Like any self-respecting Southern Californian, I love Mexican food and enjoy it as often as humanly possible. When I happened upon Southwest Wines' Hatch Green Chile wine, with its colorful label boasting flavors fated for Mexican cuisine, I just had to try it.
The description of a slightly sweet wine flavored with actual green chiles sounded like a great combination to me. Spicy food generally pairs well with a sweet-wine counterpart for balance, and the idea of a chile flavor to enhance the meal made my mouth water for my favorite foods. The concept of both sweet and spice within the same wine sounded, at the very least, like an interesting departure from everyday drink choices. However, the theory didn't quite hold up.
I took the wine to a birthday party and poured it for a group of friends and family as we enjoyed an assortment of Mexican food. Some sipped without food, others with plates of carne asada and pollo asada tacos and layers of nachos. Unfortunately, after the initial taste test, no one asked for a second sample but, rather, started thinking of other ways to use it—in cooking or to make sangria, perhaps? The excitement of a wine made for Mexican food soon faded.
For me, the sweetness was too subdued to complement the intensity of marinated meats, hot sauce and spicy carrots. The label doesn't list a varietal and the company's website mentions only a "propriety blend" of grapes. With its aroma and texture, I thought of an unoaked chardonnay but with an abrupt finish. I expected the chiles to pack a crisp punch, but, in the end, the spicy tones also fell short of the vibrancy I was hoping for.
Expectations aside, this wasn't a total loss. Reminiscent of a hard cider, it seems mild enough for non-standard wine drinkers, and appealing pear-like flavors might make it a better pre-meal option. It just didn't quite stand up to a bold meal as promised. This one taught an oft-repeated lesson: You can't always judge a wine by its label.