A friend of mine turned 40 last week.
So. Like many, she was not looking forward to the milestone, wanting nothing to do with it. Her friends, on the other hand, weren’t having any of that, and so a whole day’s worth of surprise shenanigans was planned.
It was to be a roving surprise party, with numerous stations around the city she’d be escorted through. Now, the birthday girl really likes potato chips. I guess we all do, but to those close to her, her chip adoration is known as a signature trait. She’s also kind and smart and funny and everything that goes along with those things, but the chip thing is right up there too.
The idea pitched to me was to set up a wine-and-chip tasting for her and a small group of friends, and as a guy who is also a big fan of both delicious categories, I was happy to oblige.
Hey, by no means is the chips ’n’ wine thing unique. Many a wine brand has promoted the accessibility of its fare by recommending such pairings. And, really, who among us hasn’t been a few glasses in and been elated to remember there are chips in the cupboard?
This exercise allowed me to give it a solid focus and do some Incredibly Difficult Research in not only working out solid pairings but making them so enjoyable that a reluctant birthday girl might change her tune. I went with Kettle Brand potato chips because I enjoy the diversity of their flavours (which are always balanced) and they have a good crunch.
Without further ado, here are four of the pairings I put together, confident they’d be worthy of a good friend’s special day.
Joseph Drouhin Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis Reserve De Vaudon 2014
(France; $36.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
This stunning Chardonnay weaves citrus fruit and fresh herbs together and then is painted with a light coat of fresh ginger. What I hoped would be a no-brainer ended up knocking it out of the park.
Kettle Brand Moscow Mule chips are (stay with me here) a delicious combo of spicy ginger and lime, rounded out by fried salty goodness. Yes, these potato chips fashioned with classic cocktail flavours end up standing shoulder to shoulder with a fancy-pants (but killer value) Chablis, and the result is spot-on.
Haywire Gamay Noir Rosé 2016
(Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $22.90, online)
A dry, pink wine with red plums, mulberries, and a good rub of fresh thyme. I was looking for a wine that would balance things out with a touch of sweetness yet still offer a good kick. Enter Kettle Brand Honey Dijon flavour. The chips, on their own, have a fairly sweet richness, but with all of that fresh berry fruit cutting through and the herbal component lifting them up? We had a winner.
Barone Di Valforte Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2014
(Abruzzo, Italy; $18.49/$17.49, B.C. Liquor Stores)
Are there rules about white wine with chips or red wine with chips? There aren’t that I know of, but I’ll bet if there were, red wine would be a no-no. This wine would be my defence of the match.
You take this cavalcade of ripe red-berry fruit, flecked with fresh French herbs and a solid dusting of white pepper, then crunch into Kettle Brand Krinkle Cut Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper chips. Immediately, the fruit hits the salt, the pepper hits pepper, and all is right in the world.
Tantalus Vineyards Riesling 2016
(Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $19.91, online)
Riesling goes with pretty much everything, so why not throw Kettle Brand Jalapeño chips up against it? You’ll be glad you did! These chips have some heat to them, as you might expect. In fact, I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spice, so my eyes begin watering once I’m six or seven chips in.
You know what helps? Riesling! Especially when it’s winemaker Dave Paterson’s always on-point Riesling from Tantalus in Kelowna. The ripe peaches, pears, and fresh squeeze of lime envelop that heat damn well, with the lofty acidity making you immediately eager for that next sip.
These pairings worked, and they were so fun to play around with. In fact, I might even say the tasting was a turnaround of a 40th-birthday perspective, as moods certainly lifted as we all celebrated throughout the day. Sure, it could have been the wine, but I’d like to think the chips had something to do with it too.