Serious Grape: Hot Dog Wines

"Gewürztraminer is grown in Germany and Alsace, two regions known for fine sausages, so it's no surprise the grape goes well with hot dogs."

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Many hot dogs will be slapped into buns this weekend in honor of Labor Day. Some will anoint them with mustard, others will go for "Chicago style," loading everything but the kitchen sink on top. Even without toppings, hot dogs are tricky because they combine sweet and salty flavors. So what's a wine drinker to do?

Of course, you can do what you like--there are no absolute rules when it comes to wine and food pairing. But if hot dogs have stumped you in the past, I've got recommendations for sparkling, Gewürztraminer, rosé, and Merlot wines.

Sparkling Wine

For all the same reasons Champagne goes great with potato chips, dry or slightly sweet sparkling wines pair well with hot dogs. The bubbles and acidity help to cut their fattiness, and the flavors of citrus and toast pair delightfully with the saltiness. And you don't have to splurge on Champagne if you don't want to. There are terrific domestic sparklers in the market, as well as sparkling wine from Spain, Italy, and France.

Two recommended bottles under $20 are the NV Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Blanc de Blancs Brut with its citrus, pear, and brioche flavors and the NV Segura Viudas Cava Aria with its fresh lemon aromas and biscuity, refreshing flavors.

Gewürztraminer

Aromatic Gewürztraminer is grown in Germany and Alsace, two regions known for fine sausages, so it's no surprise the grape goes well with hot dogs. Gewürztraminer, even when dry, gives a sweet, soft impression in its aromas and honey-dipped apple flavors and provides a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the hot dog.

One widely available bottling I like is the 2008 Chateau St. Jean Gewürztraminer. It's off-dry in style, with aromas of lychee and roses followed by a lychee and apple palate.

Rosé

Rosé wines are among the most food-friendly, and they are a great partner for hot dogs. Ask for a dry rosé as the sweeter versions can be too cloying. I recommend the 2007 Fortant Vin de Pays d'Oc Rosé, which is made from Merlot grapes. It's full-bodied, dry, and has lots of cherry and blackberry fruit flavors. Another full-bodied, dry rose (this one made from Sangiovese grapes) is the 2008 A to Z Wineworks Rosé from Oregon. I tasted raspberries, strawberries, and even some cucumber notes in this crisp, refreshing example.

Merlot

Merlot is fruity and has a plush texture that works well with the hot dog's texture. Try the 2006 Clos LaChance Hummingbird Series "Violet Crowned" Merlot with its blackberry flavors and juicy aftertaste, or the 2007 McWilliam's Hanwood Estate Merlot with its plum and cherry flavors and spicy notes.

Full disclosure: I purchased the A to Z Wineworks Rosé and the Segura Viudas Cava. The other bottles were received as samples.

About the author: Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by every Friday with Serious Grape.

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