wine pairing of the week

How to Pair Wine With Cheetos

It’s time to grab some Sancerre. Illustration: The Ellaphant In The Room

Cheetos are American industrialization working at its peak. How else to explain a food that doesn’t resemble actual food? The texture is somehow crunchy and fluffy at the same time; Cheetos coating is a shade of blinding orange that has never occurred in nature. And if the flavor resembles real cheese in any way, that is surely a coincidence. Even the longtime slogan, “Dangerously Cheesy,” sounds more like a threat than a boast.

And yet, Cheetos are impossible to resist. We all know what it feels like to have our fingers coated in fluorescent cheese dust after downing an entire bag. Even if it leaves us feeling guilty, we know we’ll do it again. And if you’re anything like me, you will, at some point in your Cheetos-eating life, wonder, Should I have some wine with this?

Of course you should, and after some very strenuous research, I can also tell you that the wine in question should be a bottle of white Sancerre.

Here’s why it works: What salt is to food, acidity is to wine. Without it, the whole enterprise is dull and flat. Cheetos may be the saltiest food known to mankind, so it makes sense that the only wine that stands a chance against these cheesy salt blasts would be as acidic as possible. White wine from Sancerre — an appellation in central France is made from Sauvignon Blanc. While it may seem odd to pair wine produced a few hours south of Paris with a bright-orange cheese snack invented in Dallas, the rip-roaring acidity of white Sancerre has a natural symbiosis with the corn, cheese, and salt of Cheetos.

White Sancerre also tends to be super textured, which means that when you swish it around as you drink it, it will coat all of the fleshy parts and give the inside of your mouth a fighting chance against all that Cheetos buildup. White Sancerre also has a lot of what we in the wine biz call minerality — the category of smells and flavors that aren’t fruity, spicy, or herbal. Think of the subtle briny salinity of an oyster as an example. Sancerre’s own minerality will keep the intensity of the Cheetos in check.

You’ll find red and rosé wines from Sancerre, but white is what you want in this case. There are a lot of appellations in France that use Sauvignon Blanc, and Sancerre is the most recognizable. The town of Sancerre is located in a region called the Loire Valley. Snaking from just outside of Paris all the way west to the Atlantic, this valley makes world-class whites of all different types of expressions. The hallmark of how the wine smells is a “flinty” note. Think of two hard, chalky rocks striking against each other, and that flinty smell is what happens. There is also a lot of citrus front and center. It’s all backed up by herbaceous notes such as grass, thyme, and chamomile. White Sancerres have that telltale superhigh acidity that makes them great for savory snacking on cheesy delights. Even if you don’t drink them with Chester Cheetah’s preferred snack food — understandable — there is a lot of good Sancerre to be had. Here are three bottles to get you started:

Francois Millet ($20)
It’s hard to find good Sancerre under $20 because the appellation has become so popular. Millet is one of the more affordable options that defies the odds with deliciousness and value.

Château du Nozay “Domaine du Nozay” ($25)
This tiny estate property produces a style that has weight and texture for days.

Pascal Cotat “Monts Damnes” ($60)
Pascal Cotat is a winemaker of actual cult status, and these whites age like a hearty red wine would. You can drink them young, but patience will be oh so rewarding. Lucky for you, Cheetos never really go bad.

How to Pair Wine With Cheetos