Pair Your Hot Dogs With Wine

Ditch the beer. A humble hot dog with a good glass of wine makes all the sense in the world.

Move over, hot dogs dipped directly into beer. Kick rocks, hot dog beer straw. There's a better beverage to pair with your frankfurter, and it's much more civilized.

Before I left Los Angeles somewhat indefinitely, I had a going away party at Walt's Bar in Eagle Rock. Walt's is a chill retro pinball bar that serves hot dogs, pretzels, beer, and a small selection of natural wine. The bar's intentions with that wine are stated loud and clear, too: on both sides of the front door, you're whacked with the words "Fine Wine" and "Hot Dogs." A not-so-gentle nudge to do the right thing.

On this particular evening at Walt's, no doubt influenced by the sign, I ordered a bottle of Pavette Pinot Noir with my plump going-away wieners pulled right from the hot dog rollers. The combination was simply magic; pure Summer itself. The chubby, juicy, homemade hot dogs paired splendidly with a tart natural wine. A bite of savory, mustard-spiced dog washed down with a sip of fruity, light-bodied pinot—I had never experienced a hot dog quite like this before. It felt refreshing. It felt like a full meal.

Why hot dogs and wine work together

I don't know much about wine, but I know about flavor, enough to understand that Pavette tastes a lot like berries—specifically raspberries and cranberries—and that berry flavors work well with savory meats. Pork chops with raspberry sauce, that sort of thing.

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"Any sort of food that you find at a barbecue is great with a light red," says Nicole Krsak, a wine sales rep in Los Angeles who works with Walt's Bar. "I imagine that's why you liked the Pinot so much. Something light and flirty with fruit and a little acid can go with a lot."

Karl Hess, my pal who works for Good Boy Wine and is generally seen about town with a glass of natural wine in his hands, had this to say about the combo: "A lot of natural wines that you see are refreshing, easily drinkable, and served chilled—the perfect accompaniment to a greasy dog. The French call wine like that 'glou glou' (their version of glug glug) because it goes down quick and easy and satisfies, and is cheap and unpretentious. Much like a hot dog itself."

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The difference between pairing a hot dog with a beer and pairing it with wine is that the latter is decidedly less cheap. At Walt's I can get a Hamm's for $5 or a local IPA for $8. But wine—particularly locally sourced, natural wine in Los Angeles—that's going to run between $12-$15 per glass. So why even do it? Is the flavor profile of hot dogs and wine really worth the extra $10?

I would argue that a glass of wine is what makes a hot dog feel more like a meal. Hot dogs and beer are a snack, a ballpark novelty through and through. Hot dogs and wine, meanwhile, form a practical, early evening summer meal that adequately satisfies both your palate and appetite.

So, will this pairing ever take off beyond Walt's Bar? Eric Bach, one of the founders of Good Boy Wine in Los Angeles, sees things headed in that direction.

"People seem to really love separating wine and food into specific categories over here," Bach told The Takeout via email, "But, a shift is happening. I see it in Michelin starred restaurants who are mixing the high brow and low brow with regards to food. So why can't that also be incorporated with high brow wine and low brow, delicious food."

Bach has seen wine and hot dogs wedded in exactly this fashion, but he's also seen a range of other unexpected dishes paired with wine, too.

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"I've been to really fun parties involving great low intervention wine and fried chicken or spicy northern Thai food, even Panda Express works great with a chablis," he said. "I think it's a matter of time before most places break down these barriers and just create experiences that taste delicious, no matter the stigma or norm."

Even the idea that certain foods are "low brow" to begin with might be shifting. At Walt's, the hot dogs are made by a woman in Ontario, California, and arrive to the bar in a coil. These links are paired with Hunt's ketchup and Gulden's mustard and served on a fresh, squishy bun. There's an undeniable thoughtfulness to it; no one would write off Walt's dog as gas station fare.

How to pair hot dogs and wine

I asked Krsak about how to devise hot dog and wine pairings. And since hot dogs exist on such a wide spectrum, it really comes down to the dog itself.

"Depending on the toppings, finding the right match can get a bit more complicated," Krsak said. "Adding chili makes it a better fit for something a bit bigger that can hold up to the weight of the chili, let's say a warm climate Syrah. A Chicago dog is veggie heavy and also super acidic with the mustard and relish, so you need a wine that's crisp with enough acid to battle it out. I think this is a great job for Cremant d'Alsace."

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"Any creamy [hot dog] (Chilean completo, Venezuelan dog and the beloved mayo-doused danger dog) is perfect with a Vinho Verde," she added. "A simple refreshing wine that won't compete with any of the complex flavors but will help cut through some of the fat."

Bach over at Good Boy Wine, meanwhile, got even more elegant and expensive with his pairing suggestions:

Dodger Dog: Kamm – 2018 Terre de Volcan – Pinot Gris – Alsace

I like my dodger dog with a lot of mustard & sauerkraut. Which to me, brings up dreams of sitting in the old fortified village in Alsace, on a bench listening to the washing water of the Upper Rhine.

Currywurst in Berlin: An ice cold Rémi Leroy Champagne – Mer Sur Mont.

The fine bubbles and zip of this wine is a perfect counter to the curry sauce covered Currywurst. And with those tiny little wooden forks, something a little bit more elevated, like this naturally produced champagne, seems soo fitting.

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Bach gravitates towards the class dichotomy of hot dogs and wine, and while I certainly can't afford to pair a $100 bottle of champagne with a currywurst hot dog as he suggests, I'm enticed by this combination for its chaotic, subversive qualities. It's simultaneously a "fuck you" to the wine and a big ol' hug for the hot dog.

Still, very few restaurants and bars are embracing this combination outwardly in the way that Walt's does. Comfy Pup, a Midwestern popup here in Los Angeles that specializes in Chicago dogs, but also buffalo chicken dip pizza and spiceroni casserole, has popped up at plenty of wine bars. El Prado, a hip bar on Sunset Boulevard with a strong natural wine list and a disco ball, also serves $5 hot dogs, and people clamor for them. That LA's bar scene has begun to embrace the combo tells you everything you need to know about where the hot-dogs-and-wine trend is headed.

Smooth, complex wine and a homogenous hot dog balance each other out beautifully—one becomes more attainable, the other more elegant. It's the perfect pairing to close out the summer's final month, and one that deserves to gain more acceptance and popularity.

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