Pairing Wine and Convenience Foods

Can wine really go with anything? We tested inexpensive vino with eight quickie meals from frozen TV dinners to boxed noodles. By: Gretchen Roberts

  • Pairing Wine and Convenience Foods
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Mindi Shapiro

    Fancy up Your Convenience Food

    So Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is your kids' most-requested meal. Or maybe you've just had a long day at work, and a frozen pizza is the quickest way to get food on the table. Whatever convenience food you're sliding into the oven or stirring up on the stove, why not dress up your dinner with a glass of wine? It's like adding a fabulous accessory to a t-shirt and jeans. The best part? They're all under $15.

  • Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff with 2009 Xplorador Carmenere.
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

    Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff

    Originally a dish of thin slices of tender beef, onions, and mushrooms in a sour cream sauce, stroganoff was named after 19th-century Russian diplomat Count Paul Stroganov. The Betty Crocker version—noodles and hamburger bathed in a cream sauce—calls for a simple, fruity red wine like the 2009 Xplorador Carmenere (Chile, $8), with notes of dark berries and a hint of spice.

  • Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with 2008 Down Under Chardonnay.
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

    Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

    Whichever type you're chowing down on tonight—the Original, SpongeBob SquarePants-shaped noodles, or the new Cheddar Explosion—serve a tall glass of milk for the kids and an inexpensive Chardonnay for yourself. The 2008 Down Under Chardonnay (Australia, $4) is the Aussie version of Two Buck Chuck, produced on a massive scale (not unlike the mac and cheese) by the Bronco Wine Company. Shipped in an environmentally-friendly lightweight bottle, this wine is bright, fresh, and highly drinkable for the price.

  • Lean Cuisine Grilled Chicken and Penne Pasta with 2009 Villa Antinori Bianco.
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

    Lean Cuisine Grilled Chicken and Penne Pasta

    A quickie, low-fat, microwavable dinner, Grilled Chicken and Penne Pasta is tossed with carrots and broccoli in a garlic herb sauce. Choose an unoaked white wine like the 2009 Villa Antinori Bianco (Italy, $13), a blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia, and other white grapes. Like the pasta, the wine is fresh and light, with lovely mineral flavors to contrast the earthy garlic sauce.

  • DiGiorno Ultimate Pepperoni Pizza with 2008 El Coto Rioja Rosado.
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

    DiGiorno Ultimate Pepperoni Pizza

    It's not delivery. It's...well, you've heard the slogan. Frozen pizza that bakes up in minutes is the ideal answer to a hectic day and an empty fridge. The DiGiorno Ultimate Pepperoni Pizza, with its not-too-sweet sauce and generous pepperoni, calls for a dry pink wine like the 2008 El Coto Rioja Rosado (Spain, $8). Light and fruity with notes of red cherries and strawberries, this wine is a simple and refreshing foil to the spicy, cheesy pizza.

  • Stouffer's Lasagna with 2008 Tormaresca Neprica.
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

    Stouffer's Lasagna

    Sure, it's nice to whip up homemade lasagna on the weekend, but when you're just not feeling your inner Martha Stewart, it's a relief to pop a frozen pan in the oven and pull out a cheesy, steaming meal an hour later. While the lasagna's cooking, uncork a bottle of 2008 Tormaresca Neprica (Italy, $12), a rich and juicy blend of Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Cabernet Sauvignon that's fabulous as an aperitif and with the meal.

  • Ling Ling Chicken and Vegetable Potstickers with 2009 Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc.
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

    Ling Ling Chicken and Vegetable Potstickers

    These fragrant Chinese dumplings are addictive with their sizzling brown undersides and plump steamed tops filled with chicken, veggies, and seasonings. A crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc mirrors the green vegetables and spice and tames the saltiness of the soy dipping sauce. Try the 2009 Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc (Chile, $13), a wine made from organic grapes with a zingy flavor and a creamy pineapple finish.

  • Mrs. T's Potato and Cheddar Pierogies with 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling.
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

    Mrs. T's Potato and Cheddar Pierogies

    These dumplings hail from Poland and are often filled with a savory mixture of cabbage, sauerkraut, onions, potatoes, and cheese. Mrs. T's version is milder, filled with whipped potatoes and cheddar. Poland isn't known for wine, but its neighbor Germany makes Rieslings with delicious acidity and a hint of sweetness that contrast the creamy pierogies. Closer to home, the 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling (Washington, $10) is a terrific value, tasting of crisp apples and peaches with a hint of minerality.

  • Marie Callender's Chicken Pot Pie with 2009 Alice White Lexia.
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

    Marie Callender's Chicken Pot Pie

    A classic American comfort food, frozen pot pie is the ultimate no-effort complete meal with its golden flaky crust filled with white-meat chicken and vegetables. Try it with the 2009 Alice White Lexia (Australia, $9), a sweet-smelling white wine made from the Muscat grape. It's crisp and light with a hint of sweetness on the palate.

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