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April 26, 2023

Perfect Popcorn & Wine Pairings for Movie Night

woman hand with the glass of red wine near the plant and popcorn

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Have you heard of the latest trend of wine and popcorn pairings? Yes, it exists, and it’s the most delectable way to watch your favorite movies. It also turns out that this fabulous food pairing isn’t as new as you may have thought! In fact, it’s several centuries old already, and we can learn a lot from what came before…

The Aztec “popcorn dance” was supposedly taking place when Hernan Cortes arrived in Mexico in 1519, making it some of the oldest evidence of corn being popped. Cortes later ordered the large-scale planting of vineyards to replenish his depleted wine stocks from Europe, implying that popcorn and wine pairing have a long history dating back to the conquistadors!

It’s clear that wine and popcorn are a winning combination that’s stood the test of time. But if you’re going to stick with your favorite movie snack, you might as well do it right.

Choosing the right popcorn for your wine to ensure that your taste buds get the most action while you’re engrossed in a movie is a little bit of an art form, but it’s one that I can teach you quite easily. So, whether you buy your popcorn already flavored or make your own spice blend, here’s how to choose the best vino with your popcorn flavor of choice.

Sea Salt And Chocolate Popcorn and Merlot

Chocolate and red wine go together perfectly as they complement one another so well. You can drizzle chocolate over your popcorn, add chocolate buttons in to melt when you pop your kernels, or dip the popped corn in a tub of spreading chocolate.

Add a sprinkle of natural sea salt that brings out the rich flavors of the Merlot and you’ll enjoy a rich yet slightly savory taste sensation as you snack and sip.

Buttered Popcorn and Chardonnay

Buttered popcorn is like a warm embrace. It has a toasty, creamy flavor and a fluffy, yielding texture. If you’re going to eat buttered popcorn, you might as well pair it with a buttery Chardonnay for a match made in heaven.

The popcorn brings out the nutty flavors in the Chardonnay, while the wine’s buttery flavors complement the rich-buttered popcorn flavor. Choose a Chardonnay with oaky vanilla and nut notes, as well as the buttery richness produced by malolactic fermentation. A cool sip after a warm mouthful will put you on cloud nine.

Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn or Herb-rich Popcorn and Sparkling Wine

A little cinnamon sugar on your popcorn goes well with white sparkling wines like Asti Spumante or Prosecco.

If cinnamon isn’t your style, try this herb-infused popcorn pairing. To add a fresh flavor and coating effect, replace cinnamon with herb-infused olive oil. Sparkling wine pairs well with olive oils infused with dill, mint, and thyme. The bubbles lift the grassy notes, and the crisp acidity cuts through the balm of the olive oil. Sprinkle it with parmesan for a salty touch that brings out the wine’s minerality. Choose a low-dosage brut-style bubbly to avoid overpowering the delicate green notes.

Cilantro Lime Popcorn and Pinot Grigio

The cilantro’s freshness and the citrus’s refreshing flavor will pair perfectly with a crisp Pinot Grigio. Sip some Pinot with your cilantro-spiked popcorn and you’ll enjoy a fresh and zesty sensation with every bite.

Rosemary Popcorn and Zinfandel

Zinfandel has a lighter color than popular red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and it boasts hints of black pepper, jam, and liquorice. The Zinfandel’s spiciness pairs well with a fragrant, woody herb like rosemary, so give your popcorn a sprinkle before you settle down in front of the TV.

Paprika Popcorn and Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet grapes are complex, imparting rich, bold, and earthy flavors of black cherry, oak, currant, and plum to the wine. They’re complemented by paprika which has a pungent and peppery flavor as it’s made from ground bonnet pepper. You can top your popcorn with sweet Hungarian paprika or smoked paprika, and pair it with a rich Cabernet.

Sharp Cheddar Popcorn and Cabernet Sauvignon

Another great pairing is a dry, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and extra sharp cheddar. The red wine brings out the saltiness and strong cheddar flavors and the crunch of the popcorn adds a great texture.

Truffle Popcorn and Pinot Noir

If you season your popcorn with truffle oil or truffle salt, an earthy Pinot Noir will complement the umami earthiness of the truffles. Dip your kernels in duck fat, season with salt, and top with porcini mushroom powder to be transported to a log-cabin adventure.

Meaty and smoky flavors complement earthy Pinot Noir. These wines have a truffle-like decadence, as well as wild herbal notes that bring out the gamey flavor of duck fat, while the high acidity cuts through all the richness for a perfect balance.

Cumin Popcorn and Red Bordeaux

Red Bordeaux wines are medium to full-bodied, with black currant and plum aromas. A red Bordeaux has an earthiness to it that pairs well with an earthy, nutty spice like cumin and the popcorn ties it all together.

Jalapeño Cheddar Popcorn and Zinfandel

A dry, red Zinfandel usually has dark jam and black pepper notes. The fruitiness and spiciness tend to complement the jalapeno and cheddar’s saltiness, turning your popcorn into a spicy treat.

Caramel-Coated Popcorn and Ice Wine

As a general rule, wine should be sweeter than food to avoid the perception of bitterness and overt acidity.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can drizzle your popcorn with sugar melted in corn syrup and a pinch of salt. This warm caramel pairs well with ice wine, which is honeyed and toffee-rich and made from grapes frozen on the vine to extract maximum flavor. It’s the perfect complement to your chewy, sweet treat. The wine’s citrusy, zingy acidity also cleans the palate, tempting you to take another bite.

Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn and Rioja or Malbec.

A more sultry, chocolate-flavored popcorn will require a similarly smooth operator. I recommend a Rioja wine for its brambly forest fruits and silky vanilla flavors, or a Malbec wine for darker chocolate flavors to really enhance the taste.

Make Every Movie Night Pop

Whoever it was that invented the wine and popcorn craze, thank you for elevating the foods we eat when lost in cinematic genius!

These are just some of the most delicious popcorn and wine pairings, but the options really are unlimited. So, next time you plan a movie night, pick a few bottles of premium wine, grab your popcorn and spices, and give your taste buds a treat. Doing the popcorn dance is optional.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a Los Angeles-based certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer.

Brianne has educated and entertained over 10,000 people through her in-person and virtual wine tasting experiences.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping people Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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Sample Policy

As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at brianne@briannecohen.com to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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