You can always tell whether or not a food trend is a mere flash in the pan by looking at whether or not it has started being seriously paired with wine. In the case of popcorn’s recent renaissance, there’s no longer any doubt about the fact that the artisanal twist on everyone’s favourite movie snack really is here to stay. Indeed, popcorn has more than entered the arena of luxurious light snacks, and all over the world, popcorn makers are taking this wonderful nibble to new and exciting heights, using high quality corn, a massive array of flavours, spices, and brand new taste combinations which really get our mouths watering.
This renewed interest in the possibilities of popcorn has recently seen sommeliers and wine experts getting excited, as it allows them to pair wines with a wonderful new set of taste experiences. Whether you like your popcorn simple and classic, or prefer something altogether more exotic, you’ll be delighted to hear that when it comes to wine pairing, there’s something for every palate. As we’re always on the lookout for new food and wine pairings made in paradise, we’ve had a massive amount of fun coming up with matches which more than hit the spot, and which are ideal for any movie night!
The success of these pairings is partly due to the fact that popcorn is pretty much ideal for matching with wine. After all, the corn kernels themselves don’t exactly pack a real punch of flavour… therefore, the pairings are based on whatever condiment has been scattered all over those puffs of deliciousness. As such, you only have to pair your wine with a single, direct punch of flavour, which results in matches which really play on the palate and seem positively made for one another.
Ready to find out more? Gather your mates, pick out your favourite movie (or box set, if you’re in it for the long haul), and get your sharing bowls and wine glasses ready for a taste sensation which goes above and beyond the usual!
Let’s start this list with the classic, the original, and - many would argue - the best. That’s right, we’re looking at the old-school simple, salted popcorn we all know, love, and remember fondly from our childhoods. It’s moreish, utterly scrumptious, and always a huge amount of fun to eat.
Like most salty snack foods, salted popcorn is a perfect pairing for Champagne (seriously, if you aren’t pairing your Champagne with dinners comprised of fried chicken and french fries, you’re absolutely missing out on a fantastically blasphemous delight). The biting acidity and biscuit flavours of a decent Champagne are perfect for cutting through all that salt, and it turns your sparkling wine into a decadent thirst-quencher that really does hit the spot. On top of this, you can’t help feeling like a rock star by bringing out the fizz to pair with something as childlike and simple as a big old bowl of popcorn… and that sense of naughtiness, of luxury, and of laissez-faire sophistication makes it all the more pleasurable!
Got a sweet tooth? If so, then you’ve probably always been a big fan of toffee popcorn. We can’t blame you for being drawn to the stuff - those sugary, sticky kernels of corn soaked in a glazing toffee coating really are the stuff that dreams are made of. Shared with a romantic movie and someone special, it’s about as close to snack-food heaven as you can get.
Sweet snacks can be hard work to pair with wine. On the one hand, it’s tempting to put them together with a similarly sugary dessert wine (something like a Sauternes or Tokaji, for example), but it’s clear that these complementary flavours are quickly going to get pretty sickly. What’s more, when you’re watching a movie, you want a wine you can drink in fairly large quantities, and we can’t really imagine getting through more than two glasses of dessert wine before throwing in the towel.
Instead, opt for something which offers a slight sugary hit, but which has a real sense of depth and some contrasting dryness to it, too. We’d recommend bringing together toffee popcorn with a quality Moscato - you’ll get those sweet fruit flavours, but they’ll be balanced with some acidity to stop it from getting all a bit too much. A dry Amontillado Sherry would also probably do a great job here, but again, it depends on how much you want to drink (and how long the film is, too…).
Salted caramel popcorn
Remember the days before salted caramel was a thing? It’s strange to think that this flavour is such a newcomer on the scene… it’s established itself as such a winning combination of salt and sweet, that it feels like it has been around forever. When it comes to popcorn, this particular flavour has quickly become a firm favourite all over the world, and provides an ideal balance between that traditional choice we had as kids at the movie theatre: salt, or sweet? It’s a tightrope between extremes, and it works like a dream from start to finish.
We love to pair anything flavoured with salted caramel with a traditional European sparkling wine, such as Prosecco or Cava. Boasting a gentler acidity than Champagne, and featuring a lovely fruity edge, these wines are going to be ideal with this particular popcorn type. Don’t fancy bubbles with your popcorn? Go instead for a South African Chenin Blanc - this wine features that same lovely balance that’ll set your taste buds alight with joy.
See yourself as someone with a slightly decadent palate? If so, it’s likely you’re a fan of buttered popcorn. This classic American flavour has become popular the world over, and offers that little extra when it comes to flavour and luxuriousness. For this popcorn type, you want a wine which ramps up the luxury, but which also offers a bold flavour profile which can stand up to the surprisingly strong taste of butter on the palate.
Anything buttery seems to pair gorgeously with both the classic fuller-bodied white wines: oaked Chardonnay, or a classic Viognier. However, we’d also like to throw Grenache into the ring, too - this red wine has a lovely juicy profile, and a rich, rounded flavour that brings out the best in savoury, buttery foods.
Ten years ago, the idea of cheesy popcorn would probably have raised a few eyebrows. Today, however, the artisan popcorn makers of the world are all over those sharp and rich flavours, and you can find popcorn coated in cheeses from all over the world. Classic English Cheddar, Mediterranean Parmesan, even rich and decadent French cheeses get a look in, too. If you can’t get enough cheese in your life, it’s likely these are going to be your snack of choice for your next movie night, and we can’t possibly blame you for taking this particular route.
As everyone knows, pairing wine with cheese is never a bad idea. For cheesy popcorn, you’ll want to opt for something which really provides a punch of flavour - after all, these are snacks which don’t shy away from making an impact on your tongue! A boisterous Aussie Shiraz, or a California Cabernet are going to do the trick nicely.
Eastern spice popcorn
Popcorn nowaday boasts a whole world of flavours, and since the floodgates were opened, popcorn makers have been experimenting with condiments and spices from all across Asia. You can find Thai spiced popcorn, Sichuan chilli popcorn, examples topped with Vietnamese flavour combos, classic Indian masalas, and so much more besides. It’s an exciting time for both popcorn fans and Asian food aficionados, and we’re always curious to try the latest twist on this movie snack favourite.
Pairing spicy foods with wine is all about achieving a balance. You want a wine which boasts plenty of freshness and acidity to cut through all that flavour, which which also has some residual sugar to pare down the heat of the spice. Our recommendation? Head to the wine aisle featuring the Germanic favourites: Gewurztraminer, and Off-Dry Riesling being the ones to look out. If you’re more of a red wine person, then a Pinot Noir will also pair nicely with all that spice, and will offer a juicy, rounded set of flavours to enjoy while munching away.