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Photograph: Sarah Chappell

Barbecue potato chips are such classic American junk food: they're cheap, crisp, and sweet. You probably usually wash each greasy handful down with a soda or a beer, but the slight sweetness in this snack makes it an excellent partner for slightly sweet or fruity wines.

Wine snobs may look down upon big brand Shiraz and and White Zinfandel, but these wines can actually work quite well with some classic unhealthy American foods. Because they have some residual sugar left over from alcoholic fermentation, they can balance the sweetness in our carbohydrate-heavy favorites. You may not think this through every time you reach for a big fruity red wine to go with a burger, but the sugar in the bun and ketchup goes well with a slightly jammy wine. Dry wine can taste bitter when paired a sweet food, but if both the wine and the food have some sweetness, they will seem more balanced together.

So let's have a little fun: what wine is best with barbecue chips?

Think Pink

Instead of your grandmother's white zinfandel, try the Dostert 'Rosay' Rosé. Made in Germany from an ancient and rare grape, roter elbling, the Rosay has a cotton candy pink color and a bright, fresh strawberry flavor, with a hint of sweetness on the front of the tongue. ($8-$12, find this wine)

Be Brave

Luscious with ripe blackberry and blueberry fruit, The Brave Shiraz 2008 isn't afraid of its bold Aussie roots. Despite its richness, this wine has a lively acidity that makes it easy to sip on. A long finish of sweet spice pairs perfectly with the chips. ($15-$20, find this wine)

Play with Port

Perhaps this is a bit off the beaten path, but the best wine pairing for barbecue chips that I've tried is tawny port such as Quinta do Infantado Tawny. Trust me on this one: Tawny port is an oxidized and fortified wine with a distinct nuttiness and rich, full body, and it's awesome with barbecue chips. The fortification process halts fermentation while some sugar remains (but tawny ports tend to be less sweet than ruby ports.) The added alcohol does make these wines is a bit heavy, so one glass is probably enough. But you should probably slow down with those chips anyway. ($13-$18, find this wine)

What wine would you pair with barbecue potato chips?

About the Author: Sarah Chappell is a wine writer and -monger living in Brooklyn. She holds the Advanced Certificate with Distinction from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and has contributed to Palate Press and WineChap.

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