When Girl Scout cookie season rolls around each year, wine professionals watch in horror as their social-media feeds fill with charts and memes that show recommendations from sommeliers of which types of wines to drink with which of these sweet treats. It’s understandable that folks who love wine and cookies might wish the two tasted good together. Clearly, the idea sounds appealing enough that people are tempted to click and like and share. The trouble is that the suggested combinations almost always taste awful together in practice, which makes these cookie-pairing charts the wine world’s equivalent of malpractice.
Why? Thanks to a quirk of the taste buds, eating something sweet makes the next drink you sip seem less sweet. And, if it contains any acidity at all, your drink will taste significantly more sour, as well. All cookies are sweet by definition. Most wines are dry because the sugar present in their grapes has been converted into alcohol. In the absence of sweetness, the natural tartness of grapes becomes any dry wine’s dominant trait. Sampled alongside something sugary, wine will taste considerably drier and more acidic than it does alone. This effect is not at all flattering, and distressingly reminiscent of the shocking sourness of orange juice after brushing your teeth.
For a quick demonstration of how this works, try this at home:
- Pour a glass of any dry wine — white or red — and take a sip, noting its flavor. (Bubbles can obscure the effect, so use a still wine.)
- Taste a dab of honey (or jam).
- After it dissolves on your tongue, sample the same wine again.
- Note how the sweetness of the honey makes the wine seem dramatically more acidic. This effect on the taste buds will affect other sensory perceptions too, making the wine feel thinner in texture, less fruity in scent, and more bitter in flavor.
In short, there’s a reason cookies are traditionally served with milk, not with more acidic drinks, like cola or lemonade. This is not to say there are no wines that can make pleasant partners for Girl Scout cookies — there are. But those that can pull it off will almost invariably be those wines that are fully sweet, not dry. These styles, known as “dessert wines,” are often rare, and many are quite expensive.
If the internet is determined to find pleasant adult beverage pairings for Girl Scout cookies, wine professionals wish meme generators would consider making beer recommendations instead. Take it from a sommelier: With no natural acidity to cause a clash and toasted grain flavors baked in, beers make much, much better choices with cookies.