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Pairing Wine with Spicy Food

When it comes to finding a beverage to drink with your spicy meal, wine may not be the first drink that comes to mind. Now is the time to change that. As we venture into the ever-changing world of exotic and spicy cuisine we must also look at what wine it can be paired with. There are plenty of wines that compliment spicy food well, and pairing them isn’t as hard as you might think.

You may have tried in the past to pair a nice red wine with some spicy food and found that they did not complement each other like you had hoped. We have a few guidelines for you to follow to make the next time you pair wine with spicy food your best experience yet.

Two Ways to Tango

When pairing wines, you can either combine the flavors of your wine and cuisine or offset the spices with a sweeter wine. To do this, avoid wines with a high alcohol content, especially red wines. If you choose a really mellow wine to serve with the spicy dish you won’t taste the wine and if you choose a high alcoholic wine you won’t taste the spicy food.

An easy rule to consider when choosing the wine is to avoid tannic wines like cabernet blends, as the spices in the food will make the tannins more pronounced and will therefore cause a bitter taste. The same goes with oaky wines. Many wines can be oaked (stored in oak barrels while it is fermenting or aging) such as Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This is commonly referenced on the label and the wines are also slightly darker in color. A white wine becomes more yellow and a red wine takes a darker hue. In these wines the spices tend to increase the oak flavors. There are two basic methods when pairing wines with spicy food; choosing light bodied wines and choosing wines with noticeable sweetness. Alcohol will inflame the burning sensation of hot foods, while sugar will tame it.

Pairing with Mexican or Tex-Mex

When it comes to Mexican and Tex-Mex foods, tomatoes are often a base ingredient. Because of this, Zinfandel matches wonderfully with the acidity of the tomatoes and doesn’t decrease the fire power of the food. Along with Zinfandel, Riesling is delicious with cheesy enchiladas, burritos and even tacos. Dishes that include pork, beef or chicken, like Chipotle chiles and mole sauce, are earthy in taste. Paired with this earthy taste, fruity Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon complement well. You will find that the fruitiness of these wines lightens the heavy sauces and leaves a spicy unique taste. Some of our favorite dishes are green tomatillo-chili sauces and earthy red chili adobo sauces. For the incredibly spicy Tex-Mex dishes, choose the softest, freshest type of red or rose wine - it brings a perfect balance to the palate.

What to Pair with Super Spicy Food

Blush wines have light, cool, refreshing fruit flavors and with a touch of sweetness that is very soothing with the hottest dishes. Another aspect of the low alcoholic wines is you can take larger swigs instead of the normal small sips. And this is good when taking on spicy foods! Young red wines like Zinfandels and blends can be chilled and makes them soothing to the palate especially with milder spicy foods as meat curries, fajitas and some chicken dishes. Also try sparkling wines and Champagnes: the bubbles are important, but Champagne also has high acidity and this is especially good for dishes that are aggressively spiced. Sangria is another great choice as it is fruity and low in alcohol; this is a good choice for all Asian and Mexican food.

Pairing with Indian and Thai Curries

A fresh, fruity white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with mild Indian curries. Merlot, on the other hand, is a great choice when it comes to hot Indian curries. Riesling is perfect with yogurt based hot, spicy curries because it is effective at soothing the spicy burn from very hot or spicy foods. Thai curries and stir fries are often aromatic with the inclusion of spices such as basil, cilantro, ginger, limes and lemongrass. For a memorable pairing serve a bottle of aromatic Rieslings wine with any fragrant Thai curry or stir fry.

Pairing with Other Spicy Cuisine

Choose very cold, off dry, fruity or red or white sparkling wine with Japanese fare. Light merlot is good with Mexican, Indian and Tex-Mex. Roses are excellent with Vietnamese, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Thai and even barbeque dishes.

So when you are deciding what kind of wine you want to pair with spicy dishes, go for white wines with their fruity sweetness or fruity red wines that are low in tannin. The last thing we want is for the wine to hide the spiciness of the meal or for the spiciness of the meal to overpower the taste of the wine.

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