Did you know that hot countries’ cuisine tends to be spicier and hotter, because eating hot foods creates a sweating effect that cools you off? I think this a really cool (literally) thing to know. With summer in full swing, it’s time to focus on what wines pair best with heat-taming, spicy cuisine.
You might be somebody who reaches for a beer at the very mention of spicy food. Beer is an incredibly refreshing complement to a spicy meal. But the right wines can be an amazing addition to a spicy meal as well. According to eatingwell.com, wine can “complement spicy flavors in one of two ways: First, wine’s acidity boosts the layers of flavors in a dish while softening its extremes… Second, wine’s fruitiness or sweetness tones down spicy heat, letting the dish’s other flavors shine.”
On the wine and food-pairing front, I’m a big advocate of experimentation. I love the idea of serving a few different wines with your next spicy meal and having everybody try the wines and talk about which ones they like best with which dishes and why. This is an incredibly fun learning experience that is likely to result in some wonderful new pairings.
While I love experimentation, I do have two gotcha recommendations when it comes to pairing wine with spicy dishes:
1. Avoid Chardonnay. This wonderful white wine just doesn’t work well with spicy food. The exception is a sweet Chardonnay, but these are hard to find.
2. Avoid heavy red wines. These wines are also a bad fit. They will compete with the food in unpleasant ways and result in a very heavy tasting experience.
Now for some yummy recommendations:
Mexican, tropical. Foods with chili spices, lime, citrus and cilantro do well with a similarly tangy, herbal wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc. If your Mexican or tropical dish has a lot of meat in it, you might want to look for a Fumé Blanc, which is a Sauvignon Blanc that was aged in oak.
Thai, curries, Chinese. The sweet-hot flavors of these dishes work beautifully with Riesling. Riesling’s slight sweetness calms down the fire, while its acidity boosts the other flavors in the dishes. Also, Riesling tends to be low in alcohol, which can be very refreshing, given the heat of the food. I am enamored with today’s beautiful rosés, so I would experiment with these too.
Indian, Middle Eastern. The earthy, nutty flavors of lamb, olives and potato blend well with an earthy red wine such as Syrah or Grenache. To bring out the fruitiness of these wines, make sure to chill them to about 60°. If your taste is more to white and pink wines, go with a spunky Pinot Grigio or a dry rosé.
Do you have favorite spicy cuisine wine pairings? Please share them with us here. Thanks.