Pairing Wine with Spicy Food
Spicy food can spell disaster for some wines. In general, alcohol enhances the heat from spicy foods, so it’s very important to properly pair wine with spicy food.
What helps either diminish or compliment spiciness?
What can make spicy food spicier?
Tannins. 99% of the time you only have to worry about tannins in red wine, so stay away from you highly tannic red wine.
When you’re going out for Thai, Indian or just any food that makes your mouth heat up, here’s the wines you want opt for:
Zinfandel (red, not white)
In my opinion the best pairing white wine for spicy food. When ordering you want to look for the following key words on the wine list: Kabinett or Spatlese Riesling for your medium spicy foods and Spatlese or Auslese for medium to hot.
Those words may look like gibberish, but you’ll notice them somewhere near the name of the wine.
Preferably choose ones from Alsace, France or Alto-Adige, Italy. Americans are making this robust juggernaut, just not very well…YET!
These whites are bold, rich, fruity and full-bodied. Pair Gewürztraminer with curry dishes, full-flavored dishes with lots of heat. My favorite is Gewürztraminer with Crispy Duck in red curry sauce.
A.K.A. – Chenin Blanc (the actual name of the grape). This wine has great acidity with wonderful flavors of honey and apples. Opt for the medium-dry versions for your spicy dishes.
This big fruit bomb has low tannin, good body and robust spice. Fruit and heat balance each other out quite nicely so for your heartier spicy dishes, go for the big fruit bomb with a Z.
Overall, Shiraz isn’t high in tannin, but it can be. You’ll be pretty safe ordering this wine with your spicy red meat dishes. This wine is fruity, smoky and full of spice. Spicy chili or spicy b-b-q is a match made in heaven.
I’d stick to your California Pinot Noir for your spicy food as they tend to be more fruit-forward then their French and Oregon counterparts. High in acidity, decent fruit, Pinot Noir is a good go-between for spicy food. So if you’re having veggies, chicken or beef, Pinot will be versatile enough to go with all.
There are many other choice you can make, but consider these your safety wines. Some other notables would be Malbec and Primitivo, but some Malbec’s as well as Shiraz can be surprisingly high in tannin. Ask your Sommelier or Server before ordering them.