Do you roll with a mini bottle of Sriracha attached to your keychain so you can tune up any meal, morning, noon, or night? From pad thai and drunken noodles to chile verde burritos and buffalo wings, there’s nothing with heat on it that you won’t drench in the nearest hot red sauce. Most of the time you’d crack open a hoppy IPA to enjoy with these meals.
But what if you’re in the mood for wine? That’s when it gets a little complicated, but don’t worry, we’re here to help steer you in the right direction.
The basics to pairing wine and spicy food
Rule #1: Higher acidity wines tend to cut through big, bold flavors while helping to highlight more subtle layers.
Rule #2: Some people believe alcohol acts as a solvent to capcasin, working to whisk it away, but you might find the opposite is true. There’s a reason why alcohol is described as “hot” and high alcohol wines often fan the flames in your mouth.
Rule #3: Sweeter wines tend to play nicely with spicy foods and can quickly take the hot edge off.
Below you’ll find a couple suggestions for different wines to try with various kinds of spicy meals.
Alternatives: Gewurtztraminer, Viognier
Pair it with: Thai and Vietnamese dishes feature abundance of sweet and tangy tropical fruit flavors, bright herbs, and red-hot spices. An off-dry Riesling offers a nice balance of bright floral and fruit flavors with a subtle acidity. A touch of refreshing sweetness counters the spicy elements in a meal while complimenting the sweet and the lower alcohol level allows your tongue a chance to rest before igniting the flames again on the next bite.
Alternatives: Tempranillo, Zinfandel
Pair it with: Syrah is called Shiraz in Australia, where the warmer climate and modern winemaking style yields lush berry and black pepper flavors. The low tannin and smooth texture make for an ideal match with certain Indian, Middle Eastern, and American BBQ recipes made with brown spices like cumin, fennel and cardamom – burritos, chili con carne, bbq spare ribs and Massaman curry for example. The rich berry flavors counter the heat, while the black pepper notes help highlight the spices.
Pair it with: Here’s reason #1,058 why you should pop a bottle of bubbles. Champagne and sparkling wines make for a perfect accompaniment to a wide range of spicy foods, thanks to their subtle sweetness, high acidity, and bubbly texture that helps cleanse the palate. We’d recommend a dry “brut” that would work with just about anything that falls on the spicy spectrum.
Alternatives: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris
A dry rose makes for a perfect partner when enjoying all sorts of mild to moderately spicy dishes. From Provençal to Californian styles, nearly any one you choose will work but a general rule would be pick bigger and bolder New World styles as you inch up the heat scale.
Mike is the resident content creator for the Last Bottle blog. When he's not spilling wine on his keyboard he can be found wandering the aisles in the warehouse with a Coravin in hand, whispering to bottles "This will only hurt for a second".