All of us enjoy a bit of spice with our food every now and then, whether it is home-cooked or from the local takeaway. However, most of us will reach for a beer or soft drink when eating a curry, as opposed to opening a bottle of wine. There’s a common misconception that wine and spicy food do not mix; we disagree! Here are some quick and easy tips for pairing that delicious food with an equally delicious wine.
If you want to tame some of that spiciness tingling on your tongue, then look for some sweet wines. A sweeter wine will balance some of the hotness from your chosen spicy food; so as not to create a clash of flavors in your taste buds. The residual sugar in rose or an off-dry white works perfectly to combat the heat, as it coats the tongue. You don’t need to invest in a bottle of dessert wine to get that sweet fix, try Riesling, or something similar, for a wine that works perfectly with spicy food.
The high alcohol content in wine is going to react with the spices in your food, and cause a burn on the tongue that is far from pleasant. A low-alcohol wine that has been chilled in the fridge will help to cool down the heat and means you can drink it quicker than a high-alcohol wine, which tends to be sipped. Taking a nice glug of low-alcohol wine will cool your tongue quicker than sipping a high-alcohol alternative. Crisp, low-percentage wines should be the order of the day with your next spicy dinner.
This seems to be the most popular opinion among wine experts; sparkling wines are the best to drink whilst eating spicy food. The bubbles in sparkling wine provide a nice contrast on your taste buds, which are trying to cool themselves down after the super hot sauce you’ve just consumed. The tang in certain champagnes and sparkling wines will offset the tang of your meal and create a wonderfully pleasant sensation on your tongue. Plus, everyone loves an excuse to drink a bit of sparkling with their dinner.
Crisp Red Wines
Everyone is worried about combining red wine with spicy food, normally because of the tannin and alcohol content. However, you don’t need to avoid red wine altogether when enjoying a nice curry; just be wary of the ones you choose. A low alcohol content, crisp, red wine will taste delicious with your meal. If you’re out searching for a nice bottle of red to serve then look for those that are either fruity or spicy, with a good level of acidity. Avoid favorites such as Merlot or Shiraz and opt for a Barbera or Zinfandel instead.
Fortified wines, such as port, sherry and vermouth, are often overlooked when it comes to pairing with spicy food. Yet they work wonders in creating a balance between the heat of spiciness and the sweetness of the wine. Fortified wines have a higher ABV than regular table wines and can also offer more complex and intense flavors. For example, tawny port is dark and sweet with nutty notes that complement several spiced dishes. Meanwhile, oloroso sherries have rich fruit aromas that perfectly pair with Indian curries or Middle Eastern dishes. Vermouth is a great option for those who like a bit of zing; its herbal aroma pairs well with numerous spiced dishes.
Rosé wines may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but when it comes to pairing with spicy food, they are definitely worth considering. Rosés are bone dry but still offer some fruit-forwardness that helps to tame the heat of certain spices. Their light body makes them suitable for any kind of spicy dish from Thai green curry to Chinese chilli beef. Plus their pinkish hue adds a touch of color to your dinner table! To get the most out of this pairing try to match lighter fruity rosés with milder dishes and heavier, more full-bodied rosés with stronger flavoured foods.
White wines are an undisputed classic when it comes to food pairing – particularly aromatic varieties like Gewurztraminer or Muscat which offer distinct aromas such as lychee and rose petal along with a hint of sweetness that can help to tone down spiciness without overpowering the nuances in your dish. Depending on what type you choose (for example unoaked or oaked), white wines can provide enough depth and flavor profile to really pair well with various types of spices used in cooking. They also have low tannin levels which make them easier on the palette making them perfect for pairing with spicy foods!
Pairing wine with spicy food doesn’t have to be difficult, especially not now you have all these expert tips! However, if you’re still stuck for ideas then try visiting a wine merchant and asking an expert what they suggest. Let them know the food you’re cooking, and the particular spices involved, for a more personalized recommendation.