Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Matching Spicy Foods with Wines

Spicy foods such as Mexican, Indian or Thai are so delicious, but finding a wine to match these is sometimes a challenge, especially if you prefer to drink mostly Chardonnay (dry oaky whites) or your typical Napa red (a tannic powerbomb), which are not exactly the best pairings. The problem is that heat clashes with oak, making your wines dryer and harsher, and tannins amplify your perception of heat and spice.  Alcohol,on the other hand, enhances the spiciness, increasing the heat even further, so stay away from that. I guess your best bet for spicy foods is to choose wines with relatively low alcohol, fruity or very aromatic, with some acidity to cleanse the palate, and ideally with some sweetness to counteract the heat by toning it down.

Some of the best matches for spicy foods are German Rieslings, normally low in alcohol, these wines are very refreshing and if you see the words 
Spätlese or Auslese on the labels that means they also have much desired sweetness. Alsatian, Italian or German Gewürztraminer are also a good choice, but keep in mind that Alsatian samples have a bit more alcohol than German and Italian ones. Other good choices are floral wines such as Greek Moschofilero, Argentinian Torrontés, or Alsatian Muscat; these have plenty of fruity aromas, but are also light and refreshing. If you can’t find those, an Albariño from Spain or Austrian Grüner Veltliner could also work. If you prefer to drink rosé, fruity versions are best, such as those from the new world. If you prefer a red, I would choose either something fruity or spicy, such as Beaujolais Nouveau or Villages, Barbera D’ Alba or Dolcetto, which have plenty of fruit and are usually light-bodied. Bubbles will be great with spicy foods, as they normally refresh your palate (this is why beer is often chosen as the perfect pairing for Mexican or Indian dishes), but I wouldn’t match spicy foods with dry Champagne or sparkling; as extra dryness will make spices harsher,  I would opt instead for something fruity or off-dry, such as a Moscato, a fruity Cava or Prosecco. Surprisingly, Apple Cider can be a great pairing too, the natural sweetness of apples can help balance spiciness. As always, remember to check the intensity of both your dish and wine, so that they always compliment each other and none overpowers the other.

My recommendations: all the samples chosen have a few common denominators: all are served chilled, they have low or no alcohol, plenty of fruit and some sweetness, making them ideal pairings for your spicy dishes.

Nik Weis St. Urbans-Hof Estate QbA Riesling from Old Vines 2022 $21.00
A 100% Riesling from 50 year old vines, estate grown in the Mosel, aka Riesling’s top territory in Germany. This focused, light bodied white is fermented with natural yeasts. Showing zippy acidity that multiplies the elegance in this refreshing and very floral off-dry wine, saturated with beautiful ripe peach and mango notes. The alcohol is on the low side at only 10% ABV.

Cava Paul Cheneau Brut Reserva, NV $15.99
A classic Cava blend of 40% Xarel·lo, 30% Macabeo, 25% Chardonnay and 5% Parellada, this floral and elegant Cava shows notes of ripe pineapple and gala apples, with citrusy grapefruit and a long, creamy finish. It was aged on its lees for 12 months.

Cavit Moscato 2022 $11.99

Made from Muscat grapes grown in the Pavia region, this slightly frizzante white, features intense aromas of rose, orange blossom and white peach. Light bodied and off dry, with a delicious and vibrant finish.

Duché de Longueville French Sparkling Cider $13
Growing up I drank a lot of Argentinean cider during the holidays, so I was excited to try one made in France. This cider is completely non-alcoholic and made with apples grown in the region of Normandy. On the palate it’s truly refined, artisanal and very refreshing, reminds me of the  fine ciders from Asturias, Spain.
Cheers! Silvina.

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