Traditionally, people drink wine with sweet and savory foods common to a eurocentric palate. However, for wine-lovers who do not limit their culinary worlds to european fare, it is a relief to find that wine can be consumed with any cuisine found around the world. The challenge is in pairing wines with flavor profiles that are completely different from european food, and it requires a new approach to choosing a beverage. This is particularly true as food lovers move further into the world of spicy cuisines such as those from India, Mexico, and Thailand. Luckily the wine world has developed a new set of rules that serve to guide wine choices for hotter meals.
- The intensity of the food must be matched by the intensity of the wine. (This is directly counter to the european model where wine is only paired with food that has a more powerful flavor.)
- Flavors in the wine should contrast, rather than complement the flavors in the spicy food. HIgh acidity in wine counters chillies well, but if the spice comes from acid, seek a wine that will ground the palate instead.
- Sweeter and fruitier wines offer a refreshing break from the burn of high-spice meals. Avoid the traditionally prized tannin-rich or oaky flavors, as these will amplify the heat of a meal and burn your mouth. Dry wines are not your friend with spicy food for the same reason. Surprisingly, sparkling wines and rosés, often looked down upon in high-wine culture, are considered the most refreshing options for spicy meals.
- All wines should be served cold. Chill even the reds (think about sangria). The reason for this is simple: the literal temperature of the wine will counter the spice-born heat from the food.
For further help, here are some specific recommendations:
With these new rules to guide you, cheers to spicy cuisine!
Susan Anderson is a blogger and locavore-oenophile who also writes about wine storage and maintenance for Vintage Cellars.