How To Pair Wine With Spicy Food

Spicy food can be a problem for a lot of wine drinkers. We get a fairly regular supply of wine/food matching questions, one of the most common being:

“How do I pair wine with spicy food?”

It’s common to reach for the ice cold refreshing beer when tucking into a spicy curry, but we’re here to tell you wine lovers that this doesn’t have to be the way. There have been a number of common misconceptions around pairing wine with spicy food, but if you follow a couple of simple rules, you’ll be pairing wines like a pro in no time.

So why is it so difficult to pair wines with spicy food?

Simple, it’s not. Yes there are a number of flavours at play with most spicy cuisines, and a whole host of ingredients to think about. Choosing the wrong wine could overpower the dish and ruin both the food and the wine, but if you get it right…well it enhances the whole experience.

Choosing the right wine will complement and provide a contrast at the same time. Whether that is in temperature, body, richness or sweetness, we have a wine for that.

When you’re tucking into a dish with plenty of heat, it’s now believed that alcohol enhances that heat , so if all your looking for is a burning mouth…go ahead and pair the highest alcohol wine you can find. However if you’re looking to enjoy the layers of flavours designed so delicately by the balancing of ingredients, it’s wise to avoid high alcohol wines.

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Pairing White Wine With Spicy Food

So right now we’re talking low alcohol wines. However there are hundreds of options there and you’re going to want to think about the flavour profiles. A crisp, cold refreshing white will offer the perfect contrast to the heat and richness of most spicy dishes. If you select something like a Riesling, that hint of sweetness will balance the heat and spice of the dish, enhancing the flavour.

If Riesling isn’t your thing, we’d highly recommend some other fruity aromatic whites like Gewürztraminer or Chenin Blanc, all of these wines will perfectly complement the sweeter, hot, sour sauces of most Asian cuisine, particular Thai.

Pairing Red Wine With Spicy Food

We understand that white wine isn’t for everyone, and if you’re taking a hard pass on the beer…you may want to tuck into a red instead. For us there are two simple runs to follow when pairing any red wine:

  • Stay away from the high alcohol, high tannin wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
  • Opt for fruity, low alcohol, low-medium tannin wines like Barbera, Beaujolais or Carignan

You can also try a lovely fruit forward Pinot Noir, it’s typically low in alcohol and tannin and can handle medium spiced dishes, but I’d avoid pairing it with a blow your face off curry, as that will be far too overpowering.

Why Should You Avoid High Tannin Wine?

We always suggest avoiding high tannic wines. Tannin adds a bitterness and astringency to a wine. If you’ve ever been drinking a wine and all of a sudden you’ve felt dryness in your mouth, there is a high chance the wine you were drinking had high levels of tannin.

Tannin’s naturally occur during the winemaking process. They exist inside grape skins, seeds and depending on how long the wine has been in contact with the grape skins will determine how tannic the wine is.

Unfortunately tannins and spice fight each other constantly with the results being negative for both the dish and the drink.

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