Tips for pairing wine with spicy foodThere are very few golden rules when it comes to food and wine pairing, so take it all with a pinch of salt (or chili flakes!), but these tips are worth remembering.
- The closest thing to a golden rule in this case, or certainly the prevailing conventional wisdom is that spicy food pairs best with Riesling. A sweet or semi-sweet Riesling with relatively low alcohol is the most commonly suggested wine pairing for spicy food, so it’s certainly worth exploring. Take a Thai curry or dish of similar heat and a quality Riesling from Germany, Austria or Alsace in France and see for yourself. To go a little out of leftfield, try the superb Ekam Essència 2013 from Spain’s Costers del Segre region.
- Don’t be afraid to eat spicy food with red wine. The sensible approach would suggest pairing your spicy Indian masala with a red wine that is relatively low in alcohol, high in acidity and with little to no barrel ageing: Effectively, this would give you a light-bodied red that is easy to drink, and can even be refrigerated slightly before drinking without doing any damage or dumbing down its flavour profile. Your best bet for this style would probably be a Gamay from Beaujolais, such as Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2015. Chilled briefly before serving, this will provide a delicate balancing act with your hot and spicy dish.
- Fight fire with fire. It may not be for the faint of heart, but pairing a spicy dish with a wine that has spicy flavours is another direction that you can go. Be warned that it’s a little unconventional, though! Oak barrel ageing imparts a multitude of flavours onto wines, including spice. Syrah from the Northern Rhône valley in France would be an interesting choice as that grape tends to give rise to wines with spicy, peppery notes anyway. For a Spanish take on it, consider Detrás de la Casa Syrah 2012.
- Opposites attract. If none of the above tickle your fancy, then balance out the heat and spice of your food with a sweet or semi-sweet wine. While Port may not be a good idea, a non-fortified sweet wine such as a Sauternes will be lower in alcohol and easier on the palate. Château Suduiraut 2004 is a great expression of the Sauternes style.