You Bring the Heat, We’ll Bring the Wine!
Wine and food are one of those quintessential, match-made-in-heaven experiences. Any good dish can be elevated into something truly exceptional when paired with the right glass of wine. We all know of a few cuisines that become something really special with delicious wine – charcuterie, pizza, pasta, and savory steak are some top contenders that may come to mind. Our mouths are watering already just thinking about it!
While it’s fairly simple for the casual wine hobbyist to pair wine with those tried-and-true cuisines, it may be more difficult to find wines that pair with unconventional wine dishes – specifically those that are bold and spicy. However, this doesn’t mean that it won’t be any less of a delicious experience! Today, we’re going against the grain to explore some overlooked food and wine pairings. Spicy food lovers, rejoice because we’re about to explore wine pairings with some of your favorite spicy cuisines from around the world, and we’ll even talk about spicing up the wine itself!
Pair Your Favorite Spicy Cuisines with Wine
Typically, when we think of spicy dishes, we think of cuisines from countries around the world that are usually outside of the traditional wine-producing regions. These nations are better known for dishes that showcase an avalanche of bold, spicy flavors, making wine pairing a challenging, yet fun task. This is one instance where we’re throwing the old saying “if it grows together, it goes together” out the window. Spicy dishes call for an unconventional pairing approach, so we’re breaking the rules. How rebellious!
That being said, we’ve got quite a few countries to visit today, so let’s get to it!
There’s nothing quite like the bold, unapologetic nature of a delicious Indian dish. These cuisines are characterized by strong, spicy flavors that typically take the starring role in a dish. You can expect to encounter curries, chutneys, a healthy dose of heat, and a heavy emphasis on spices in good Indian food.
The best wines to pair with these dishes are wines that are simple, straightforward, and that balance the spices and complexity of Indian cuisine. It’s also a good idea to keep the ABV low, as a wine with high alcohol content can enhance the perception of spice and take away from the flavors in the dish. German Riesling, Prosecco, and Rosé are all excellent pairing options to reach for to complement your Indian dish. Their low ABV, light body and acidic, zesty notes make them all food-friendly options that will bring out the best qualities of a flavor-forward Indian cuisine.
The next cuisine on our list takes us to the Horn of Africa, to the country of Ethiopia. Ethiopian food consists of highly seasoned meats and vegetables that are known to bring heat. Much of this cuisine is enjoyed in Ethiopia with a honey wine called tej, which is similar to mead. That being said, mead is an excellent pairing choice with Ethiopian dishes, as its sweet, cold nature balances well with the intense spices of the food.
If mead isn’t really your thing, there are other options! Experts say that earthy wines also pair nicely with the bold flavors of Ethiopian food. Some good examples include Californian Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz, and Pinot Noir.
Typically, Mexican food is enjoyed with a crisp Mexican lager or a tequila-based beverage like margaritas. It’s no secret why – these beverages are absolutely delicious with tacos and guac! However, don’t overlook the wine pairing possibilities with your favorite Mexican dishes. There are some truly mouthwatering matches out there that you must try!
In general, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when pairing food and wine is to think of the wine itself as an ingredient. It’s also helpful to consider the spice level of your cuisine – the spicier the food, the colder and sweeter your wine should be to balance the flavors.
If you’ve got a tortilla-based dish on the menu such as tacos, sopes, or burritos, reach for a dry rosé or Lambrusco as the perfect pairing. For cuisines with a heavy helping of queso or cheese, balance the heaviness of the dish with an earthy Tempranillo or Pinot Noir. Pork dishes such as el pastor and carnitas are enhanced perfectly with a sparkling rosé, and guacamole is taken to another level when paired with Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.
Korean cuisine is notoriously difficult to pair with wine. These dishes hit almost every flavor profile, including savory, sweetness, spiciness, and saltiness. But, just because Korean dishes are difficult to pair, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, and we’ve got some delicious ideas for you to try the next time you get Korean food!
There’s no shortage of spice in Korean dishes. To complement the heat in these dishes, reach for a bright, acidic wine like Sauvignon Blanc. Similar wines also pair beautifully with dishes that feature seafood. However, if you’re enjoying a heartier dish like Korean barbeque, try a simple, red table wine such as Chianti. In general, you’ll want to avoid wines that are too bold or tannic like a Malbec or California Cab, as they can clash with the sheer amount of flavor in Korean cuisine.
Next up on our list of spicy cuisine, we’ve got mouthwatering Thai food! This is yet another cuisine where you can expect a complex array of flavors in one dish – spicy, sweet, salty, sour, it’s all there. Finding a wine that can seamlessly balance all of these flavors at once is no easy task, but many sommeliers agree that there is one wine that rises above the rest as a delicious option to pair with Thai food – and that is German Riesling. Riesling reigns supreme for its sweet profile and cool serving temperature, which balances the bold, impactful flavors that are present in Thai dishes.
If German Riesling isn’t readily available as an option, other tasty alternatives to consider are Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, sparkling Rosé, or Grüner Veltliner.
Traditionally, many Japanese dishes are enjoyed with sake, which is an alcoholic beverage made of fermented rice and can be served either cold or warm. However, other drinks are becoming increasingly common to enjoy with Japanese cuisine. Sushi and poke bowls pair deliciously with Grüner Veltliner, and shoyu ramen goes exceptionally well with an earthy, light- to medium-bodied pinot noir.
For just about any Japanese cuisine, you can’t go wrong when pairing these dishes with a food-friendly sparkling wine such as prosecco, dry sparkling rosé, or even champagne.
Okay, so we’ve talked at length about which wines pair best with spice. Now, let’s take a look at something even more unconventional, putting the spice in your glass of wine!
Yes, you read that correctly – Jalapeño Rosé! Adding jalapeños to Rosé is no new trick, but this trend has seen a recent resurgence thanks to TikTok user @allyssainthekitchen, who showed her followers that by simply adding a few slices of fresh jalapeńo to your favorite glass of rosé, you can add an easy, zesty kick to the refreshing taste of a summery blush. The jalapeńo enhances the crisp notes of rosé with an extra bit of spice, and the flavors work together surprisingly well! Don’t knock it ‘til you try it – if you love a little bit of heat in your favorite dishes, then this is a trick that you absolutely need to try! See this twist from Instagram user @togetherwinewine of pairing a dry Sauvignon Blanc and fresh slices of jalapeños.
Well, now that we’ve traveled around the world to discover these spicy wine pairings, do you think you can handle the heat? Food and wine are just meant to be enjoyed together, so why limit yourself to the typical wine-friendly foods? There’s a whole world of cuisine out there that’s just waiting to be paired with the perfect wine, so don’t be afraid to bend the rules and try them out!