Pairing Wines with Hot and Spicy Foods

When pairing wines with food, the general goal is to make sure that the flavors of the food don't overwhelm the wine and cover up all of the wine's wonderful flavors. And the basic rule of wine pairing says that you should have a red wine with beef and white wine with chicken or fish. But what about a spicy meal? And spicy includes both highly spiced foods and those hot and spicy foods. These foods can easily overwhelm a wine. But pairing options with hot and spicy foods may surprise you because it's not going to be the big bold wines that work best.

One food and wine pairing that works with almost any meal is a sparkling wine. And it works especially well with spicy foods. It can be anything from a sparkling rosé to Champagne. And even an off-dry (slightly sweet) sparkling wine work well with spicy dishes. Putting some sweetness against a spicy flavor is surprisingly good.

The moat common pairing with a hot spicy meal is to go with a Riesling. And it works.  The high acidity of a Riesling will cut through the heat while the lower alcohol won't add to the burn. In addition to Riesling, you might also consider a Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or an Albariño. These wines all fit into the lighter side of white wines, having lower alcohol and higher acidity. Serve these wines well chilled and they can be the perfect accompaniment for a spicy meal.

Red wine lovers have options too. But stick to a light bodied red wine, especially with a hot spicy food. A slightly chilled Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir would be a great pairing here. The problem with trying to pair a big, bold red wine with a "hot" and spicy dish is that these reds tend to have high alcohol.  And what you'll find is that the higher alcohol level will add to the burn in your mouth, not reduce it.

So next time you are trying to figure out what to have with that spicy Thai food, Kung Pao Chicken, coconut milk curry or Buffalo Hot Wings, try a little bubbly, a well chilled light white wine or a slightly chilled light red wine. Cheers!