The final segment in my 5 Part series on Food/Wine Pairing is all about SPICE! Think about the last time you had a spicy Mexican dish or an Oriental dish with lots of red chili peppers. You certainly wouldn’t think about pairing those dishes with a full-bodied, high tannin red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon. So why not??? Its because alcohol intensifies spice and makes the dish seem even hotter on your palate. So Rule #5 is….alcohol intensifies spice.
So what is a good wine to pair with a spicy dish?? A good rule of thumb is use a wine that is lower in alcohol, such as a Gewurztraminer, Riesling or a Moscato. Normally these wines range in alcohol from 8-10%, but not always, so you need to check the label. Most wines produced in the USA average 12-14% alcohol, so that lower percentage of alcohol can help reduce your mouth’s perception of the spiciness in your dish. A fruit wine (a wine made from fruit not grapes) tends to be lower in alcohol as well and would be a good choice to pair with a spicy dish.
Another good rule of thumb is to use a wine that tends towards the sweeter side. The sweetness in the wine can help decrease your palate’s sensitivity to the spices in your meal. Again, Gewurztraminer or a Riesling works well, although remember that these wines can be made in both sweet and dry styles. A light-bodied Rosé works well too if you are leaning towards a red wine accompaniment or a red fruit wine, like cherry can be a good pairing. And don’t forget about France’s Beaujolais Noveau (Gamay), which is very light-bodied and produced to drink young.
I hope you have enjoyed and learned something from my Wine/Food Pairing series and have been using and practicing the rules to create delicious meals paired with just the right wine. Salute!