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Pairing Wine with Spicy Food

Wine is one of the most ancient fermented drinks in the world. The oldest fermented grape drink has been traced back to China, but civilizations in Eastern Europe and the Near East also produced wine, including Ancient Greece. However, wine production reached new levels of precision and craft when the Roman Empire planted vineyards all over Italy and Western Europe.

So, while wine has existed all over the world, it was in Western Europe that wine production grew to resemble the varieties and wines we enjoy today. And while wine was always popular, it wasn’t the high-class luxury we associate with wine today. Instead, everyone drank wine with their meals because it was delicious and more sanitary than water at the time.

Italian and French food traditions developed alongside the production of wine, which is why many food and wine pairings today are based on French or Italian cuisine. However, wine aficionados today are experimenting with pairing wines with far different palates—cuisines with intense spices and heat.

The Rules for Pairing Spicy Food with Wine

There are two approaches to pairing wine with spicy food. The first approach is you could balance the spice and heat with a wine that mellows it out without drowning out the flavors. The second approach is you could enhance the heat with wines that magnify the spice. For our purposes, we’re going to talk about food pairings that mellows out heat rather than enhancing it.

There are three ways to create good wine pairings for spicy food:

  • Low-alcohol wines with high acidity: Like a squeeze of lime, a low-alcohol acidic wine can provide a zesty, crisp contrast to rich and spicy dishes.
  • Off-dry fruity wines: Fruity alcohols are already a traditional accompaniment to fragrant and spice-heavy dishes in Asian cuisine, including Korean and Japanese foods. Sweetness in off-dry wines comes from residual sugar, which helps showcase the hot elements of a dish.
  • Chilled full-bodied dry red wine: This one is a little unorthodox, but it comes from the wine pairing researchers at Wine Folly. Full-bodied red wines pair well with heavily spiced meats like barbecue, but only if the red wine is as cold as possible.

These three pairing types offer wine lovers a new way of enjoying spicy food without overpowering their palate or their spice tolerance.

One Pairing That Never Works

If you enjoy spicy food with moderate heat, one of the major “don’ts” of spicy food pairings is full-bodied tannic reds. The high tannins of full-bodied red wines can actually make spice hotter. For that reason, none of Theorem’s Cabernet Sauvignons would be ideal for pairing with spicy food. Instead, pair spicy food with our new Syrah. With its high acid and low tannins, Syrah pairs deliciously with spice without taking the heat to unpalatable levels.

To enjoy a food and wine experience like no other, contact Theorem Vineyards about booking a private, open-air evening of wine and food today!

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