Wine and Spicy Food: How to Pair When the Heat is on!


Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner, and right about now you’re probably all stressed-out wondering which wine to pair with your Mexican fiesta feast, aren’t you!?!?

Okay, maybe not! You’re probably just going to reach for a Corona or Margarita and call it a day…

When it comes to spicy foods (no matter the time of year) most people tend to steer clear of vino, for the simple reason that a wine which drinks just totally fine by itself can end up being completely destroyed when paired with fiery foods. For this reason, I decided to put together a few tips to help temper those flames:

  • Avoid oak where possible, whether it’s white or red wines you’re dealing with. Spice and oak are not best buddies!
  • In general, reds are less successful than whites for spicy pairings, unless they’re more fruit forward and less tannic and maybe even served with a light chill. Think about red grapes such as Gamay (Beaujolais) or Grenache etc.

  • Bubbly can quite often work as well as beer if you’re pairing with foods where the spice has been kicked up a notch.  Reach for Prosecco, Cava, California sparkling or French Cremant.

  • Always go for low alcohol wines (even whites), but “low” I mean under 13%. High alcohol is like pouring gasoline on the flames!
  • Some great whites to consider would be: Austrian Gruner Veltliner, German Kabinett or Mosel Riesling, Provence Rosé and Loire Valley Chenin or Sauvignon Blanc.

  • Be careful with whites that are too “subtle”. If the food has too much spice it will end up blowing the wine apart!
  • Dry rosés (both still and sparkling) are often forgotten about, but are one of the most dynamic wines to pair with food. Refreshing, usually un-oaked or low on oak and full of complementary flavors.

  • Avoid big reds with lots of tannin i.e. Cabernet, Merlot, Meritage, Australian Shiraz, Bordeaux’s, Syrah etc.

These tips are a good start;however, it’s worth-while noting that when it comes to foods that are so hot it sends smoke coming out of your, no wine can really work that well. The best advice I can give is to reach for a beer, or even better, a cold glass of milk!

Side-note: I was going to “borrow” this photo for this post, but I wussed out at the last minute….

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