Post curry night with work colleagues, I felt inspired to share some tips for matching wines with spicy dishes. I LOVE cooking Asian inspired dishes – Thai particularly – and to find a great wine match is ultra enjoyable. Try these easy-peasy rules next time you’re stuck for choices and just dont fancy a pint (granted this is the standard UK curry match, and even as a wine lover, yes, I did have a pint of Kingfisher with mine !)
1. Match spice for spice. Try a spicy Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris with a white meat, or veggie dish with a range of spices, or a peppery Zinfandel with a red meat dish to match red chilli spice.
2. Go for bold, not subtle. A subtle wine will be overpowered by a spicy, often flavoursome dish. Go for complex or aged wines with big flavours, like a zesty Riesling or a floral, tropical/exotic white.
3. Balance heat with sweet. Residual sugars in off-dry, and indeed some dry white and rose wines, balance the fiery kick in spicy dishes. Try a demi-sec Vouvray, a juicy Loire rose.
4. Sparkle, sparkle. A dry or even demi-sec sparkling will cut through any grease and chillled bubbles will cool the palate but fire up fantastic flavours.
5. NO tannin! If you do fancy a red, don’t pick one with bold tannin, this will only enhance the spice and chilli-heat and will make a tannic wine taste bitter and ruin both the wine and food. Instead, try a lighter red like a Beaujolais or a powerful flavoured, spicy, robust red like Zinfandel.
To match these top 5 tips, here are my top 5 wine choices from established member’s owned co-operative, The Wine Society. The application is a one-off payment of £40.00 for a lifetime membership, but from now until Christmas, every new member gets £20.00 credit on their account to spend towards their first order!
1. Zarcillo Gewürztraminer, 2011, £6.25 per bottle. 13.5%. The pink-skinned gewürztraminer offers exotic flavours of lychees and superb value for money. Delicious with fresh ginger spiced dishes. One of my absolute favourite buys.
2. Kumeu River Pinot Gris, 2010, Auckland, £12.50 per bottle. 13%. A lovely floral pinot gris which is smooth textured, like good Alsace examples, but with the vibrant fresh fruit so typical of New Zealand. Although dry, the sensation of a little sweetness works well with a spicy Thai green curry.
3. Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée St Laurent, 2010, £9.95 per bottle. 12%. Stylish, rounded sparkler from the Aude Valley in the foothills of the Pyrenees where bubbly has been made for 500 years. The blend is chardonnay, chenin and a little local mauzac. A perfect aperitif. Crisp and fresh, try with a creamy curry to cut through grease, or a fresh, spicy chilli noodle salad.
4. The Society’s California Old Vine Zinfandel, £6.95 per bottle. 13.5%. California’s quintessential red grape, best at producing ripe, full-flavoured dry wines, this Zinfandel is a ripe but serious dry red with the juicy fruit and hint of pepper typical of the variety, with enough structure to last a few years in bottle. It would stand up well to robust, spicy, red meat curries.
5. Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz, Langhorne Creek, £12.50 per bottle. 13.5%. Deeply coloured, rich-tasting sparkling Aussie shiraz. You may think – how is this going to work?! But it seems to have the sweetness to stand up to the spices and the sparkle cuts through richer curry sauces. Yes, Shiraz generally breaks the rule of avoiding highly-tannic wines, but the effervesence of this wine creates a lighter feel. Best served chilled.