There’s been a rumor floating around about pairing wine with spicy food. It started on facebook as a casual conversation with a sommelier buddy of mine. He had a good argument in favor of a higher-alcohol wine with spicy foods. It sounded like this:
Alcohol is a solvent to capsicum and thus, a high-alcohol wine may actually work better with a spicy meal.
This little nugget of information swirled around in my brain because the science behind it seemed logical. The only way I felt like getting behind high-alcohol wines with spicy food was to test it myself. See the video below.
Pairing Wine with Spicy Food
Alcohol is a solvent to capsicum and a high-alcohol wine will work with spicy food.
(capiscum = the spice element in chile peppers measured in scovill units.)
In the video we tested 4 wines with 5-Star rated Spicy Thai Noodles with Beef from In The Bowl restaurant. This restaurant has a warning on their menu stating that their spice ratings are higher than most Seattle restaurants. We agree.
Q: What is the best wine with spicy food?
Answer: An ice-cold low-alcohol sweet white wine.
This type of wine is the best spicy food pairing, but not for the reasons you might think.
- Most importantly the wine must be cold to help quench your palate.
- The sweetness helps by coating your burning tongue.
- A low-alcohol wine permits you to drink more wine to alleviate the burn.
Recommended Sweet White Wines with Spicy Food
Red Wine With Spicy Food
We were surprised to discover that a very full-bodied dry red wine with high alcohol worked rather well with spicy food. We would recommend a dry red wine with richly spiced meats, such as cumin-pepper ribs or spicy barbeque, which works as long as the wine is bold enough to stand up to the food. To make this pairing work, put your wine bottle in the fridge and chill it. The colder the better.
We were surprised to discover that the presence of highly spiced foods nearly elemented the taste of tannin in our demo dry red wine.
Recommended Dry Red Wines with Spicy Food
Myth Busted? What We Concluded After Testing
I tested a high-alcohol sweet red wine, Sandeman Port, with spicy food as well as a glass of Bourbon. I advise that this is a horrible idea. Don’t do it.