Tested: Wine with Spicy Food (Video)

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

CAUTION: Do not try this at home. You will regret it later.
Rumor

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.

But Why?

This type of wine is the best spicy food pairing, but not for the reasons you might think.

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Ice-cold
Most importantly the wine must be cold to help quench your palate.
Sweet
The sweetness helps by coating your burning tongue.
Easy-to-drink
A low-alcohol wine permits you to drink more wine to alleviate the burn.

Recommended Sweet White Wines with Spicy Food

Madeline tests Dry red wine with spicy food
Testing dry red wine with spicy food in the name of science. We swear.

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.

Spicy food and high tannin wine
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.

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About Madeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly