Spicy, Asian and fusion foods are quickly becoming mainstream for many Americans, but when it comes to wine pairings most of us are still adrift. Traditionally, wine and food pairing has been a regional affair — matching local food with local wines. But these newcomers such as Thailand and India aren’t known for having thriving wine regions.
When matching wine with Indian food, most will offer a one-word answer: beer. It isn’t that a wine can’t match the spicy taste of curry, but generally the bold flavors of the food simply overwhelm the wine. But, not all Indian dishes are fiery hot. There are many styles and differing degrees of spiciness. For milder Indian dishes, consider crisp whites and roses and for hotter dishes opt for riper, more full-bodied wine.
Indian: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, Gewurztraminer
- 2009 Pine Ridge Viognier/Chenin Blanc, California (about $14 retail)
- 2009 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $24 retail)
Thai food is generally spicy-hot but the main flavors — ginger, lime, lemongrass and coriander — are all surprisingly wine-friendly. Look for wines with high acidity to tackle the spiciness, sparkling to cut through the grease of tempura, and avoid tannin at all cost. The tannins of wine mixed with the spicy, hot and sometimes sour flavors in Thai will make the wine taste bitter.
Thai: Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Chardonnay, Albarino
- 2008 Root One Chardonnay, Chile (about $12 retail)
- 2008 Argyle Willamette Valley Chardonnay, Oregon (about $20 retail)
Chinese food is not the easiest of cuisines to tackle, and that may be why sake has generally been the wine of choice for centuries. Chinese cuisine ranges from the delicate, refined flavors of Cantonese to the distinctly hot Szechuan. Consider white wines with a slight touch of sweetness or light fruity reds.
Chinese: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio
- 2009 Bloom Riesling, Germany (about $10 retail)
- 2007 Hugel Gewurtztraminer, France (about $40 retail)