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Wine and Spicy Food

Wine, It's What To Serve with Spicy Food

By Eric Vinje, Cosmic Chile

You don't have to forgo wine while eating a hot ethnic dish. The rules around wine and spicy food have relaxed. It used to be that people would drink anything but wine while eating a hot curry or a spicy chicken slathered in Jamaican jerk sauce. But now even connoisseurs of good taste like "Food and Wine" magazine are featuring stories on what wine to serve with which spicy dish. Below are several strategies for figuring out what wine to drink with spicy food and which types of wines should be avoided if you're having a spicy meal tonight.

Seek out low-alcohol, fruity white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or rose. These won't compete with your food and, instead, will act as a foil and a good back-drop.

Avoid high-alcoholic, tannic reds or high-powered whites like an "oaky" Chardonnay. A big wine will battle with your hot food in a taste war and you won't be a winner in this fight. In addition, the spice in the food will make tannins in a strong red wine more pronounced and will make an oaky wine taste too oaky.

Try a slightly sweet wine to offset the spice in your food. Off-dry whites such as Rieslings and Chenin Blancs (as well as many sweeter roses) will balance well with hot dishes.

Pair the heat from hot pepper sauces with a spicy wine. Some wine sommeliers recommend spicy red wines like Zinfandels or Rhones which can blend with the fire in your dish. This is particularly true for red meat dishes.

Forget subtle wines which will be knocked out by the flavor in your hot food. If nothing else, a hot dish will numb your taste buds making it difficult to really take in the subtle flavor of a mellow wine.

When in doubt, head for the bubbles. Champagne or other sparkling wines will contrast favorably with a hot dish. The acidity of the wine will balance the alkanity of the capsaicin in your dish.

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