Pairing Spicy/Thai Food with Wine

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Recently, I was asked to help with food and wine pairings at a local, family-owned Thai/Lao restaurant. Most ethnic restaurants don't really push the sale of wine beyond a small selection of reds, whites and maybe a rosé. Other beverage options usually include 1 or 2 authentic beers. However, wine is becoming a more popular beverage choice and some of these restaurants are jumping on board!

First thing that comes to mind when I think of spicy, Thai food is a crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris. It goes far beyond that because not only is Thai/Asian food spicy, there are complex flavors in which you should account.

The Obvious Go-Tos:

Sauvignon Blanc - Fermented and aged in stainless, this bright, crisp wine helps cut through the spiciness of the dishes and leaves your palate feeling refreshed and ready for the next bite.

Pinot Gris - Very similar to Sauv Blanc, Pinot Gris is also crisp and refreshing but has a slight sweetness that can pair well with that sweet and sour sauce.

Riesling - Off-dry, slightly sweet Rieslings are a great option for some of the dishes because of the acidity in the seasoning of the food needs that sweetness to balance it out.

The Not-So-Obvious:

Bubbles - A lot of Asian food comes fried and there's no better accompaniment to fried foods than bubbles! The crispy crunch of the dish with the fizzy bubbly is a tastebud explosion.

Pinot Noir - Most turn their heads when you bring up a red wine with spicy foods. However, not every dish is as spicy as you think. A lighter, fruitier pinot noir can do just the trick with a sweet and sour chicken dish or something of the like.

Merlot - Same as the Pinot Noir, a bright Merlot can be the perfect pairing for a denser, hearty soup.

Cabernet Sauvignon - Tannins are the devil when it comes to pairing wine with spicy food, however, I found it goes perfectly with a duck or fatty meat dish. The Cab helps cut through some of that fat and leaves a pleasing mouthfeel when you're done. Do stay away from super tannic Cabs if the dish is too spicy though!

It's great to see more restaurants expanding their wine list because the best accompaniment to wine is amazing food. Asian food is one of my favorites and it deserves food and wine pairings just like steakhouse meals!

So order in tonight and open a bottle to share, you might just find a new pairing you truly enjoy! And stay tuned, you may just have the opportunity to taste these pairings for yourself ;)


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