Sommelier Julie Dupouy has consulted on her area of expertise – wonderful wine – in award-winning restaurants like Patrick Guilbaud and Chapter One, and received her own award, Best Sommelier in Ireland, in 2018.
For the hot-headed chili pepper fans… Wine writer for THE GLOSS Julie Dupouy highlights which wines best suit spicy dishes …
Flaked, fresh, chopped or pickled – hot chili is a common ingredient in international cuisine. Countries world over – such as Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, India, South Korea and China – have a particular love for heat. With an ever-expanding variety of exotic cuisines in the Irish market, what are the best beverage options to consider for an enjoyable pairing experience?
‘Capsaicin’ is the name of the fiery little molecule that causes heat in chili peppers. If used in small amounts, it enhances flavour, making a simple dish even more yummy. Capsaicin is soluble in alcohol and sugar, but not in water. That is why
drinking a big glass of cold water doesn’t stop the burning sensation of chili – and why a glass of milk can be more effective at extinguishing those flames.
For this reason, the best styles of white wines to consider serving with spicy dishes are those with an element of sweetness or with generous aromatic expression and lowish acidity. Off-dry Riesling from Germany, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltiner from Austria or Mediterranean grape varieties such as Viognier or Marsanne can also be great allies to spicy cuisine.
As curious as it may sound, vanilla has also been proven to reduce the effect of capsaicin. Vanillin is the main aromatic compound found in vanilla beans and is also present in oak which is why some of us might have come across its flavour when enjoying a glass of Rioja or oaked Chardonnay. Look out for those oaky styles to compliment some of your spicy dishes. American Zinfandel, Italian Ripasso and South American Chardonnay are also some good candidates.
Beer is often the go-to pairing with Asian cuisine, and yet, carbon dioxide – causing beer’s foam – actually increases the burning sensation of spicy food. If you are sensitive to hot chili, it’s better to stay away from beer or any other carbonated drinks. However, if you can tolerate the heat, then some Indian Pale Ale (IPA) style beers can offer some very interesting flavour pairings while some darker speciality beers with a higher level of alcohol and sweetness can offer great options with meatier dishes.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of temperature when serving your wines with spicy dishes. Cool down your powerful reds to 15-16°C and serve your richer white wines a little warmer than usual, at 12-14°C.