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Wines that can handle the heat

July 2, 2018

Spicy Recipes Spicy Pairings


When it comes to pairing wine and food, many of us know that a full-bodied red will go well with a rich beef dish, or that a light white wine will be perfect for seafood. But which wines do you reach for when you’re craving spicy, flavoursome dishes?

The danger with pairing wine with spicy food is the wines can either overpower the dish or worse, the wine can be dulled by the spiciness of the food.

Fortunately, there are a few guidelines. Generally, low-alcohol wines are better than those with high-alcohol, as are those with no or little oak. White wines are best when they’re dry or off-dry rather than sweet such as Chardonnay and Viognier. As for red wine, look for crisp, light reds like Grenache rather than big, bold varieties like Shiraz.

To help you navigate your next spicy food session we’ve taken the hard work out of choosing by pairing some of our favourite spicy, sweet, aromatic recipes from around the globe with a few of our most intriguing white and red wines, which we know love a little spice.

Stock up the cellar, fire up the stovetop, and get inspired for some exotic home-cooking.

Spiced lentils with cucumber yoghurt

This fragrant lentil dish will warm your palette with its mix of ginger, green chilli, mustard seeds and curry leaves among its flavours. Serve it with naan and rice for a hearty vegetarian meal.

A dish this aromatic requires a refreshing white wine, like our Eden Valley Chardonnay, which has an uplifting citrus undertone that will enhance the flavours of the dish. The grapefruit acidity also cuts through spice beautifully allowing you to appreciate the wine.

Gai pad graprow

This stir-fry dish is one of the most popular on any Thai menu, so if you enjoy Thai food, chances are you may have tried this one already. This recipe is so simple and delicious, it will become your week night go-to.

This stir-fry dish calls for up to 12 red chillies, so you’re going to need something extra refreshing to pair it with, like our Eden Valley Roussanne. Its silky yet defined palate of white peach, vanilla custard and cumquat marries well with the spiciness of this dish, with enough acidity to stand its ground among all that flavour. It also helps that it’s highly drinkable.

Sri Lankan vegetable curry

This vegan Sri Lankan curry has the perfect mix of spice, lime and curry flavours to kickstart your palate and is one of our head winemaker Louisa Rose’s favourite dishes because it pairs so well with her favourite white varietal, Viognier.

Viognier is the perfect partner for this style of spicy food thanks to its refreshing yet textured flavour profile. Our Eden Valley Viognier has the palate weight and mouth-fill of a red wine, making it ideal to carry the flavours of this wholesome curry.

Pork and chilli dumplings

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love dumplings? These pork dumplings are great as a starter, or ideal served with rice and steamed Asian greens for a complete meal.

While bold reds run the risk of overpowering spicy food, our Block 2 Rosé with its silky raspberry and pomegranate front palate, followed by creaminess in the middle, will delicately complement the gentler spice flavours of this dish.

Southern fried chicken ribs with jalapeno mayonnaise

It’s the spiced flour that gives this fried chicken dish its big kick. Packed with five-spice, Sichuan peppercorns and cayenne pepper, it’s not for the faint hearted. And if that’s not enough for you, you can up the heat in the jalapeno mayonnaise to your taste.

While chicken ribs may sound daunting they’re really just pieces of bone-in breast ad are available from most butchers. Alternatively, you could use fresh chicken strips.

The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro is a light to medium-bodied red wine that leaps from the glass with aromas of strawberry compote, potpourri, nutmeg and fennel seed. It’s the long finish of talc-like tannins that gives it the cut-through this dish needs.

Chilli beef rendang

A long list of ingredients – name an Asian spice or standard ingredient and it’s probably here – gives this curry a beautiful complexity that will make your tastebuds sing.

Pair with The Virgilius Viognier, a complex wine that makes the perfect match for a complex curry, with its layers of lifted ginger spice on the palate with a mineral sourdough-like texture and flavours of apricots and almond. It gets more complex with age, so put a few bottles aside for future curry-endeavours.

Want to know more about spicy food wine pairing? Our friends at Wine Folly took a hands-on approach to test their theories.