I have often spoken of my Caribbean background in my posts and have shared some of the wine pairings I’ve done for family events, but wine pairing at these events has not always come easy for me. While our events are filled with merriment, soca and calypso (believe it or not, we have calypso for every occasion; Christmas, Easter, not just Carnival), they are also filled with delectable food fare, which come with a plethora of spices such a curry, masala and cumin.  As you can imagine, with all of these spices in play,  it takes some thought in to the ideal wine for such a spiceapalooza. So, after some trial and error, research and talking to local vintners who are familiar with a good curry and roti, I have amassed a list of some go to varietals for pairing with spicy dishes.

What not to pair with spicy foods

The main thing you need to be cognizant of when pairing wine with spicy food is that the spices will always want to be the centre of attention on the palate, and anything that tries to vie for the same level of attention will lose some of its virtue, and this is never good thing. The previous means you will want to stay away from the full bodied, high acidic and high alcohol level wines. Red wines such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Barbera are on my ‘not to pair with spicy foods’ list, and white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay live there too. In both red and white wines, like the ones listed above, pairing them with spicy foods will cause the tannins or the acidity to bounce forward in an aggressive way, truly ruining the lovely mouth experience that we know these wines can offer. So, it’s best to stay away from these wines if doing a meal pairing with spicy dishes.

What wines work well with spicy foods

I do have a short, but solid, list of go to varietals for spicy foods and they include both red and white wines to appease the varying audience. My rules for pairing wines with spicy foods are simple; always go for sweeter wines and wines with well-tempered tannins and great fruit taste. I find that the sweetness and fruit taste of the wine end up tempering the stronger spices in the food, and the lesser spices get a chance to shine through, making each mouthful a new and wonderful experience. When it comes to red wines, I will go for Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Merlot. When it comes to white wines, I will normally go for Riesling, Viognier, Vouvray and Gewürztraminer.

As we roll into Easter, I have long planned my dinner wine list, and it includes Henry of Pelham Family Tree White, Thirty Bench Riesling, and Folie à Deux Zinfandel. I know we’re in for a treat.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on pairing wines with food? Drop me a line or add your comments to this post, so we can all enjoy.