Don’t feel bottled in by the notion that spicy food only pairs with beer. While you may think it’s near impossible to find a white or red wine to drink with that beef vindaloo you’ve just ordered, here’s some sage spice advice.
Whites with a bit of sweetness such as Riesling or Chenin Blanc are ideal to cool down the scorches of a chili-laden curry or Szechuan beef, much like a sweet mango lassi quenching spicy samosas or a frozen margarita taming the heat of a piquant salsa. White wine with spice is a good choice except when the wine is excessively oaky, as with some Chardonnay, or has relatively high alcohol content, as in many Gewürtztraminer.
For those who prefer reds, there is magic to behold when you choose a lighter-bodied, amply fruity, low-tannin red such as Beaujolais, or even a Pinot Noir. When chilled and willing, these lighter reds can provide just as much relief as any of the firefighting whites. Avoid tannic, gum-drying reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah as they can intensify the sensations of heat in your mouth.
Rosé is a perfect match for a Thai red curry, or basil and chili chicken, with comparable powers of refreshment as a Beaujolais.
And one of my all-time favorite choices is bubbly (throughout the entire meal). With its coldness and restrained alcohol content, a bottle of Prosecco or Cremant is a spritely and soothing addition to any spicy meal.
For a full list of wines to pair with spicy food, check out my book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire (Regan Arts).