Updated July 19th 2023
Wine with spicy food can be delicious, but the combination can also be overwhelming if not paired correctly. You might have heard that you can’t drink wine with spicy food. Well, that is a myth. Of course you can drink a delicious wine with your spicy meal, you just need to pick the right one.
Spiciness is one of the crucial elements of food and wine pairing basics. Usually people think about hot peppers when they think about spicy food, but spiciness can range from very hot to just a touch. You find spiciness in mustard, horseradish, curry and many different condiments and sauces. Asian cuisines tend to be more spicy, but just about every cuisine has some spicy dishes or condiments. In this guide we explain how to choose the best wine for spicy food.
Choose a low-alcohol white wine with some sweetness and serve it cold. Due to the tannins in red wine, it is almost never a good pairing with hot food. White aromatic white wines like Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Viognier are usually a good choice for spicy dishes. For Indian food, Riesling is usually a very good pairing choice. A slightly sweet sparkling like Prosecco wine is also good.
In order for the wine to balance the spices and the heat, it should fulfill the following criteria:
It is not just the level of spiciness that determines the best wine for the dish. You also need to take into consideration factors like fat and acidity. To help you choose the best wine for spicy food, we have put together some classic wine pairings with popular spicy dishes.
If you are a red wine lover and you really want a red with your spicy dish, you should look for a light-bodied red wine with soft texture, low tannins and fruity flavors. An unoaked red wine would be the best choice because the tannins from the oak do not go well with the burning heat. Light-bodied red wines like Beaujolais, Barbera or a Pinot Noir could work fine with dishes with little spiciness. A medium-bodied Zinfandel usually has lots of fruit and a hint of sweetness which pairs well with the spiciness.
Yes, there are some wines to avoid with spicy food. When choosing a wine for your spicy dish, you should avoid wines with the following characteristics:
Wines with any of these characteristics will overpower the flavors of the spicy food. Popular wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and oaked Chardonnay are usually not good pairings for spicy food. These are usually way too powerful and as a result, the wine and the food will overwhelm each other instead of creating a balanced pairing.