I’ve been experimenting with wine pairings for hot, spicy food. It’s one of the items on my 2009 checklist.
The first challenge was white bean chicken chili, a spicy broth-based stew with lots of cumin and cayenne pepper. The wine pairing was purely accidental. I happened to have an open bottle of Jean-Claude Bougrier Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Le Landreau 2006 ($7.99 at Total Wine & More).
This worked out better than I could have imagined. The wine was cold, crisp and zingy with acidity. It stood up perfectly to the chili, which is augmented (a little too) generously with Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream. It’s simple and inexpensive, so I didn’t worry about losing nuances amongst the spices.
Next up was black bean chicken chili. This is a tomato-based chili with lots of chili powder and heat – a little more daunting to match with wine. I picked two wines – Casa Lapostolle Merlot Rapel Valley, Chile 2006 and Stoneleigh Riesling Marlborough 2007. They finished neck-and-neck.
I was a little stunned by the performance of the merlot. Reds gets lost in spicy foods sometimes, but the fruit stood up to the spice and the noticeable tannins seemed to help too. The rielsing worked as expected; it was cold, off-dry and had plenty of fruit to balance the heat and spice.
Last night it was pork Vindaloo, a super spicy stew from the state of Goa in India. Depending on who you ask, this dish is made in a number of different ways. My iteration was hot – damn hot. It was the kind of hot that makes you want more even as your eyeballs are bursting into flames.
In keeping with my rather random wine selections, I choose a bottle of Chameleon Cellars Carignane 2005. It didn’t stand a chance.
The heat and spice beat the wine into submission. I gave up after a couple sips and enjoyed the rest of my glass after dinner.
Today, I had another bowl of the Vindaloo for lunch. This time I went for a sure-fire match – beer. Magic Hat’s HI.P.A., a seasonal offering from the Vermont Brewery, was the perfect match – hoppy, crisp and just fruity enough to punch through the heat.
So, what do you drink with your favorite hot/spicy dish?