How to Pair Wine with Spicy Food

Do you love to turn up the heat?

Rumor has it that people who like spicy food are adventurous risk-takers. We’re not sure if that’s true, but we do know that there’s something thrilling about a single drop of red chili oil setting your mouth ablaze.

Hot spice works well in combination with something cool. That’s why jalapeño poppers are kind of the perfect bite. Hot peppers + cool cream cheese = balance.

Similarly, they say that a cold glass of milk – rather than water – is the perfect antidote to a plate of ghost pepper wings. Well, we think milk’s fine, but how about wine?

If you’re an absolute fiend for fiery food, check out this guide for pairing wine with spicy food from around the world.

A Hot Tip

In general, when it comes to spicy food, a chilled, low-alcohol wine is the way to go. A wine with a high ABV will actually make spicy food taste spicier in an unpleasant way. 

White wines and rosés are typically good pairing options because they’re best served cold – providing a nice contrast for hot ingredients. However, red wines are certainly not off the table – as long as they have low tannins.

Wine Pairings for Spicy Food

pairing wine with spicy food: a tray of hot wings are laid out in front of a bottle of red wine

Hot Wings

Just because it isn’t game day, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a plate of wings drenched in buffalo sauce. Elevate your favorite appetizer with an ice cold (or merely chilled) off-dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc.

Pork Carnitas 

Hours of braising makes this spicy Mexican dish melt in your mouth. Flavorful pork carnitas pair well with a light and zippy Spanish Albariño.

Fra Diavolo

This spicy seafood pasta – meaning Brother Devil in Italian – can be hot as Hades. Enjoy this classic pasta dish with a brut (dry) sparkling wine like Prosecco or light, low-alcohol red like Dolcetto or Barbera.

Spicy Pizza

If you like your pizza topped with spicy meats like pepperoni or Italian sausage, go with a fruit-driven red like Grenache or a medium-bodied red with a hint of spice like Nero d’Avola or Sangiovese. If you prefer hot and tangy BBQ chicken pizza, pair it with a Pinot Noir.

pairing wine with spicy food: close-up of grilled jerk chicken with limes and spices

Jerk chicken

Whether marinated, coated with a dry rub, or both, this popular Jamaican dish pairs well with a light white wine like Gewürztraminer.

Spicy Korean BBQ

For hot Korean dishes like spicy pork bulgogi, go with a dry rosé or a fruity red wine like Beaujolais or Australian Shiraz.

Ma-Po Tofu

This Chinese dish from Sichuan province gets its spice from a combination of chili oil and chili flakes. It pairs well with light, aromatic white wines like off-dry Chenin blanc or Gewürztraminer, or a fruity low-tannin red like Beaujolais.

Tom Yum

This hot and sour soup from Thailand features tangy lime juice and hot Thai Bird’s Eye Chilis – which are about 20 times hotter than jalapeños. Tom Yum pairs well with Grenache Blanc, a full-bodied white wine with notes of lime and lemongrass. If you don’t have a Grenache Blanc handy, you could also go with a light unoaked Chardonnay.

Chicken Vindaloo

Reliably the spiciest dish at your favorite Indian restaurant, this curry gets its spice from Bhut jolokia, aka the ghost chili, aka the hottest pepper in the world. This popular dish goes well with a sparkling rosé or a light red like Gamay.

pairing wine with spicy food: a close-up of a shelf of small bags of Flamin Hot Cheetos

Flamin Hot Cheetos

Looking for a spicy happy hour snack? If you’re a fan of Flamin Hot Cheetos, go with a slightly sweet, slightly fizzy Lambrusco.

In Vino Finito

Spice lovers, rejoice. When it comes to pairing wine with spicy food, you’ve got options. Be it red, white, or rosé, just make sure to pick a low-alcohol wine to go with devilishly hot food. 

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of passionate wine lovers. With our amazing sommeliers at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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