I've been getting into spicy food lately. No, I'm not sprinkling my food with jalapeños or anything, but I've been venturing out to try new Thai curries in the crockpot recently. The one that I tried this past week was a coconut yellow curry with braised chicken thighs. It amazes me the amount of spice that goes into a curry dish; cumin, curry, chili, pepper, garlic. It's expanding my palate.
Pairing wine with a spicy dish though, how do we do it? I think the first observation to make is that alcohol increases the burning effect of spice, especially chili spice. Madeline Puckette, certified sommelier, wrote an article about how an ice cold, low alcohol, sweet white is the best that we have for pairing with spicy food.
I think that her point is valid. Your wine needs to stand up to your food.
If you like sweet wines- Sweetness in a wine can can down on the burning sensations, rejuvenating your taste buds. I would try pairing your dish with a German Riesling or Alsatian Gewürztraminer.
If you like whites- I would avoid anything oaked. The oak can subdue other flavors in a wine, and prevent some of the key balancing flavors from shining through. I would try pairing your spicy dish with Sancerre, Muscadet from the Loire, or Albariño from Spain. Refreshing acidity and citrus flavors can act to balance the spice of your dish.
If you like reds- For reds, avoid high alcohol and heavy tannins. The alcohol increases the burn and heavy tannins will overpower the dish. Reds I would try would be Beaujolais or Oregon Pinot Noir. Both wines are light, lower in alcohol, and have light tannins.
My personal choice for spicy, though, is champagne.
The lower alcohol and bubbles refresh my palate. I truly think you could pair champagne with half of the dishes in the world and be throughly impressed, but I think that champagne goes very well with curry.
This week I paired actually paired my coconut curry with Gramona Gran Cuvee. I could drink this wine every day. Though not a champagne, this Cava does exactly what I need it to do, it refreshes my palate.
Let me know what you like to drink with your spicy dishes!