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Monday, December 7, 2015

Food/Wine Pairing for International Cuisines

It's pretty easy to figure out steak and chicken pairings, but when you get into the more "exotic" foods what do you do for wines? These are suggestions; some place to start.

Wine Generalizations 
Sparkling, the most versatile wine!

Sparkling Wine
A dry to off-dry bubbly pairs with most foods especially anything a bit fatty, salty, or spicy. You can use this as a default wine for many meals.

Sauvignon Blanc
Don't want sparkling wine? The closest thing in style, but without the bubbles, is a higher acid Sauv Blanc.

Rosé
There are a number of high-quality dry Rosé wines coming out of domestic producers. The ones that are dry enough and have enough acid can pair well with many of these foods. Plus a Rosé can be nice and refreshing on a hot day. As a bonus, a high-quality Rosé can be yours for less than $20.

Wine Styles
High alcohol or high tannin wines generally don't mix with delicate foods. This is usually a place for sparkling, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or similar. Big alcohol wines, in general, don't go with food. Tannins can help with fatty foods. What is a high tannin wine? Usually it's young, heavy red wine (tannins dissipate over time). These are wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and sometimes Zinfandel. Save the big Cabs and Syrahs for a rib-eye.

Foods

Mexican Food
Okay, not exactly international or exotic, but it's a tough one to pair with wine. One of my worst experiments with food/wine pairing was a big, young Zinfandel with Mexican food. Both tasted awful when I put them together. Instead go with something low on tannins and high on acids, like a Barbera. Of course, the best beverage with Mexican food is a cold Mexican lager. Steak tacos and a Pacifico--sign me up!

Chinese
Sometimes spicy, sometimes really hot, sometimes just rich, usually high in sodium, and lots of oil. An off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer is the usual answer and probably the best bet. These wines have their own spiciness and higher acids to cut through what you find in your Pot Stickers and Kung Pao Chicken. Mmmm, getting hungry just thinking about it.
Asian food can be a tough wine match

Thai
Seafood and lemongrass vs. chiles and curry -- delicate to hot. An an off-dry to slightly sweet sparkling wine or Riesling matches up. A drier, quality Pinot Gris could work with dishes on the more delicate side.

Indian
There are many of styles of Indian food (it's a big country), but you find lots of rice, beans, and Asian spices. In some cases the same recommendations as Chinese food -- Riesling or Gewurz. Some of the heavier, meatier dishes could work with a fruity, lighter Syrah/Shiraz.


Drink What You Like
Just because everyone recommends Riesling with Chinese and you hate Riesling then don't order it. Having a wine you like is the first step to finding a food/wine pairing that works for you.