There are several reasons we use spices in our food, especially the many peppers that add heat on the palate.
Most of the spices that we cook with kill bacteria, so adding a touch of hot pepper to a dish has often been as much for health as it is for flavor. This is especially useful in hot Caribbean and Central American climates, where meat and fish spoiled very quickly in the days prior to refrigeration. Spicy food also raises our metabolism and causes us to sweat, which in turn cools us off.
It’s no wonder that National Hot and Spicy Food Day is celebrated on one of the hottest days of summer! If you can’t stand the heat, cleanse your palate with wines that pair with spicy recipes. White wine and rosé often work best, and so do lower tannin, lightly oaked reds such as Garnacha and Syrah. Here are some of the best wine pairings for spicy foods!
Try these Spicy Lime Corn Wheels with a glass of Kim Crawford “Small Parcels” Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc. While you may be more familiar with Kim Crawford’s larger production Sauvignon Blanc, the “Small Parcels” series offers more sophisticated flavors of passion fruit and grapefruit that hold up to lime but help to dissipate the spice on your tongue.
Why save your good champagne for a special occasion? Pop open a bottle of Möet & Chandon Gtand Vintage Rosé 2008 and enjoy it alongside Grilled Fish Tacos With Peach Salsa. Medium-bodied and refreshing, its flavors of apple, fig, and soft spice are terrific with spicy foods with a light touch of fruit sweetness.
The rich mouthfeel and bold acidity of Sofia Rosé make it a natural with Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork Sliders. From Monterey, California, Sofia Rosé is made with Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Grenache. It's full-flavored enough to stand up to pork, while its refreshing quality will enhance rather than extend the feeling of heat in your mouth.
Angel Hair with Mussels in Chipotle Sauce is a spicy seafood treat. Bodega Garzón Albariño is from Uruguay (not Spain!), but it offers the same pure peach and citrus flavors you would expect from a more traditional version of this grape. A clean, fresh flavor profile and strong minerality are the ideal foil for heat-infused shellfish.
From Northeastern Mexico, this Beef Steak with Roasted Tomatillo and Three Chili Salsa needs a red wine. Las Rocas Garnacha, from Calatayud, Spain, features rich flavors of blackberry and mocha. Unlike heavier red wines, Las Rocas’ fruit-forward qualities will not overpower the palate but will refresh between delicious bites of steak and salsa.