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Although there is a certain amount of empirical experimentation involved in pairing wines with spicy cuisine, there are a few general rules you can follow when making your selection.
The first is to observe a wine, its colour, odour and taste.
Red wines generally get lighter with age and white wines generally get darker. The darker a wine is, the more concentrated the flavour; the more concentrated the flavour, the more likely your wine will clash, overpower or heat up the spicy food.
Smelling a wine can also tell you a lot about a wine, says Wesson. "The tongue is a crude instrument. We can taste apple, but we cant taste the appleness of the apple, the pearness of the pear, just different levels of sweet, salty, bitterness and sourness."
Our sense of smell plays a large factor in our enjoyment of food and wine because it adds flavour, and because, like other animals, we intrinsically remember smells. Ethnic cuisine, especially the spicy varieties, tend to stand out by smell alone.
On the subject of taste, Wesson warns that though a wine may taste good on its own, it may not necessarily taste good with your food. Its also a very subjective sense. What you really want to do is taste the wine with the food in mind, because in the end its the pairing thats really important. Things to look for include high alcohol content, fruitiness, sweetness, bitterness.
High alcohol content has a burning effect on its own what Wesson calls "the Vicks Vapourub Factor" that doesnt go well with spicy, hot foods. Its like pouring kerosene on a fire; "People will burst into flames," he says.
Wine ratings are also irrelevant. "I dont like the 100-point scale at all. I dont think we should rate wines the same way we were humiliated back in school. Besides, Ive learned you can make any wine taste better when you get naked and jump into a hot tub."
Although most people dont like wine thats too fruity, these wines often go well with spicy food. Sweet wines can also be good, providing that the sweetness doesnt overpower the spice. Bitter wines that are high in tannin from the skin and seeds, are not recommended "A good match should leave you feeling refreshed," says Wesson.
Pairing with Sushi:
Very few people order wine in a sushi restaurant, says Wesson, because there are a lot of factors to consider the spiciness of the Wasabe, the saltiness of the Soya sauce, the oiliness of the Tempura. "Its easier just to order a beer."