What wine goes with spicy Asian food?
August 22, 2007
I love Asian food. And other than Phat Thai in Carbondale and the occasional trip to Denver to some of the joints on Federal, it is tough to find great Asian food in the mountains.So when we were asked to dinner recently by friends who said Thai food would be the chow of choice, I instantly started thinking about a wine to bring to the meal.Of all the cuisines in the world, Thai may be the most difficult to pair with wines. The complexity of the flavors and the wide assortment of influences and ingredients make it tough to pin down. The Indian influences in the curry dishes, the sweet and sour flavors and the noodles are rooted in Chinese cuisine, and the smoky grilled meats all are a part of Thai cooking. Then there are the myriad exotic spices and ingredients, like tamarind, kefir lime, galangal, mangos and hot chilies. Getting hungry?The authors of the outstanding Asian cookbook “Hot Sour Salty Sweet: a culinary journey through Southeast Asia” devote just one page to wine and spirits. Their take? “Why waste good wine? Far better to drink rum, beer or local whisky” with the sometimes overpowering foods. Uh, OK. But I was still leaning toward bringing a bottle of a compatible wine for our dinner. So I sought the advice of the experts, Andrea Immer Robinson, Oz Clark, Matt Kramer and others, for some sage wisdom. Checking out books, magazines and websites, I searched for an answer to my what-to-drink-with-Thai-food conundrum.The general consensus is that low alcohol, low tannin, highly acidic wines are the best pairings with Thai and other Asian cuisines. A touch of sweetness is good with the heat as well. That brings us to the shelves where they keep the Rieslings, the Pinot Blancs, the Pinot Gris, the Gewurztraminers.You’ll find lots of wines made from these white grapes in the Alsace region of eastern France, where makers like Trimbach and Hugel turn them into delicate, food-friendly wines. My personal favorites from the region are the wines produced by Zind-Humbrecht, who uses the principals of biodynamic winemaking to create magical, rich, succulent wines from all of the above-mentioned grapes.Rieslings from Germany are also excellent choices with Asian food. And don’t forget that Australians, notably Jeffery Grosset in the Claire Valley, are producing exceptional examples of the grape.But for this dinner I wanted something a little different. And then it struck me. Earlier this summer I had been fortunate enough to taste a wine with winery owner Robert Sinskey he called Abraxas. I was at first struck by the tall brown glass bottle and the elegant little glass stopper that was used to seal the wine.And when he poured it there was a clean, light liquid in my glass. I could smell flowers and fruits. The 2006 Abraxas Vin de Terroir, as the wine is called, is a blend of four different grapes: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Sinskey has planted these grapes in an organic Sonoma County vineyard called Scintilla. The wine is his expression of Alsatian varietals grown in California terroir.I was very pleased with myself. While the experts had suggested wines from different grapes, I had found one from an esteemed maker in classic package that had all of the grapes suggested in a single wine. Armed and dangerous, I sought out the 2006 Abraxas. Though not exactly what I was looking for, I found a bottle of the 2005 at Of Grape and Grain for around $30.Minutes later on the street, still full of myself, I ran into our dinner hosts. My Cheshire-cat grin was wiped right off my face when she informed me that the menu had changed. Instead of Thai food, dinner would be a seafood stew.I guess it’s back to Burgundy.Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at email@example.com.