We know that pairing wine with food is a highly subjective endeavor, simply because no two human noses or palates are exactly the same.
In a single glass of wine, one person may perceive a cherry-like aroma, while another might identify the same scent as more like that of a blackberry. Once the wine is in the mouth, the perception of the flavors could remain consistent with the aromatic perception, or they could flip-flop. That’s just how it is with wine, noses and palates.
With that in mind, we would like to make what might be considered a revolutionary suggestion: The next time you dine on Asian fare, have a glass of red wine with it.
You won’t find very many books, pundits or bloggers who would float that idea. When offering a wine-pairing suggestion for Asian food, it’s much safer to stick with the traditional advice: white wine, perhaps with a touch of sweetness, well chilled.
Safe? Yes. An off-dry (i.e., slightly sweet) Riesling or Gewurztraminer works very well with the flavors we typically associate with Asian cuisine—vegetables, black pepper, soy sauces and semi-hot spices. One of the great Thai restaurants in the United States—Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas—has a cellar stocked with an amazing array of Riesling bottlings.
But its extensive wine list also has page after page of red wine selections—in particular, numerous bottlings from Burgundy.
The red wine of Burgundy is Pinot Noir, and the reason it works well with Thai food… and other spicy Asian fare… is that its tannin structure is modest. Whereas the strong tannin in a variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon clashes with the delicate texture of the food, the modest tannin in Pinot Noir allows the fruit flavor of the wine to shine, complementing the food’s texture and flavors. French Beaujolais offers similar pairing bliss.
Another red wine to try is a fruit-forward Shiraz from Australia, or a peppery Syrah (same variety, different name) from France’s Rhone Valley. Even though such wines can be somewhat high in tannin, their complementary flavors make the food pairing work.