When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Those certainly are words of wisdom when traveling and eating out, particularly if you happen to find yourself someplace you’ve never been before.
And when it comes to wine, the same advice holds true: Drink what the locals drink.
But what about Middle Eastern food? America’s larger cities are home to numerous restaurants featuring Middle Eastern cuisine, but it’s rare to find wine from Lebanon or Israel or Morocco.
If a restaurant does offer such bottlings, by all means, give one a try—and don’t be shy about asking for assistance in selecting one. Otherwise, the tips that follow should help…
- Think pink.
Because so many Middle Eastern dishes are spicy, we look for wines that, first and foremost, are refreshing. In that regard, nothing beats a rosé-style wine—particularly one from Provence or made elsewhere in a similar style—that has been well chilled.
- Acid redux.
Another dependable choice is a wine that’s high in acid, possessing a lip-smacking quality. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice among white wines, and Sangiovese should delight red-wine fans.
- Eschew oak.
The “California style” of Chardonnay, which emphasizes a toasty oak aroma and a rich, buttery mouthfeel, does not work well with spicy fare. Instead, opt for a less okay, more refined style, such as that embraced by most vintners in Burgundy.
- Spice on spice.
Gewurztraminer often is recommended as a pairing partner for spicy Asian or Tex-Mex fare, the theory being that the spice of the wine would be complementary to the spice of the food. There’s only one problem with that assertion: The spiciness of Gewurztraminer is found in its aroma. Even so, there’s enough acidity in Gewurz that it can make a good pairing partner for Middle Eastern food. Ditto for another varietal often recommended with Asian fare: Riesling.
- Bubbly bliss.
As is the case with so many types of food, when all other wine choices fail, opt for sparkling wine. Its basically neutral flavors and refreshing mouthfeel can tame even the spiciest of Middle Eastern fare.