If the production of wine created with natural methods – respecting the environment and the traditional techniques – is an art, the combination of wines and food is not far behind. If in some cases the selection of the right bottle to put on the table is practically obvious, there are some complex and original combinations. Without a doubt, one of these is the combination of wine and spicy food.
Spicy: where does it come from?
The human palate can perceive five primary tastes: acid, salty, bitter, sweet and umami. Spicy is not among these; however, it is a sensation linked to palate and sense and triggered by substances contained in certain foods that stimulate the heat receptors inside our mouth, causing a semi-painful reaction. Precisely for this reason, many people don’t love spicy food; in fact, some people definitely avoid it.
However, not everyone knows that there is not just a single sensation of spiciness, but many that can be perceived differently; among these, the most widespread are the capsaicin, contained in the peppers, the piperine, in the different types of pepper, the allicin in garlic; even the freshness of mint can be considered a type of spiciness
Wine and spicy food: how to find the perfect match
Each type of spiciness has different characteristics: for example, capsaicin, ie the spicy due to chilli, causes a strong and long-lasting sensation, while piperine has much less decisive effects. Starting from this basic distinction, and then using the Scoville Scale, the spiciness table created by the namesake researcher, we can proceed in matching the right wine.
Keeping in mind that the wine to choose as the right match for spicy food can be both white and red, you can apply the rule of contrast, according to which the perfect combination provides a harmonization of the most marked characteristic of food by combining a contrasting wine. So, as far as spicy foods are concerned, the rule to follow is the combination of wines that are increasingly sweeter as the spiciness index rises. In addition, the temperature of the wine should not be underestimated (for example, if it is a white, it is advisable to serve it cool to alleviate the burning sensation) as well as the alcohol content (it helps to fight the effect of capsaicin).
In this regard, the Italian Sommelier Association gives some guidelines on the pairing: for them, it is not advisable to combine red wines with particularly spicy food because the tannins they contain dry the mouth, increasing the burning sensation. Instead, they suggest matching it with white wines and bubbles, since the substances contained in the first ones (the flavonoids) dampen the burning, while the bubbles help cleaning the papillae and then getting rid of the negative sensation.
Our ultimate advice is: do not forget that the combination of food and wine is a delicate issue, sometimes subjective, and that most of the time has to be chosen individually for each dish.
You want ideas on which wines to pair with your spicy recipes? Browse our spicy and asian section and get the best natural bottle for your menu!