We've partnered with Wines of Germany to find out why the country's versatile varietal, Riesling, keeps good company with a bowl of something spicy.
But this isn’t the time to go with Old Reliable. No, it’s best to put down the six-pack, stow away the spirits, and make a beeline to the wine shop, because the drink to pair with a spice-driven recipe is one that might surprise you: Riesling.
“Pairing food and wine is a balancing act between comparing and contrasting: You’re always deciding whether to call attention to similarities in the food and wine or to use them as foils against one another,” says Erik Lombardo, who heads up the cocktail program at New York City’s Marta and writes our column Spirit Guides. “The ripeness of [Riesling's] fruit flavors and its intense aromatics complement spice and, at the same time, its bright acidity helps to scrub your palate.”
According to Erik, Riesling is one of the most versatile wines for food pairings; plus, it's been around to see the world's preferences in wine change a few times (the earliest vines for German Riesling date back to the 1400s). Its popularity has come a long way in recent years, and Erik says the reason is simple: Well-made Riesling is easy to love.
The styles differ depending on each region's terroir, and while most Rieslings are fruity, it shouldn't be such a secret that they're not all sweet. Erik says that, in fact, trocken—which literally means dry in German—Riesling is one of the more popular versions and can contain no or little residual sugar. A range of flavors can be found in the grape, including everything from fruity or floral to spicy and herbal notes in the aromatics and taste.
“I’ve enjoyed Riesling with Indian, Mexican, Chinese Szechuan, French, and German food. The wine works well with both heat spice (like chiles and pepper) and fragrant spice (like cardamom and cinnamon),” Erik mentions.
More: Added one too many chiles to the pot? Here's how to remedy that.
So, the next time you’re craving something with heat, make these sesame and garlic noodles, grab some wine glasses, and don't be surprised when wine tastes better than beer this time around.
1/2 large cucumber
4 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 Thai bird chiles
180 grams ramen or soba noodles
1 large chunk of ginger, finely shredded or chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
Photo by Bobbi Lin