Taste Test: Wines for Spicy Food #WinePW

Wine Pairing Weekend Group Tackles Enchiladas
Our Wine Pairing Weekend group is nothing if not brave.  As we have gotten comfortable with our wine pairing explorations, we have started taking on tougher challenges and this month is one of our better ones: enchiladas. With wine as a daily occurrence at our dinner table, I have been making fewer spicy meals as I find them to be real challenges for wine.  My prior experience? The best wine for spicy food is beer.

Which wine pairs with jalapeno peppers?

Which wine pairs with jalapeno peppers?

When enchiladas came as our challenge for May, I immediately knew I wanted to test out standard wine pairing advice for myself. Given that we have just two at the dinner table, I couldn’t open a dozen bottles, so I decided to test out one of the classics: Spicy foods demand sweet wine. As Madeline at Wine Folly states:

#1 The Rule of Spice The general rule is that the spicier the food, the colder and sweeter the wine should be.”

I decided to try three types of wine, all from favorite wineries of ours:

  1. Riesling – High acid, sweet
  2. Alsace style field blend – Medium acid, off-dry
  3. Rosé – High acid, bone dry
wine choices for spicy food

Test wines for spicy food: Alsace style field blend (off-dry), Riesling (sweet), and Rosé (bone-dry)

I would love to add a Brut sparkling wine and beer to the list, just for completeness, but that gets to be just too many things to keep straight.  Next time!

Idiot's Grace Riesling

Idiot’s Grace Riesling: blind, you might guess it’s from Germany

Idiot’s Grace Riesling 2013 ($22 from the winery)
Idiot’s Grace is one of the two labels you’ll see from Memaloose Wines, one of our favorite hidden gems of the US Pacific Northwest.  Memaloose is committed to grapes grown in the Columbia Valley AVA, which includes land on both the Washington and Oregon sides of the Columbia River.

Eye: Clear, pale lemon yellow
Nose: Could be a German Riesling by the nose. Peach pits, rubber hose (in a good Riesling way)
Mouth: Medium body, super high acidity, lip smacking, just short of puckering! Balanced by a nice level of sweetness. Nice long finish, lingering impression of sweet, pears, peaches.

Matello Ribbon Ridge

Matello Ribbon Ridge – an Alsace-style white field blend

Matello Whistling Ridge Blanc 2014 (Alsatian-style white field blend)($24 from the winery)
I seem to have a thing for winemakers who are fiercely independent and make wines they like to drink, who cares if they are in the mainstream?  Marcus Goodfellow at Matello makes lovely Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, but he also crafts a variety of other wines, less well known and often in a unique style.  Whistling Ridge Blanc is Marcus’ version of an Alsace style field blend including Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer grapes, all harvested and vinified together (hence, field blend).

Eye: Clear, pale lemon yellow
Nose: Medium+ intensity, very floral, lychee.
Mouth: Medium body, lively acidity, but well integrated, doesn’t seem tart at all. Fruity, off-dry.

Two Shepherds Carignan Rosé

Two Shepherds Carignan Rosé

Two Shepherds Trimble Vineyard Carignan Rosé 2015 ($22 from the winery)
William Allen of Two Shepherds is an amazing person, holding down a full time day job while he makes an impressive number of Rhone inspired wines from vineyards in California.  The only thing I can figure is that he simply doesn’t sleep! His Rosé is made from a less known grape, Carignan, harvested early to produce a bright, crisp wine.

Eye: Clear, pretty, medium intensity salmon color
Nose: Clean, watermelon rind, roses, pears
Mouth: Nice, medium body, medium+ acidity, bone dry, a hint of saline note, seems like a little underripe red fruit is hiding in there, maybe cherries?

spicy shrimp enchilada bake

Jalapenos in the filling didn’t seem like enough heat for our test, so I added fresh slices on top.

Spicy Shrimp Enchilada Bake
We’re always on the hunt for light but flavorful recipes; Eating Well magazine features recipes that are lower in calories, however, they avoid ingredients such as artificial sweeteners and fats that are too man-made, which I appreciate!  With the exception of adding minced jalapeno pepper to the filling and adding sliced jalapeno’s on top, I followed the Shrimp Enchilada Bake recipe closely.

wine pairing with spicy shrimp enchiladas

Our pairing challenge: spicy seafood enchiladas, complete with a topping of fresh jalapeno peppers.

Taste Test Results
First, let’s be clear: all three wines were great and were good choices for the shrimp enchiladas. I was surprised to find the Riesling wasn’t any better than the other two wines with the enchiladas topped with jalapenos. The sweetness didn’t really do anything to quench the spicy heat, it just stood out as sweet. Likewise for the Alsace style blend – bright fruit and just a touch of sweetness didn’t help. In fact, I thought the rosé was the best of the bunch.  The rosé possessed just enough extra fruit that its slightly richer body was a better pairing for the shrimp and the cheese in the dish.

At the end of the day, I’m left with one more test – Brut sparkling wine, because I’m back to my old conclusion:

The best wine for spicy food is…..beer

The winner by a nose

The winner by a nose

Wine Pairing Weekend Enchilada-Fest
Take a look at all the great ideas generated by our Wine Pairing Weekend group below.  If you see this soon enough, we’ll be chatting on the subject Saturday May 14 10am CDT at #WinePW on twitter.  Join our conversation!

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will post about Prickly Pear-Pulled Pork Enchiladas with Prosecco

Cindy of Grape Experiences will post Wine and Dine: Condes de Albarei 2014 and Goat Cheese Enchiladas

David of Cooking Chat will be debating Wine for Enchiladas — Red or White?

Jeff of FoodWineClick will be running a Taste Test: Wines for Spicy Food.

Jill of L’occasion will feature Cooking with Wine: Chipotle Pinot Noir Enchiladas.

Nancy from Pull That Cork (next month’s host) is talking Mom’s Enchiladas and Casillero del Diablo Wines for #winePW

Meaghan of Un Assaggio of Wine, Wine & Marriage will be making Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas #winePW

Michelle of RockinRedBlog will be Exploring Enchiladas and Wine Pairings with WinePW

Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere will post Chicken and Cheese Entomatadas: Pairing Tomatoes with Wine

Wendy of A Day in the Life on a Farm will be talking about Elderberry Sangria.

Lori at Dracaena Wines will be Enchiladas and Trousseau Gris; Could It Be?

For a list of past and upcoming #WinePW events, visit the Wine Pairing Weekend calendar here. We’d love to have you online with us!

Two Shepherds rosé with spicy shrimp enchiladas

14 Responses to “Taste Test: Wines for Spicy Food #WinePW”
  1. Cooking Chat says:

    huh, I know beer as the choice is common, but I persist with finding wine pairing options. I do tend to keep my spice levels moderate even in dishes that might be considered “spicy”, which makes wine pairing more doable. If you come across Sipp Mack Gewurz from Alsace, give that a try with something spicy! I’d say it’s my top choice for things like Indian food.

    • Thanks, David. I’m definitely not going to give up! I do want to have a head to head comparison between some sparkling choices and beer, though. I’m with you, usually keep the spices toned down, but I do like to push it every once in a while!

  2. Haha. My husband would agree with your conclusion. But I DO love how this group forces us to stretch and play. I’ve learned several thing from the few posts I’ve read so far this morning. I will try a rose next time. Thanks for sharing, Jeff.

  3. Wendy Klik says:

    I agree with your deduction. Beer is so good with spicy foods…..but then again so are margaritas.

  4. Jill Barth says:

    Those bottles all sound interesting…a west-coast display of tasty creativity & innovation. The Matello Willamette Valley Alsace blend was probably a delicious treat…
    Memaloosw & Two Shepards are probably fascinating…all sounds inpsired.


  5. Beer is great with spicy food. However I have found several non sweet whites that work well too. It’s trial & error. Great post as usual Jeff.

  6. Beer is probably the king of spicy food for a good reason, but we have found a few wines that have handled the challenge. It is always an adventure when you step down the spicy road, but isn’t that part of the fun?

  7. Impressive assortment of wines! I’ve enjoyed Matello (and Goodfellow) Chardonnay in the past and the Two Shepherds as well. I remember one of our favorite spicy food pairings included a rosé of Mourvèdre. Go team rosé!

  8. What a fun experiment! I think next time we’d like to try a rose or two with some spicy foods. Your enchiladas look wonderful!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Jeff of FoodWineClick will be running a Taste Test: Wines for Spicy Food. […]

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  4. […] Jeff of FoodWineClick will be running a Taste Test: Wines for Spicy Food. […]

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