What to Drink With Spicy Foods: Champagne, Riesling, Pinot Noir & More

A running list of grape varietals that can bring out the full flavor of my favorite fiery food choices

As a product of Galveston, Texas, I’m convinced that my love for spicy foods is embedded within my DNA. I can remember at a very young age (let’s say, around seven or eight years old) enjoying bowls of my Granny’s gumbo with dabs of hot sauce; smoked ribs and sausage links hot off the barbeque pit courtesy of my dad in the summertime; and of course, cracking and sucking the head from many small mounds of crawfish. And as I got older, my tolerance for spice only increased. From bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos through middle school lunches to adding one too many jalapenos on nachos at high school football games, I couldn’t shake the need for spicy foods if I tried. 

Now that I’m old enough to enjoy wine with a meal on a regular basis, I’ve been keeping a running list of grape varietals that can bring out the full flavor of my favorite fiery food choices. From a bowl of spicy Thai noodles to a basket of buffalo wings, I’ve discovered that wine – compared to beer or other beverages – has the ability to go toe-to-toe with some of the most succulent dishes.

Hot Tip

Something to note about pairing wine with spicy foods: it’s important to be mindful of the amount of alcohol present. In food, chili heat tends to create a warming or burning sensation on our palate. The higher the level of alcohol in a wine, the more astringent (and uncomfortable) spicy food it will feel on your tongue. To avoid that, it’s important to choose wines that are light, dry, fruit-forward, and high in acidity.

Recommendations

Sparkling wine or Champagne  
Bubbly may not be your first choice when it comes to enjoying spicy foods, but it should definitely be a consideration moving forward. If you’re a seafood lover like me, the fizz in a Brut Champagne (which means, it will have very little sugar added) is a great option to help bring out the freshness of fish that has been elevated with spice. 
My Bottle: G.F. Duntze NV Brut Réserve (Champagne)
Dish: Spicy seafood pasta

Riesling
A white wine that is naturally high in acidity and sweetness, Riesling is versatile and can accompany any meal. Because of its natural sugars, a light German Riesling — which can have notes of green apple and lime — is an ideal option to pair with spicy Thai dishes because it can provide a cooling sensation to your palate. 
My bottle: Von Buhl Armand Riesling Kabinett 2015
Dish: Massaman Curry

Albariño 
If you like Pinot Grigio, then you’ll totally enjoy a glass of Albarino. Hailing from northwest Spain, Albarino is the white wine of Spain. While often compared to its Italian cousin, this dry, medium-bodied, high acidic wine is crisp, refreshing, and has notes of peach and apricot that would be great for the next Taco Tuesday. 
My bottle: Bilbao Albarino 2018
Dish: Spicy Pork Carnitas 

Gewurztraminer
While this French wine may be a little bit tricky to pronounce, it is one of the most fragrant white wines you’ll find, and ranges from dry to sweet. For the sake of accompanying our quest for spicy culinary satisfaction, an aromatic dry or off-dry Gewurztraminer from Alsace will have medium acidity with fruity notes of grapefruit, pineapple or peach. This will pair incredibly with the rich spices of Caribbean food. 
My bottle: Geil Gewurztraminer Kabinett
Dish: Jerk chicken 

Pinot Noir
As one of the beloved noble red grapes, Pinot Noir’s fresh red fruit flavors (think strawberry, raspberry, red cherry) allow for it to be enjoyed when it is fairly young.  Pinot Noir is a personal favorite of mine, simply because it is easy drinking and goes with almost everything. A quick suggestion when choosing a bottle: Pinot Noirs from Oregon aren’t cheap, but you are going to get your money’s worth. 
My bottle: Ken Wright Pinot Noir Willamette 2017
Dish: Dan Dan noodles

Gamay
This French wine is particularly unique because it solely focuses on grapes from Beaujolais, a region that is immediately south of Burgundy. The wines produced from this region have light tannins, fresh fruit flavor, and should be served (lightly) chilled to highlight their acidity. 
My bottle: Beaujolais Nouveau
Dish: Fajitas 

Grenache
Finally, another French wine (that also goes by the Spanish name, Garnacha) is another red wine that can be enjoyed chilled. Putting a little chill on a bottle of Grenache in this instance is important because unlike the other wines listed above, Grenache tends to be low in acidity and high in alcohol. The pepper spice in Grenache uniquely brings out the spice in Indian cuisine. 
My bottle: Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas 2017
Dish: Chicken Chettinad

Source: What to Drink With Spicy Foods: Champagne, Riesling, Pinot Noir & More – Thrillist

Climate change fixes for your favorite wine

Don’t get too attached to that pinot noir. New research suggests swapping out grapes to avoid climate catastrophe

January 31, 2020 at 7:00 AM EST

The prospect of hotter summers, warmer winters, drought and violent weather events have caused experts to warn of coming wine shortages and price increases, changing varietal character and, in some dire predictions, the extinction of some wines altogether.

Maybe there’s a fix, says a research paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists’ computer models show that if we do nothing, global warming of 2 degrees Celsius would wipe out 56 percent of current wine-growing land; increase that to 4 degrees and an estimated 85 percent of grapes won’t be viable.

This team of researchers investigated whether using more heat-tolerant grapes would allow vineyards to adapt. They found that by reshuffling where certain grape varieties are grown, potential losses at 2 degrees of warming could be halved, and cut by a third if warming reached 4 degrees.

The researchers, led by Ignacio Morales-Castilla at the University of Alcalá in Spain and Elizabeth Wolkovich at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver, focused on 11 varieties of wine grapes including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, riesling, sauvignon blanc and syrah, as well as lesser-known varieties chasselas, grenache, monastrell (also known as mourvedre) and ugni blanc. Together, these account for a third of the total area planted to wine grapes and represent important parts of the wine industry in France, Australia, New Zealand and Chile.

The team used vintner and researcher archives to build a model for when each would bud, flower and ripen in wine-growing regions around the world under three different warming scenarios. Then it used climate change projections to see where those varieties would be viable in the future.

“Each variety has a different sensitivity to the climate,” says Ben Cook, one of the study’s authors and a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Basically, replacing varieties with more climatically suitable varieties, called cultivar turnover, increases resilience to climate change. It’s a story of mitigation and adaptation.”

The researchers, led by Ignacio Morales-Castilla at the University of Alcalá in Spain and Elizabeth Wolkovich at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver, focused on 11 varieties of wine grapes including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, riesling, sauvignon blanc and syrah, as well as lesser-known varieties chasselas, grenache, monastrell (also known as mourvedre) and ugni blanc. Together, these account for a third of the total area planted to wine grapes and represent important parts of the wine industry in France, Australia, New Zealand and Chile.

The team used vintner and researcher archives to build a model for when each would bud, flower and ripen in wine-growing regions around the world under three different warming scenarios. Then it used climate change projections to see where those varieties would be viable in the future.

“Each variety has a different sensitivity to the climate,” says Ben Cook, one of the study’s authors and a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Basically, replacing varieties with more climatically suitable varieties, called cultivar turnover, increases resilience to climate change. It’s a story of mitigation and adaptation.”

Cook says that changing out grape varieties isn’t the only solution to pushing back against the effects of climate change. Many vineyards are topographically complex and will allow microclimates, especially if vineyards move to higher ground. Moving vineyards to north-facing slopes might also slow the effects. And in France, Cook says, where irrigation is not utilized, watering could be employed.

“We wanted to give a different perspective on all those apocalyptic takes,” Cook says. “Winemakers are becoming more interested and aware of climate change and a lot of them are really concerned. They are seeing things they haven’t seen before, with storms and heat waves. But what you do about it is a complicated thing.”

Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an international organization for sommeliers, says wineries are understandably concerned about the uncertainties of climate change, “but it’s important to remember that there are dozens human decisions — rootstocks, trellising, timing of vineyard work, etc. — that have significant impacts on how a vine reacts to a climate.”

Many wine industry experts have pointed to increased ripeness in grapes and higher alcohol levels as indications of climate change.

“The real reason wines got riper is that people wanted them to get riper. Generally, if you look at wines from the 2000s, you see more sugar in the grapes and more alcohol in the wines,” Kruth says. “People have been quick to associate this with climate change, when in reality it was conscious human decisions. Now you see the alcohols are dropping. It’s a consumer trend. The grower and winemaker have a strong hand in all of these things.”

Mike Heny, a longtime Virginia winemaker who makes wine for 15 vineyards in the state, points to steps that already have been taken around the world to address climate change.

“It’s a multipronged approach,” Henry says. “In Napa, people are removing the primary grape cluster so the secondary one is the one that gets turned into wine so you can push off ripening, which allows for lower potential alcohol and greater physiological maturity so you get greater flavors. People are leaving a bit more canopy, carrying a bigger fruit crop to delay ripening, picking earlier.”

Champagne is looking at England as a new venue for high-quality sparkling wines. In July, Bordeaux allowed a number of new grapes to be planted, he says. It was previously illegal to plant anything but the five main historic grapes. And in Italy, a new VCR program is working to breed traditional vinifera grapes like merlot with hybrids that are hardier and exhibit more resistance.

The question for Heny and other winemakers is whether consumers will be amenable to these changes.

“A mutt is better than a purebred when the going gets tough,” Heny says. “But people aren’t into drinking the mutt wines as much. At the end of the day, we have to make wines that people love.”

Source: Climate change fixes for your favorite wine – The Washington Post