Hospo pairings – plant-based, heat and spice

Red chilli peppers

A rich smorgasbord of food and wine pairings volunteered by the laid-off hospitality professionals we have welcomed to Purple Pages recently can be perused via our guide. We have edited the suggestions extremely lightly to keep their spirit intact.

Plant-based pairings

If you're done on the pizza and popcorn, the steak and cream sauce, then welcome to detox. Clean eating, some people call the plant-based diet. Get your glass ready.

Artichokes

Victoria Moore, in The Wine Dine Dictionary, includes artichokes in a list of what she calls ‘game-changer ingredients’, ingredients that ‘seize control of a dish and cannot be ignored’. Artichokes have a unique chemical ability to temporarily alter the taste receptors on our tongues, making whatever we eat (or drink) in the next mouthful taste faintly sweet and metallic. She recommends a high-acid or skin-contact white, but concedes that if the rest of the dish points to a red wine, then stick with something young and acidic. Do our hospos agree…?

The first hospo guns straight for red wine, far from young. But it should tick the acid box and perhaps the nutty, earthy flavours of the sauce and truffle provide the balance needed there. ‘Artichokes à la Romana, served with Jerusalem artichokes sauce and fresh black truffle with 10-year-old cru beaujolais, Ch Thivin La Chapelle Côte de Brouilly’, is the bold pairing from Francesco Cosci of Les Climats in Paris.

Melbourne’s Jackalope Hotel sommelier Susei Ko agrees with Victoria on the skin-contact wine. ‘Artichoke pasta with burnt butter sauce and skin-contact Pinot Gris from Mornington, Victoria. Served slightly chilled rather than cold to balance texture’, she writes, with the authority of someone who has done this pairing more than once.

Asparagus

Another ‘insistent flavour’ (quoting Victoria Moore again), it depends on whether it’s green or white and what it’s served with.

Anna Riera, who organises the food and wine events for El Periódico de Catalunya in Barcelona, comes straight up with a very unusual suggestion: warm white asparagus, freshly boiled (not canned) with Castell d’Encús, Ekam Essència Riesling 2013 from Costers del Segre. This is a botrytised, sweet wine (around 30 g/l RS) that is aged for three years in bottle before it’s released. White asparagus is still in season, so if anyone can get hold of some and give the sweet-Riesling match a go, please let me know!

Mark Thompson may be much more conservative in his match for white asparagus, but his dish is as wild as Anna’s was spartan. Will the Aligoté hold up to so much busy-ness? ‘2015 Sylvain Pataille Bourgogne Aligoté with nettle and potato gnocchi, white asparagus, ramp shoots, Rogue River Smoky Blue and hazelnuts.’ Yip, just checked and it’s on the Annabelle menu in Washington DC, so I can only guess that, as wine director, Mark’s played this pair before.

Martina Balcarová in Belfast is much more traditional, suggesting asparagus with goat’s cheese salad and minerally Sauvignons from the Loire. Kari Laib (College Cellars tasting room manager in Washington) also goes with SB but her big flavours – peeled asparagus, cherry tomatoes, parmesan cheese and white balsamic need the California Sauvignon she suggests.

At first I thought that Katarzna Puk’s suggestion, coming from Restauracja Forty in Warsaw, was a little staid too: green asparagus with Grüner Veltliner. But then I saw the exact wine she suggested was Jurtschitsch Sonnhof, Belle Naturelle 2018 from Kamptal – an organic, unfiltered, skin-contact Grüner. Which really ups the game.

Jan Gottfried from Schlosshotel Pillnitz in Dresden also goes for something rather exciting with his demure cream of asparagus soup – the almost extinct Goldriesling from Sachsen.

Add mushroom hollandaise and hazelnuts to your asparagus, and you can throw in a bit of oak and Sémillon with Dom de Chevalier Pessac-Léognan, according to Celia Develey from Emilia in London.

Aubergine/Eggplant

Ever since I read Yuanjun Zhang’s (Tchin Tchin Wine Bar, Bordeaux) suggestion of aubergine caviar with Les Clos Perdus Prioundo 2016, I’ve been determined to make it and try it out with one of the Corbières in my cellar. Robert Joers from Indiana advocates Nerello Mascalese with smoked aubergine, and another smoky aubergine suggestion comes from Peter Dorman of Ducksoup in London, who goes for the quirky Brand Bros Riesling, a natural wine from the Pfalz, and barbecued aubergine with tahini.

Tahini and aubergine are natural bedfellows, and Ludovica Pilot, from Aragon House in London, pairs roasted miso and tahini aubergine and harissa giant couscous with Colterenzio’s Lafóa Chardonnay (from Alto Adige). With all the umami and spice going on there, I wonder what an orange wine would be like instead?

Beetroot

These somms love their beets! Which is a great thing because, according to neuroscientist Dr Lisa Mosconi, they are brilliant brain food.

Michael Bahl of The Old Mulehouse in Atlanta offers this enthusiastically local pairing: ‘Roasted red beet salad with Tiger Mountain Vineyards (of Georgia, USA) Rosé of Norton 2018. Great Norton wines can be hard to come by, and this rosé with a super-deep blush is really fun and delicious.’

Roasted heirloom beet salad and whipped goat's cheese with 2015 Radio-Coteau La Neblina Pinot Noir’, says Manuel Gonzalez from Treadwell Cuisine in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Zoe Felsenhardt, from Home Block restaurant in the Okanagan Valley, keeps it simple: beetroot with Syrah. Any which way.

When it comes to soup, Synne Rustad from Café Sorgenfri in Oslo also keeps things unpretentious: ‘A hearty beetroot soup and an earthy Pinot Noir!’ But as you would expect from the head sommelier of Henrock by Simon Rogan in the heart of the Lake District, beetroot soup doesn’t always have to be uncomplicated. ‘Westcombe cheddar cheese dumplings with a beetroot broth, served with pickled baby beets, shaved beets and mibuna. Wine pairing – Cabernet Sauvignon blend, Chateau Massereau, Bordeaux Clairet (rosé) 2016’. That’s quite a mouthful of flavours to match, Charles Carron Brown!

Brussel sprouts

So they’re not just for Christmas. Or at least Ashley Sheehan from Joia in Toronto doesn’t think so. ‘Crispy fried brussel sprouts and a lightly oaked Mâcon Chardonnay 😊’, she says with a grin. When they’re back in season, I’ll give it a go!

Butternut

This is such a gorgeous vegetable for wine, whether it’s curry spiced or North African spiced, stuffed or roasted, cubed into salads or made into soup. It goes with so many wines, white, orange, pink or red, that I was surprised that there was just one – solid if not thrilling – pairing in all the entries. Rebecca Mas from Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale, thank you for suggesting Gewurztraminer and butternut squash soup. That’s a great match.

Cabbage

It’s humble peasant food, but our hospos elevate it to noblesse. ‘Miso-glazed cabbage and orange wine’, says Giuseppe Tuttoilmondo from London’s Norma restaurant. ‘Savatiano and charred cabbage!’, declares Nick Watson from Toronto’s Constantine.

Carrot

Carrot and coconut curry with a rarity: dry table wine made from the Palomino grape, Manzanilla de Sanlúcar does the trick if no table wines are to be found’, writes Stephen Giroux, Brooklyn’s Ruffian head sommelier. It’s a bold, intriguing suggestion that I’d love to try. Do you have the recipe, Stephen Giroux?

Equally bold from VyTA in London is Federico Dadone’s ‘Chateau Musar 1999 with spicy carrot and red pepper soup, croutons and sour cream’. Musar always seems like such a ‘red meat’ wine – I’d never have thought of a veg soup!

And if you think that soup is the only way to eat carrots, how about carrots dry smoked with black garlic barbecue sauce? Match with Reserva Tempranillo, advises Tyler Alden of Willows Lodge & Barking Frog Restaurant in Seattle.

Cauliflower

Gewurztraminer is the wine of choice for two cauliflower dishes. ‘Cauliflower and coconut milk curry’, from Abigail Pilkington, Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall. And ‘roasted cauliflower with almond cream’, suggests Daniel Bond from One Penny Red in Sydney.

Violeta Mazeva from Bark Spiseri og Bar in Norway goes for fizz. ‘Breaded cauliflower with basmati rice and soya sauce. Match with Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis Blanc de Blancs 2006.’ Royal treatment indeed.

Celeriac

The earthy sweet, liquorice flavour of celeriac makes it another delight of a vegetable to work with. Leonardo Barlondi from Adam Handling at Belmond Cadogan in London offers an elegant pairing of Domaine de Veilloux Romorantin 2016 with salt-baked celeriac, green apple and truffle.

Emma Denney (Davies and Brook in London's Claridge's hotel) also plays on the earthy notes in celeriac and black truffle paired with Lapierre Morgon Cuvée Camille, and from Wine Bar George in Florida, Olivia Gibbons writes, ‘I recently had a Portuguese rosé with a celery root soup at a tasting menu dinner and it was one of my favourite pairings that I've had.’

Chickpeas

Nailing it on the vegetarian front is Adrian Filiuta from the Merivale Group in Sydney. ‘Homemade falafel with fragrant jasmine rice and yogurt tahini matched with Pertois-Lebrun Blanc de Blancs NV Cramant champagne.

Corn

A good one for summer barbecues from Rita Boone, Xanterra South Rim in Grand Canyon: roasted corn on the cob with Pinot Noir. Tiffany Jamison-Horne (Est Restaurant, Toronto) takes an entirely different look at corn and makes a pretty smashing pairing:

‘I've recently really enjoyed pairing a corn-based dish on our tasting menu with Malivoire Gewurztraminer 2016 from the Beamsville Bench in Ontario. The dish is a rich corn porridge with guanciale and pickled squash; the Malivoire is a lighter version of a Gewurz but still with all the varietal characteristics you would expect. I like the way the corn flavours play off the tropical notes and the vibrant acidity lifts the richness of the dish.’

Cucumber

Grüner is nice with cucumber, and so is Assyrtiko. Richie Twentyman from Trivet in London suggests chilled cucumber soup with Loire Valley Sauvignon. Lots of lovely cool green in that for a hot summer day.

Courgette/Zucchini and fennel

‘A shallow bowl of chilled fennel velouté topped with a zucchini blossom stuffed with halibut foam and fried in a light batter served with a more bright and citrus forward Alsatian Riesling’, writes in Samantha Strome, a Nihilo Vineyards server in the Okanagan Valley.

Come on, you somms. There could have been so many delicious pairings with fennel and courgette! Why so many boring popcorn and champagne matches instead?

Green leaves and herbs

Green salad with pomegranate and sauce of orange with Greek Assyrtiko’, is Mina Georgopoulou’s suggestions from Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens. ‘Grüner Veltliner with herb tart and green salad’, from Kim Berdusco from the International Wine Education Guild at George Brown College in Toronto.

Anyone got ideas for a bitter-leaf salad pairing?

Lentils

Moving into vegan territory now, Ben Ambrose of Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore City keeps it succinct: Lentils/Listán Negro. Eric Henderson of Ms Elvie's in Jackson, MS, manages to be a little more loquacious, even if he won’t win The Booker Prize: ‘Lentils with rice and caramelized onions, with a Spanish-style rosé’. Good pairing.

Katalin Kiszel-Kohari of Overwater Hall Hotel in the English Lake District suggests the rich, luxurious dahl makhani ‘made with urad dhal and coconut milk served with fresh warm garlic naans and Alsatian Gewurztraminer’.

But it’s Jeff Harding from Waverly Inn, New York, who makes things particularly interesting with what he describes as ‘quarantine cuisine!’ Old vine Gemischter Satz from Fritz Wieninger with a thick purée of roasted parsnips, potato and yellow lentils over roasted cabbage garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Mushrooms

We could muster up a 10-course tasting menu and then some with the mushroom-focused entries that poured in. The only drawback is that it would be strictly made up of soup, pasta and risotto. Good news for those planning on running a marathon the following day.

There is, at least, variety in the suggested wine matches!

Mushroom broth and 2004 Viña Tondonia Reserva, from Michela Lubbers of Merivale in New South Wales. Red or white Tondonia, Michela? (Although, giving it some thought, either might be good!)

Risotto with porcini mushroom and fresh truffles, 1996 Dom Pérignon Brut, is Franco Pafundo’s contribution from Pelican Hill Resort in California. I’m guessing he means the white, but I’d be intrigued to try the rosé with it as well…

And now for the pasta party:

Wild mushroom ravioli in a creamy Napoli sauce gets matched with Tempranillo by Daniel Jordan of Brisbane’s New Farm Deli & Café. Harry Crowther, in wine education in the UK, heads to Burgundy for his Pinot Noir pairing of fresh cep and wild-garlic lasagne with Bachelet Côte de Nuits-Villages 2005. Will Gee (Brawn, London) is in the Loire with wild-mushroom and parsley tagliatelle and a bottle of Stéphane Bernaudeau’s Les Onglés 2015 Chenin Blanc. I want to be right there with him!

Any old mushroom pasta will do for Sona Antolovic, waitress from Reykjavik, as long as there is lashings of parmesan and a Vila Real, Reserva 2016 Douro to hand. Thank goodness Sonja Vix (Mövenpick Hotels, Stuttgart) is thinking about our five a day when she adds a garden-herbs salad to her ‘vegan, juicy mushroom Bolognese with homemade tagliatelle'. I love her creative pairing: Karl Haidle’s Berg Lemberger Grosses Gewächs from Württemberg. Yes, that will do very nicely.

Nuts

Anja Zidar from Ljubljana, Slovenia, keeps it simple with our one and only nuts pairing (which seems crazy – anyone else out there got some good wine-and-nuts pairings? Anyone?). Natural wine, JNK Chardonnay 2010 Vipava Valley, Slovenia, and roasted hazelnuts.

Spinach and other green things

We’re not all going to die of scurvy today. Sure, there is a shortage of super-food kale entries, but Sean Sydney from Midfield Wine Bar in Toronto gives us spinach instead. And a delicious pairing! ‘Homemade spanakopita and a beautiful Nals Margreid Sirmian Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige/Südtirol (Did we have this for dinner last night? Maybe. Was it delicious? Absolutely!) This is very kind, by the way – thanks for your generosity in this difficult time', he adds.

Andrey Petrovsky from Kyiv in Ukraine gives us spinach and broccoli, along with a pasta (yes, a pasta) that I’d never heard of before. ‘Ptitim in spinach sauce with broccoli and onion chips and parmesan espuma [that’s foam to us mortals]’, and pairs it with Arthur Metz, Selection Pinot Gris 2015 Alsace. Does anyone know how dry/sweet that wine is?

Deanna Basham, hospitality manager of Larkmead Vineyards in California keeps it super-seasonal and super-simple: ‘Sancerre with a spring vegetable salad.’ But it sounds just perfect.

And because Wimbledon is cancelled for 2020 and we’re not going to get our excuse to sit inside on a gloriously sunny day necking bowls of strawberries and cream and cheap Prosecco, Jenna Cooper (server at Cedar Creek Estate in British Columbia) kicks us outside with a strawberry summer salad and a large glass of rosé. Any rosé will do, I guess.

Sunchoke/Jerusalem artichoke

Why do I not eat enough sunchoke? It has such a gloriously creamy nutty flavour. Nick Mallon (Ella Dining Room & Bar, Sacramento) nails the pairing with sunchoke bisque and roasted hazelnuts, López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2005 Rioja. Oh yes!

Tofu

Echoing the herbs in the wine, Chelsea Sawyer from San Francisco’s Greens restaurant picks Etna Rosso to go with her herb-marinated grilled tofu. Najee Trice (RPM Italian in Washington DC) picks the almost extinct Pallagrello Bianco from Campania to go with her vegetable curry and fried tofu. Interesting match. Pallagrello Bianco is, according to Wine Grapes, a bit like Viognier with low acid, high alcohol, and flavours of peach and apricot. I wonder what’s in that curry…

Watercress and watermelon

We’ve had a pretty sunny, even hot (by British standards) week in the UK this week, and so Oliver Wilkins' suggestion of a cold apple and watercress soup with Grüner Vetliner sounded heavenly. So, too, did Ido Herman’s Greek-style feta watermelon salad with a crisp Riesling. I’d even test that one out with a slightly off-dry Riesling.

Heat and spice

Heat and spice are complicated. They can mean the same thing, and they can be totally distinct – you can have heat without spice and spice without heat. And everything in between. There’s no comparison between the flavours and type of heat in Argentinian/Uruguayan chimichurri and Sichuan mapo tofu. Because a wine goes with chilli con carne, it won’t necessarily work with nduja. ‘Curry’ can be sour or sweet, mild or powerful, fruity or earthy, herbaceously fragrant or exploding with 35 spices or gently mellow, dry or creamy.

Both heat and spice are ‘gamechanger’ ingredients in Victoria Moore’s The Wine Dine Dictionary, chillis, in particular, activating the pain sensors in our mouths and, as a result, stripping fruit from wine and accentuating tannins. If you really want to torture yourself, she advises you to drink big, tannic, oaky reds with chilli.

Although it’s impossible to have hard and fast ‘rules’ for food that encompasses everything from deep, rich, dark beef mole to the most delicate Peruvian ceviche, running the gamut of sweetness, acidity, oil, umami and complexity, there are some general guidelines that can be applied: low tannin, no oak, a touch of sweetness, good acidity and brightness. Soft, round and fruity – for white, rosé or red – is usually (but not always) a good rule of thumb if you’re charged with looking at the wine list on curry night.

Our hospos, however, don’t always agree.

I’ve rounded up their suggestions by grape variety, this time, as it wasn’t always easy to put the cuisine into a distinct category (or even continent!). Starting with fizz, then whites, rosés and reds, they are more or less in alphabetical order by variety name (I say roughly because of the blends).

Sparkling wine

Chinese and Korean dishes were the top spicy matches for sparkling wine. Heather Tomory (from Oriole, Illinois) suggests rosé champagne with Sichuan hot pot. Ang Wilson from Singapore picks exactly the same dish but plumps for the outlier option of sparkling Shiraz.

Jaehun Baek from Hotel Grand Pacific in British Columbia shares his serendipitous birthday pairing with a comfort dish from his Korean homeland.

‘I currently work at a hotel restaurant and am very interested in knowledge of wine. I am from South Korea and we have a meme that we should eat kimchi pancake (can be found on Google) on a rainy day. Since I passed WSET level 1, I’ve been looking for what I can do pairing with Korean food. I got a gift as a bottle of prosecco on my birthday and my sister made the kimchi pancake. Tried the two together, not on purpose, however the pairing was really good. The prosecco made the flavour of kimchi spicier (I mean good spicy!) and more umami taste. Just want to share my experience, thank you.’

Paul Lee, from The Modern in Massachusetts, also opts for straightforward and street-food humble: Korean fried chicken with Riesling Sekt.

But Stalo Arambantzi from the Four Seasons Hotel in Cyprus is not messing around: ‘Dish: Maeun-tang Korean stew – red snapper fish stew with neck clams, spring onion, tofu, ginger and red chilli pepper flakes. Wine match: Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2002. The deep flavors of toast, almonds, and spice will complement the stew well.’

Neither is Erin Nixon, who works for La Catalista Wine Bar and Kitchen in Barcelona. This is serious fine-dining fusion. ‘Our entire menu is Catalan wines with creative food pairings; our most famous pairing is a Brut Nature Cava Reserva of 100% Xarello (1988 from Castell D'Age) paired with tuna akami with spicy kimchi sauce, horseradish cream, and apples. It's heaven!’ Tongue-tingling and nostril-clearing as well…

Gordana Josovic from New York’s TAK Room declares, summarily, a triumph. She even provides us with video evidence. ‘This was an unexpected winner: slow-baked Vietnamese pork ribs with Lambrusco.’

White wine

Assyrtiko

It’s probably not the first variety that comes to mind when thinking spice – as Victoria Moore says, chilli ‘can turn a brisk white into a howl of barbed wire’. But Daniel Stojcic from Noble in Belfast believes it works. ‘Chargrilled octopus, Creole curry and danmuji (pickled yellow daikon) with 2015 Hatzidakis Cuvée 15 Assyrtiko (12 months skin contact and 8 months sur lie in stainless steel).’ I think he’s on to something: the skin contact and ageing sur lie will soften the piercing nature of Assyrtiko, rounding it out to cope with the curry, and the pickled daikon might well echo the steeliness that will still be there. A stunning wine, either way.

Bical

Martyna Pawliczek from London’s La Dame de Pic suggests a maverick pairing with a high-acid Portuguese variety and a duck dish that sounds like it might come with green flames: ‘Braised duck breast, served in company of passion fruit and kaki pure, sage and lovage oil, finished with Whatsipiripiri Tasmanian pepper and paired with Filipa Pato, Nossa Calcário Bical 2017 Bairrada.’ Tasmanian mountain pepper is, apparently, 10 times hotter than normal pepper. Plus sage and lovage, each with their own heat. That Bical has its work cut out… (By the way, anyone know what Whatsipiripiri is? Google has no idea.)

Chardonnay

Chardonnay got a few mentions, with Elise Ngan diving straight in to break Victoria Moore’s rule of no oak: ‘Spicy chicken wings with heavily toasted American oaked Chardonnay.’ If you’re going to break a rule, you may as well do it properly.

Andrew Fortgang from Le Pigeon in Portland is also not too bothered about the oak rule. He recommends Pernand-Vergelesses with pungently spicy mapo tofu from the Sichuan Province of China. I can’t help wondering whether the wine won’t simply be drowned out? Maybe don’t go for the most expensive one.

Oh, ok, do go for the most expensive one. That’s what Dirakerit Kotchawong from Bangkok’s Riedel bar advises: ‘Pad Thai river prawn paired with Chablis Vaudésir Grand Cru in case you prefer the dry version.’ The good thing is, pad Thai isn't knock-your-head-off spicy – or at least, it shouldn’t be.

Helen Marshall from the Squirrel pub in Farnborough (I’ve been there; lovely pub!) keeps things very generic: 'Chardonnay with chicken curry'. I’m thinking South African Chardonnay (ripe fruit, bit of barrel-fermentation spice but not too much oak) and a chicken tikka masala. Neutral enough. (Although I’d prefer Viognier, to be honest.)

Chenin Blanc

It was interesting to see that Chenin didn’t feature as a match for any American chilli dishes (North or South) or for any South Asian dishes. I’ve often found Chenin – of varying degrees of dryness and richness – plays well with turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, coconut and the sweet jaggery and fruit elements often found in Sri Lankan dishes and some of the creamy, nutty dishes of northern India.

Erin Okayama of Boulud Sud in New York opts for off-dry Loire Chenin with spicy Thai and Laotian food. Sam Jacobs of Kiin in Toronto (so he should know!) reckons Thai pad gra prow works with Chenin Blanc, but doesn’t tell us if that’s from the Loire, South Africa or elsewhere, and whether we’re talking dry, off-dry, oaked or unoaked. Makes a difference. Come on you somms, do your jobs properly!

Jason Caballero of Maple and Ash in Arizona is very specific: Korean fried chicken dredged, fried and then tossed in the gochujang and sesame seeds; Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec Vouvray 1989.

Furmint

One vote for Furmint (the sweet kind) with braised pork belly in Chinese five spice. John Szabo, Accor Hotels, Toronto, tells us that ‘Tokaji Aszú (5 Puttonyos equivalent) from an old, high-acid vintage like 1997 works. ‘I'm sure most can whip that combination up tonight’, he adds, his sticky tongue firmly in his cheek. Is this Volcanic Wines author John Szabo MS perchance?

Gewurztraminer

If ever there was a sweetheart wine of the spice world, it was and still is Gewurztraminer. I had a few dozen Gewurz pairings, mostly along the lines of chicken satay, turkey chilli, curry (any curry) and Thai curry.

Laura Cameron from Newquay’s Boringdon Hall Hotel suggested Brixham crab salad with curried emulsion and mango with Trimbach Gewurztraminer. Sounds full of potential. Yui Shuen Tok from Praelum Wine Bistro in Singapore also suggests chilli crab, but something in me senses that the heat here might be a few notches up the scale from the stately Boringdon Hall crab. The wine match, Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Reserve 2014 Alsace, is also a couple of notches up, with Jancis describing the 2018 as ‘heady, floral, rich’. For both matches, Victoria’s sweetness and roundness boxes nicely ticked.

Heading back to Korea, Samuel Beaulieu (Uncle Mikey’s in Toronto) suggests ‘spicy smashed cucumber salad/Korean food with bone dry Alsatian Gewurztraminer’. Interesting that he’s moved away from the richer Alsace Gewurz style here – perhaps that makes sense with the Korean cucumber salad? Anyone willing/able to test drive that? Meantime Vincent Ip from Home Block at Cedar Creek in the Okanagan recommends ‘floral, lychee Gewurztraminer and spicy peanut [Thai] Panang beef curry’. I like the idea of pitting the white Gewurz against beef – my instinct is that the peanuts, coconut milk and sweetness of the palm sugar will be the bridging ingredients.

Finally, someone has the nerve to move us away from Asia, and Eric Palmer (The Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House, Massachusetts) reckons Gewurztraminer is the wine for jerk chicken. For me, jerk chicken is rum punch all the way… Not terribly vinous, but great fun! (Pack it with lime wedges.)

Grüner Veltliner

Grüner is such a cool, long-necked, smokingly aloof, alabaster kind of grape that I have to confess that I struggle to get my head around Grüner with chilli. But, our hospos are genius. If there is a cool, long-necked, smokingly aloof heat, it’s the nose-clearing spice of wasabi. Robert Andren from SO/ in Auckland suggests ‘Grüner Veltliner and tuna tartare with wasabi and pickled ginger’. I could imagine that. Rupert Crick from Oxfordshire’s Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons is more specific (but just as cool): ‘Turbot with cucumber and wasabi beurre blanc with Grüner Veltliner, Erste Lage Renner 2017 Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, Austria.

How many countries can we squeeze into one pairing? Roasted green beans (Peru, origin, I kid you not) and burrata (Italy) with piri piri sauce (Mozambique/Portugal) and radish (Asia) with Sohm & Kracher Grüner Veltliner (Austria). We’re a global tribe! Thanks to Megan Peterson from Lowood Woodfire in Tulsa for the unusual juxtaposition of burrata and piri piri sauce (never mind the Grüner!).

Malvasia

Marino Ozawa from Singapore reckons that Malvasia is the perfect match for spicy Vietnamese food. That feels a bit like Pin The Tail On The Donkey. Malvasia can be richly oxidative, sweet, dry and light, fortified, floral or stony. I don’t mean to be pernickety, but could you be a little more specific?

Moscato

New Orleans spicy clams go with off-dry Moscato, says Gretchen Darnley of Bacchanal. I can well imagine. Sparkling or still?

Müller-Thurgau

For some reason it always cheers me up when someone champions this much-maligned grape. Sure, it’s responsible for a sea of terrible wine and a generation of bad taste, but like so many humble things, in the right hands… Thank you, Jeremy Hois of Babu Ji in New York for your quirky recommendation of butter chicken (which could always be contact-free delivery if you’re bored of opening the fridge) and Milan Nestarec’s natural wine (zero-added sulphur, skin-fermented) Müller-Thurgau Forks and Knives.

Pinot Blanc

Good ideas for PB from Michelle Phan (Paradise Grapevine in Toronto), who goes with ‘spicy Vietnamese chicken wings and Weissburgunder’, and Lam Chi Minh (Phu Quoc Emerald Bay in Vietnam), who says that a spicy Vietnamese seafood salad made from onion, young papaya, chilies with prawn, squid mixed well with sweet and sour sauce, and topped with Asian herbs goes well with Marcel Deiss’s kind of crazy Alsace Blanc blend based on Pinot Blanc and Riesling along with another 10 (or something) other varieties. Vintage 2016 is the one to go for right now, apparently, but you can take a look here at what Jancis said about the 2014. That sounds like a lot of fun!

Ribolla Gialla

Turkey meatballs in coconut red curry, jasmine rice with Movia Rebula’, says Amy Quimby from El Gaucho in Portland, Oregon. Great pairing. But we clearly need some more recent tasting notes on that particular wine.

Riesling

Ah, the darling of the food-and-wine-pairing world. It’s already done everything from popcorn to pizza, roast chicken to Mac’n’cheese, lobsters to caviar. Is there anything Riesling can’t do?

Our hospos put this superhero through her paces…

Starting ultra-gently and generically, Callum Bevington of The Village Restaurant in Victoria (is that British Columbia, Callum?) doesn’t mince his words: ‘A Riesling and a spicy Asian dish.’ Killian Horan of Dublin’s Ely Wine Bar chips in with spicy fish curry and off-dry Riesling, and Paul Pritchard of The Gallivant in Sussex ups the game a fraction with monkfish curry and Australian Riesling.

Singaporean Justin Mok prefers aged Riesling with his spicy Thai pork curry, and Canadian Anne Martin from e11even in Toronto pipes up with, ‘Thai green curry with Ontario Riesling – from Cave Spring, Tawse or Charles Baker. Last night's supper pairing 😊.’ Mark Wilson of The Avenue Hotel in Lancashire agrees with Anne, but thinks that the Riesling should be off-dry.

Staying in Thailand, Dirakerit Kotchawong (who earlier suggested that for those who prefer dry wines, a grand cru Chablis will do), suggests the pad Thai river prawn pairs well with Spätlese Riesling from the Mosel, and Sarah McQuarrie (The Comrade, Toronto) is happy with either an Alsace Riesling or Pinot Gris with her spicy Thai red shrimp curry.

Moving to China, Jamie Xiao from Singapore wants a German Riesling with his Sichuan mala. Jamie, we need to know if you’re talking dry or sweet or somewhere in between… Wikipedia describes this as a ‘popular oily, spicy, and numbing Chinese sauce’, so you have to get it right.

‘I'll pair a deep-fried free-range chicken stir fry with dry chillies and Szechuan red peppercorn with Kabinett Riesling. It'll be a wonderful melody combination to mellow the hot spicy dish.’ This from Jonzen Chow Khi Foo of Mott32 in Singapore. Now we’re talking.

Gyu Eon Kim of the Culinary Institute of America in New York writes in with a real sommelier’s touch: ‘Kimchi Jjigae (traditional Korean stew) with pork belly, soft fresh tofu, fresh scallions, sesame seeds paired with Dr Loosen Erdenener Treppchen Spätlese 2014, creating a non-traditional pairing for a classic Korean home dish that matches intensity (both medium), contrast of flavors with fruitiness and hint of sweetness from the Spätlese and the acidity cleansing the fattiness from the pork belly.’ We’re all salivating now.

Megan Conway on the cellar door of Ten Minutes By Tractor in Mornington Peninsula suggests ‘Mi Goreng with kimchi, crispy onion and a fried egg, paired with 2016 Ökonomierat Rebholz Ganz Horn Riesling, Pfalz.’ Fried-noodle street food with a massive hit of umami and chilli sounds like the perfect hangover food. Although the Rebholz might be wasted on the wastrel.

Butter chicken with naan. Yum!’, says Sharon Taylor from Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Canada, recommending Synchromesh Riesling (or any off-dry Okanagan Riesling).

Then we’re in North America with Sheena Cuccia, working at Hightail Bar and Grill in Melbourne: ‘I’m from New Orleans, so I’ll have to go with a spicy chicken and andouille jambalaya and an off-dry to semi-sweet Riesling.’ In South America, ‘scallop ceviche (with some heat) and Eva Fricke Lorcher Riesling’ is the way to go, according to Krystina Roman of The George, Toronto.

Sauvignon Blanc/Gris

Spice/chilli and lean, minerally Sauvignons simply don’t speak to each other. It’s like the Queen and Kim Kardashian – it’s not that there is a feud, it's that their paths simply don’t cross. Unless by unfortunate accident. Tropical-style Sauvignons, however, have the sass and brass to look heat straight in the eye and challenge it to a rumba.

So I’m guessing that when Melissa Grinko from Toronto suggested hot buffalo wings and Sauvignon Blanc, she is referring to a Savvie from California, New Zealand or maybe South America. Ditto Lynnie Lam’s suggestion from the other side of the world: Singapore curry pork and Sauvignon.

Amalia Gonzalez-Stöckel from Stockholm takes a clever and slightly different approach with Casa Marin Sauvignon Gris and spicy ceviche.

Savagnin (Vin Jaune)

Tristan Tang from Goût de Jaune in Tokyo is a man of few words: ‘Chinese food with vin jaune’. Garcia Joris (Montreal Plaza) feels prompted to add a little meat to the bones of his pairing: ‘Pan-seared foie gras with curried maple syrup sauce served on a buckwheat pancake, 36-month-aged Comté cheese, toasted walnuts and old vin jaune.’ Sounds gorgeous, to be honest. Unexpected, creative, clever. Although I would expect the curry spices in this particular case to be complex and warm rather than hot.

Likewise with London’s Clove Club Wilem Powell’s suggestion of ‘Curry and Vin Jaune – waxy weight of the Vin Jaune stands up to a curry in the same way something more oily and aromatic might work with a more traditional pairing. Meanwhile the oxidative aromas play against the aromatic Indian spice and bring in a whole world of flavour combinations.’ There’s a true sommelier. Teaching, explaining.

Txakoli

Txakoli, with its buzzy sparkle, light alcohol and whiplash acidity could act only like a squeeze of glittery lime with the spicy shrimp and grits (or shrimp tacos) suggested by Kevin Rhodes from The Cavalier in Austin, Texas.

Viognier

Gosia Zielinska from The Pot Luck Club in Cape Town writes in with her lockdown supper: ‘Viognier and Indian red potato curry – last night at home’. Aloo comfort and carbs wrapped in Viognier curves. As winter draws in on the Cape, it sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

Connie Clarkson from Panuku Development in Auckland volunteers a Viognier and Singapore chilli crab combination, which makes sense, picking up the sweetness of the crab and the heat of the chilli with the peachy roundness of the Viognier. Bryan Houde (Skylon, London) moves to South America with his Viognier and recommends Nicole Sierra-Rolet’s gorgeous Chêne Bleu Viognier with chipotle chicken and green chilli enchiladas. I’d try that in a heartbeat, given half the chance.

Orange wine

Skin-contact wine and biangbiang noodles’, was the pairing from Holly Girven in Auckland. I had to look up biangbiang noodles. Broad cut, handmade peasant noodle dish topped with lots of hot red peppers and a very interesting story behind it. Sounds like a brilliant combination.

Rosé wines

There was a surprisingly small handful of rosés suggested, given how great this wine can be with spice. But perhaps this is a reflection of how the average rosé is becoming more and more pallid in colour and palate, making it less and less interesting as a food match. More is the pity. And the loss to the wine world. We need sommeliers to rise up in defence of rugged rosés.

Jacob Roadhouse from Hop Alley in Denver comes out in favour of a wine which possibly should have been slotted into the fizz section, but it’s more a rosé than a sparkling wine. Made in the Jura, Bugey-Cerdon rosé is very lightly sparkling, low alcohol and gently sweet. The man is a genius: matched with La Zi Ji (Sichuan peppercorns and chicken), it’s whimsical, witty, and singular. His comment, made like a true sommelier, is ‘The combination of acid, bubbles and sugar is perfect for cooling and clearing the Sichuan spice.’ Now if only I could get hold of some Bugey-Cerdon…

Heidi Kipkowski, Bar Chinchilla in Florida, pairs tandoori salmon and beets with the intense Ch Simone rosé from Palette. Ronan McNulty (3Arena, Dublin) also eschews the pale Provençal yawn for a dry full-bodied rosé from southern Italy with an Indian curry. Hurrah for the Real Rosé Revival! (Embryonic, and no one but me knows it’s happening, but still…)

And then I am loving the somms with the courage to embrace off-dry rosé. Mike Wong of Chambar, Vancouver, I have your back. ‘Belgian/Moroccan-inspired mussels in a spicy chipotle tomato curry broth, paired with a slightly off-dry Okanagan Valley rosé.’ I feel like fist-pumping the air. (Or maybe I’ve been sat at my desk for too many weeks reading food pairings…)

Back to Thai green curry (is any spicy food better represented than Thai?) for our last pink hurrah: Rosie Barker of The Pig in Lymington, UK, recommends Chase rosé from Luberon. Cool but not that interesting…? Unless it’s with Thai green curry?
 

Red wines

The list of red wines with spice is short. Interesting, and I think it needs some serious testing. (What else are we to do with our time? Please get to work, you cheffy hospos!)

The pattern here was that there was no pattern. Nothing predictable, nothing popular. Oh, except Pinot Noir, which was the only variety to garner more than one citation.

Barbera

Now this was a controversial pairing. No matter how many tomatoes in the mix, Barbera has a respectable set of tannins and linguine prawns fra diavolo has both chilli heat and sweet shellfish. But Laura Evans from Fillmore Trattoria in Oregon confidently pairs it with 2016 Vietti Barbera d'Alba Scarrone. Walter describes it as ‘nothing less than stunning’, so maybe it’s the kind of wine which makes you forget what you are eating.

Blaufränkisch

Now this was left field. Michael Sy from Quay in Sydney writes in: ‘Thai curry with biodynamic Blaufränkisch. The dark fruits with high acid pair perfectly with the spice.’ Tasting Blaufränkisch tonight (Kékfrankos from Hungary to be precise), I just can’t imagine it. Someone challenge me, please.

Brachetto

Jancis once described this wine as ‘hedgerow-berry juice’. Could anything be more perfect with buffalo wings? James Brim from City Winery, Atlanta, doesn’t think so either.

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc Pulenta Estate, Mendoza, Argentina 2011 with our tandoori lamb chops served with mustard mooli.’ This from Mikolaj Skrzypczak of London’s Trishna Restaurant. I wouldn’t instinctively have paired mustard or mooli with Cab Franc, but I’d be willing to give it a go. Perhaps the rich, dark, herbal-streaked fruit of a Mendoza Cab Franc is just the thing for mooli and heat.

Cabernet Sauvignon

So, is this the big tannic red that Victoria Moore recommends you drink with chill if you have a masochistic streak, as some somms seem to have…?

Shiela Natividad (Bob’s Steak and Chop House, San Francisco) suggests ‘steak with Jamaican jerk marinade topped with caramelised onions paired with 2015 Turley Cabernet Sauvignon’. That’s a 15%er! Let’s hope the jerk marinade isn’t a stinger.

Gamay

More along the lines of ‘if you’re going to drink red wine with chilli…'

Korean short rib tacos with kimchi slaw, paired with Moulin à Vent Beaujolais’ is the suggestion from Charles Lee at NoMad Restaurant in La Vegas. I guess it all depends on how hot that gochujang taco sauce is.

Grenache

Vila Gerard of wine bar Nordest in Spain is eating pasta with red chimichurri sauce and Les Crestes from Mas Doix. Chimichurri can be relatively mild, so maybe this chunky high-alcohol Grenache blend made to be drunk young and with finer tannins than most Prioratos is not a bad idea.

Negroamaro

Merlin Ramos works in Norfolk for Gladwin Brothers and his eye is on the barbecue – perfect weather for it in the UK right now. 'Negroamaro with sweet and hot steamed Barbeque Bao (spiced pork belly Taiwanese style). If you don’t eat pork it’s also great with glazed sweetness of a brisket too. Inexpensive option and you get a lot for your money. Teresa Menara from Cantele is a winner for a day-to-day bottle or even Tormaresca when pushing the boat out – Masseria Maìme Negroamaro (Salento) 2015 is drinking very well. Great wines for getting outside on the grill. Both must be drunk at a cooler red temperature or the concentration and richness can be over-pronounced and jammy.’

Nerello Mascalese

Lindsey Becker from RPM Seafood in Chicago has been cooking and beautifully describes why her particular choice of red wine could match the fieriness of ‘nduja. She convinced me. ‘I recently made an 'nduja tomato sauce for pasta that had a fair amount of spice, a touch of funk, and no small amount of richness. I paired it with I Custodi delle Vigne dell'Etna, Pistus, a Nerello Mascalase/Cappuccio blend from Etna. It was just ripe and black-fruited enough to match the spice yet red fruited enough to cut through the richness of the sauce. The wine had its own spice and earth components that didn't compete with the sauce, but instead enhanced it.’

Pinot Noir

For Asian dishes with mild flavours of wasabi, ‘try a rich, fruity and oak-toasted Pinot. Amazing.’ So says Rolf Olofsson of Gothenburg’s Barrique Wine Bar in Sweden. Wasabi and Pinot is a combination that would have never crossed my mind. Let alone with an oak-toasted Pinot. Anyone else tried this before?

Gochujang salmon with a high-altitude Pinot Noir’, says Richard Watson of London’s Humdingers Catering. Which of the five levels of gochujang spiciness do you have in mind, Richard?

Sarah Guerrero of Chicago Downtown Hotel recommends seared jumbo scallops with a corn and serrano-pepper purée, paired with a Sonoma County Pinot Noir. That sounds pretty good! And so does Jacob Temkin’s pairing of Oregon Pinot with Vietnamese spring rolls dipped in spicy peanut sauce.

Seared octopus and chimichurri, squid ink risotto. Killix Pinot Noir’, declares Thomas Bevan from Nazka in Amsterdam. Frustratingly, I can’t find anything about Killix Pinot, in our database or on the internet, so I’m not sure what style of Pinot it is or where it comes from. Let's hope it’s fruity, fresh and soft-tannined to go with that chimichurri heat.

Sangiovese

Peposo (a peppery Tuscan beef stew) with Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012 is the traditional red-wine-and-spice combo from Alessandro Ippolito in Firenze. This is throat-warming rather than tongue-searing heat, so his pairing makes perfect sense.

Tempranillo

Keeping it simple, Kadi Meriluht of Odean bar in Estonia drinks Rioja Crianza with her vegetable masala curry. Not an obvious choice… I’d love her to explain the thinking behind the pair.

Xinomavro

Xynomavro with spicy braised short ribs!’ exclaims Steven Brown from John Howie Steak in Seattle. I reckon the Thymiopoulos Xin tasted just last week by Jancis would be perfect for the job!