Curry and Wine? When things get hot…

“Which wine do you have that’s good with Curry?”
I had this request a couple of times working at Borough, and it’s a famously discussed topic.
It took a while until wine and seriously spicy food finally met. My estimations would be around the XVIth century, when the capsicum was brought from the newly discovered Americas to the continent. And wine only came the Americas, as Vitis Vinifera, the classic grapevine via the Europeans.

The substance in the chili peppers is called capsaicin. Or othewise known as ‘8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide’. It enhances blood circulation as well as being highly irritative. If you ever rubbed your eyes whilst chopping hot peppers for a meal, you know what I mean.

The capsaicin is present in different concentration in different chilies. It was an American pharmacist, Mr Wilburn Scoville who started experimenting on people if they can detect different concentrations. The result was the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU), that grades the regular bell pepper with 0, and the hottest habaneros about 200 000. That is almost lethal.

As spice made an enormous impact around the planet, in many different dishes and in many different forms, wine too was being experimented with. But which combinations would be long time friends? Which combination of wine and spice make long term love affairs?

The usually road is to have something massive and full bodied. But I disagree. With the chili we irritate our palate and our gums on a high level. If we add a lot of tannins, and high alcohol, this combination won’t give us any ease. The solution is a light chilled fruity dry white. Or a crisp low tannic red. Or my favourite, an Alsatian white. A Gurwertztraminer has beautiful rich tropical fruit, good spice and enough weight to balance many asian dishes.

Our Top Tips:

Folle Blanche – Fresh tropical fruit, steely acidity.

Muscadet – not only good with seafood.

Bellbird Spring 2008 – Pinot Gris, Gurwerztraminer, and Riesling makes this New World wine perfect for Asian food.

The Kernel Beer – Sometimes beer is just better.

4 Responses to “Curry and Wine? When things get hot…”
  1. Pear Cider, is better than most beers. Although you could go for a Belgian Brown beer, like Leffe with a slightly sweet taste. Must try the Bellbird Spring.

  2. Deirdre says:

    Curries are not all about heat, there’s much more to a curry that the burn of the chilli. Interesting information on chillies – there is no mention of the spices used to make a curry, only the intensity of the heat created by the use of chilli. The rounded and smokey flavour from dry roasted coriander and cumin gives depth to a curry, while cloves, cardamon and cinnammon are part of the aromatics. Heat can also be created by the use of fresh ginger, not an intense one, a mild warmth.. A sparkle and fizz, and light sweetness also marries well too. Your suggested wines are sound.

    • boroughwines says:

      Yes, very true, and it is hard to cover all spicy food in one small article. Maybe what we should do is region by region – it is an interesting topic which has a lot of people interested..

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