Spicy Food Can Actually Make Bad Wine Taste Better

Sometimes great food can overpower good wine. For example, if you love a little spice in your life, wine with a subtler flavor can taste bland or even bad. On the flip side, spicy food can actually make some types of wine taste better. 

When intentionally pairing wine with a hot, spicy dish people often look for a few qualities. One option is to pair the dish with a sweet wine. After all, if you accidentally use too much chili in a sauce, adding a little sugar is a tried and true way to balance a spicy dish. A similar thought applies to pairing wine with high-heat foods. Another option is to use a wine slightly higher in alcohol. Such a wine enhances the spiciness of aromatic seasonings like red chili, ginger, and turmeric.

While flavor preferences vary, you may feel disappointed if the wine you pair with a meal isn't well balanced: whether it is too sweet, too acidic, or tastes too strongly of alcohol. Similar principles apply if you have a dull-tasting wine and you want to serve it with something that amplifies its flavor. 

Spice up that dull wine

Winemaker Greg Brewer suggests treating wine like an ingredient — or even a condiment — in your meal. Even if you don't like the taste of a wine on its own, you may like it more when combined with specific foods. For example, serve some spicy food if you have a bottle of mediocre wine to use up. The strong taste of spices will distract your palate from the nuances of the wine. Cheap white wines can sometimes be a little sweet and lack the structure that comes from more acidic varieties. No worries, just pair that sweet white wine with a bowl of hot curry. The sweetness will help balance the heat, and the complex spice combinations will add spark to an otherwise bland or poorly-balanced wine.

However, there are other techniques to try if you have a cheap bottle of wine and want to enjoy it. Since so much of taste is intimately connected to smell, decanting that boring wine before serving may improve its taste. You can even try dropping a penny into a glass of wine if you think it smells a little off. We encourage pairing your wine with something more interesting, like this spicy noodles recipe.