Story by Sasha Chapman
Imagine you have a friend you’d like to set up on a blind date. You scroll through the list of possibilities: do you choose Jacob, the brash Australian who is always the life of the party, and just as high spirited as she is, or the sweet and soft-spoken Teuton named Carl on the theory that opposites attract? In the end, she hooks up with Leon, steely and acid-tongued from Alsace. You shrug your shoulders; it seems to work. And there you have the basics of pairing wine with spicy food. There are no perfect matches, but there are plenty of really good ones.
Consider first the flavours of the dishes you are serving: Do they have the fruity heat of jalapeno or Thai peppers (chilies, after all, are a kind of fruit) or the smoky spice of chipotle and pasilla? Is the sauce light and delicate with coconut milk or as dark and complex as a Mexican mole? And is it tangy with lime (like a Thai green mango salad or a ceviche from Veracruz) or unctuous and rich with ghee? Those factors, as much as how the dish scores on the culinary world’s Scoville heat scale, will play a role in the success or failure of the match…