Looking for something refreshing to help cool the flames?

By Jeffery Lindenmuth
September 01, 2010
Photo: Randy MayorStyling: Cindy Barr

Let three simple strategies guide your selections for wines that work with four fiery, flavorful dishes. First, consider sparkling wine; the bubbles help refresh and cleanse the palate. (That's why beer is often a spicy-food standby beverage.) Not in the mood for fizz? Then opt for something sweet. Just as soda can counter spice, an off-dry riesling offers a similarly soothing touch of sweetness—with much less sugar. Finally, avoid wines that are high in alcohol or tannins, which only serve to fan the flames. Fruity whites and reds, with modest alcohol, make thirst-quenching and delicious partners for chile heat.

Curry Chicken
The Argentine white grape torrontés produces aromatic wines that are dry but quaffable with spicy Asian cuisine.

  • Value:  (Argentina, $10) Fresh and floral with white peach flavors.
  • (Argentina, $13) Floral and honey aromas with fresh citrus flavors.
  • (Argentina, $17) Generous notes of apple and white peach.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Bubbles help beat the heat. "Extra dry" indicates more sweetness than "brut."

  • Value:  (California, $10) Sweet pineapple and peach.
  • (Italy, $14) Apple and melon fruit with a dry finish.
  • (France, $40) Apple and honey aromas follow in the flavor.

Lamb Vindaloo 
Lamb prefers red wines. Serve these lighter-bodied, low-tannin reds slightly chilled.

  • Value:  (California, $11) Plump with cherry and strawberry.
  • Jean-Luc Colombo Côtes du Rhône Rouge "Les Abeilles" 2007 (France, $12) Berry and cherry notes.
  • (France, $25) Blackberry fruit with a soft finish.

Jerk Pork
Riesling is a classic match with pork dishes; these wine selections are also a perfect complement to sweet-spicy jerk seasoning.

  • Value:  (Australia, $8) Tropical fruit, citrus.
  • (Washington, $14) Stone fruit sweetness.
  • (Washington, $25) Peach nectar and orange.
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