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Pairing Wines with Spicy Foods
wine guywines with spice
July 2002
Pairing wines with spicy foods can prove to be tricky. The goal: to choose a wine that highlights the sweet taste of the chili and not its fiery side.

At the Chicago restaurant Spring, chef Shawn McClain incorporates spicy elements in his menu so who better to guide us through the challenge than Spring's wine director and co-owner Sue Drohomyrecky.

Sue's recommendation is to avoid highly acidic wines. Wines that are lower in acid temper the heat of the chili and do not encourage it. German wines are a great fit. Look for a Riesling; one of her most favored producers is J.J Prüm.

Johann Josef Prüm's vineyards can be found in the highly regarded Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany ("the Mosel"). The Mosel produces delicate wines; this is due to three main factors - a slate soil, steep riverbanks to house the vineyards and the region's rivers. The rivers reflect sunlight, and the steep banks help to harness the resulting warmth. In turn this maintains a more temperate climate allowing the grapes to reach the end of the growing season without the fear of frost. J.J Prüm is renowned for being somewhat of an eccentric character who produces Rieslings that remain fresh and fruity even as they age.

Sue also suggests that wood aged wines should be avoided. The elements of the wood conflict with chili laced foods; select a wine that has been held in stainless steel barrels. Chenin Blancs from the Loire Valley work well, offering luscious fresh tones of apple and pear; Vouvrays and Savennières are also strong contenders. Finally in some situations a young, fruit forward, bright cabernet may just do the trick…

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Ph. 773-395-7100

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