Move beyond beer for a drink that plays nicely with spicy dishes. Here are our picks for the best wines to pair (surprise: it's not only whites)
Pop a few dozen plump Pacific oysters on the grill and then top with this creamy, spicy glaze, courtesy of chef Dory Ford of California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium. What a way to kick off a party!
Pair with: Riesling. With an almost briny minerality in addi- tion to its sweet fruit, it's a great oyster wine. For these smoky-hot ones from the grill, the wine needs a boat-load of fruit to match the spice, and our bottle pick more than delivers. Recommended bottle: Penner-Ash 2009 Riesling (Willamette Valley).
Super quick, and plenty flavorful, the harissa marinade does double duty as a spicy sauce once the lamb is cooked.
Pair with: Zinfandel. The rich, sweet fruit of this grape is great for taming the harissa heat in this dish. And the brimming berries in the Zin make a good foil for full-flavored lamb combined with mint. A hit of black pepper in our bottle pick creates a bridge too. Recommended bottle: August Briggs 2010 Zinfandel (Napa Valley).
Day-old leftover rice gives this fragrant fried rice the best texture, but you can also make it with rice cooked and cooled the same day.
Pair with: Brut Rosé. Sparklers take well to the sweet-sour tang of many Thai dishes. The wine’s tight bubbles come across as creamy, which is a good backdrop for shrimp and rice, and its crispness makes the fresh herbs pop. Recommended bottle: Montenisa NV Brut Rosé (Franciacorta DOCG, Lombardy, Italy).
Photo by Greg DuPree; food styled by Margaret Dickey; props styled by Audrey Davis
Not only is this chili easy to make ahead, it actually improves with time. If you like your chili very spicy, add an extra teaspoon of chipotle powder. Serve it with hunks of warm cornbread.
Pair with: Cabernet. It isn’t our usual go-to red with spicy food, but the chiles in this dish lend warm, earthy heat as opposed to sharp spice. And our bottle pick has earthy red fruit that matches. Recommended bottle: Boomtown 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington).
Rich fried chicken needs something crunchy and cooling for counterbalance, and this zesty slaw fits the bill.
Pair with: Pinot Gris. This is a fairly rich white wine that can wrap around fried chicken. But it also has crispness that keeps you wanting another taste of the exotic flavors both wine and slaw offer. Recommended bottle: Morgan 2010 “R & D Franscioni Vineyard” Pinot Gris (Santa Lucia Highlands).
Spicy garlic sauce gives a big flavor punch to simple stir-fry in this Asian-inspired dish.
Pair with: Riesling. A very slightly off-dry Riesling makes a great foil for the heat in many Asian dishes and maybe because of its rich mouth-feel and sweet fruit, Riesling has a special place in its heart for pork. Recommended bottle: Charles Smith Wines “Kung Fu Girl” Riesling 2007 (Columbia Valley).
The magic ingredients in these burgers are the pasilla chiles, roasted on a gas burner or under a broiler 'til nicely blackened. Melt sliced or grated cheddar cheese on top during the last few minutes of grilling.
Recipes: Green Chile Cheeseburgers
Pair with: An earthy, meaty red blend that includes Syrah and Tempranillo. The fruit tastes great with chiles and cheese. Recommended bottle: Matchbook “Tinto Rey” 2005 (Dunnigan Hills).
Marinating ribs in already-prepared harissa paste, a Tunisian spice, saves time and guarantees spicy, lick-your-fingers-good ribs.
Recipe: Spicy Pork Ribs
Pair with: Zinfandel. Cultivate the urge to reach for a Zin any time you have pork ribs on the table: The two are one of the food-and-wine world’s great matches. These particular ribs are on the hot side (use less harissa if you like), but our bottle pick, blended with Petite Sirah and other grapes, has a level of rich fruit and spice to make it work. Recommended bottle: Venge “Scout’s Honor” Proprietary Red 2006 (Napa Valley).
A sweet and spicy ginger sauce is drizzled over perfectly grilled rockfish and tender-crisp asparagus in this succulent recipe.
Pair with: A floral white blend. Exuberant florals are looking for some exotic, tropical flavors in a match. Recommended bottle: Eberle 2009 Côtes-de-Robles Blanc (Paso Robles).
A little like a Mexican sloppy Joe, this juicy dish is best sandwiched in crusty French rolls and topped with shredded cabbage, red onion, sliced tomato, cilantro, and sour cream.
Recipe: Spicy Shredded Beef
Pair with: Merlot. With gentler, rounder tannins than Cabernet, Merlot takes more easily to spicy dishes, and it’s an especially good match for the texture of long-braised beef chuck. Our bottle pick also offers great red fruit and crushed herbs that loop into the Southwest seasonings here. Recommended bottle: Hawk Crest Merlot 2005 (California).
A chile-rubbed bird cooked on the grill and served with mole gravy makes for a richly seasoned dinner.
Pair with: Zinfandel. Besides being comfortable with a whole range of tangy, spicy Thanksgiving food, fruity Zinfandel also tames a Southwestern or Mexican Thanksgiving menu. Recommended bottle: Scott Harvey 2010 Zinfandel (Amador County).