Sweet Cuts Heat, But Why?

January 16, 2018

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Sweet Cuts Heat, But Why? Spicy noodles alongside a glass of white wineSweet or semi-sweet (also sometimes called off-dry) white wines with fruity flavors and crisp acidity have been the accepted “best pairing” for spicy foods for some time. And if you’ve ever had a glass of deliciously fruity Missouri Vignoles wine with a plate of devilishly spicy Thai food, we’re sure you’ll agree. But why do these wines work so well?

Spicy peppers are the primary source of heat for many foods. These peppers are high in something called capsaicin which our taste receptors recognize. They send a signal to our brains that we are experiencing spicy stimuli. (My mouth is on fire!) Now, why some people hate this stimuli and others love it is up for debate, but if you are a spicy food fan, here are the reasons to reach for a sweeter, acidic white wine when you enjoy your favorite burn-inducing dishes.

1.They are cold.

Even a cold or room temperature chili pepper will make your mouth feel hot when you eat it. Our brains instantly look for something cold and refreshing to tame the flames. White wines are chilled and their cool temperature is a very satisfying sensation when enjoyed with spicy food.

2.They are sweet.

Residual sugar in wine helps to coat our tongues and calm some of the heat we feel from the capsaicin in our spicy favorites. The rest of the dish becomes more bearable.

3.They are lower in alcohol.

High alcohol wines can intensify the perception of heat in our mouths when paired with spicy food. If you’re looking for a more intense burn, then by all means… give it a try.

Now, if you’re not a white wine fan, but you love spicy food, don’t fret. We have some tips. Look for a red wine that is fruit-forward, has ample acidity and maybe a little sweetness, preferably one that is lower in alcohol. Now here’s the real game-changer… chill it. No, really. Go against everything you’ve ever heard. If you want to enjoy that red wine and the spicy food, try chilling the bottle. That way you get the refreshing quench immediately on your palate, but you can still enjoy all the flavors of your favorite red wines.

Here’s to enjoying award-winning Missouri wine and delicious spicy food. Cheers!