JWL Issue #009: All About Pairing with Spice

July 3, 2018

I’m trying to build up a list of bars that have great wines you can drink by the glass. 

A new addition to that list this week is The Winemakers Club in Farringdon. More Gordon’s than Vinoteca, The Winemakers Club is cellar-esque in every way. Cool, dusty, and dark, this is a world away from some of the glitz London throws at you. 

Yet during these too-hot afternoons we’re experiencing, there are few places better to check out. I picked up a chardonnay to take away from there last week, something a bit special for the future. 

Where are your favourite places to drink wine by the glass?

Taste

Red Snapper should be a memorable name even for those as forgetful as me. Seven quid from Sainsbury’s, this is definitely worth exploring. Red cherry, warming black pepper, and the slightest medicinal hint come through on the nose. The grape is cinsualt (see also: week three), and it’s from Stellenbosch, which is one of South Africa’s best wine regions. Can be enjoyed chilled. 

If chilled red is your thing, then check out a natural wine called Lezer (from AG Wines). Using the relatively rare teroldego grape, we drank this northern Italian red chilled with fish this weekend at a dinner party. Chilling natural wines is a good way to dip your toe into the funkiness that many can bring. Chilled, you get fresh, stony minerality and ripe red fruits. 

Learn

Pairing with spice

This is one of the harder food types to match. 

1. Avoid a high alcohol content. 14-16% wines are just going to increase the heat in the spice. 
2. Go sweet. Sweetness in wine helps offset some of the spice and prepare your mouth for more of it. Sweet, medium or off-dry wines here are great to pair. Avoid your bone dry whites and save them for another day. 
3. Cold. Finally go for something you can have cold. Cold is more refreshing and will help with the spicy food. 

All in all, it’s no wonder that medium sweetness, cold Riesling is so frequently suggested to pair. (Or for that matter, why beer is a perfect companion). But try others as well. If you taste a bottle that you find too sweet by itself, try it next time there’s some chilli on the plate. 

Jargon

Chaptalisation

This is the process of adding sugar to the wine during fermentation to help achieve a higher alcohol content. Fear not, this isn’t help making those punchy 15%+ wines you sometimes see. It’s more common in places where grapes struggle to ripen to their full potential and alcohol levels need bringing up that little bit.

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