Thai food is one of the world’s best cuisines, but pairing wine with it is difficult for many reasons - primarily its spiciness. In this episode, we break down how you can make finding a wine to drink with Thai food easy, and we review several different types of wines that make great pairings. We also talk about why some people bristle at the concept that there are even such things as “appropriate” wine and food pairings. And while we firmly believe there is an art to pairing wine and food, we also believe there are many choices you can make, not just one perfect choice. And, in this episode, we try a wine from a grape that we have never had before - Pineau d'Aunis - which comes from the Loire Valley and is a hidden gem. If you love Thai food and other spicy Asian dishes, listen in! This is for you! Wines reviewed in this episode: 2022 Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc, 2022 Maison Angelot Bugey Gamay, and 2022 Henri Bourgeois Le Vert Galant Pineau d'Aunis Rosé.
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Episode 97: Wine to Pair with Thai Food! (00:00)
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, taste and give our completely honest review of three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 each - and should be easy for you to find. And our podcast is made for people who want to learn more about wine, find new wines to enjoy, and just want someone to talk about wine in a fun way that regular people can understand. So, if that sounds like you, you are in the right place! And we are proud to say that we are recommended by the editors of Decanter Magazine who call us fun, irreverent, chatty, and entertaining
Carmela, today we are going to do something we haven’t done for a while, and that is focus on wines to pair with a specific type of cuisine. In the past we’ve done wine and Indian food pairings and wine and Greek food pairings, but today we are going to focus on another cuisine that is a favorite of ours - and that is Thai food. Not thigh food.
The reason I like talking about pairing wine with a specific cuisine is because you and I really do think about it a lot. We like to say what the Italians say, and that wine is the 5th food group. By that we do not mean that you can make a meal out of wine - that would not be advised. What we mean is that we think that wine is meant to be enjoyed with food. And there are a few reasons for that.
First, wine is food. Today we may think of wine as something we just drink or have at a bar or party like a cocktail to be enjoyed on its own, and while that is a fine way to approach things, we think the truest way to appreciate a wine is to see how it compliments food. A wine will truly change the experience of both itself and the food it is paired with. A high acid wine, for example, goes really well with a variety of foods, but works particularly well with spicy and saucy foods, as well as lighter proteins like chicken and fish or highly marinated foods. Bolder, higher tannin wines go better with rich proteins like steaks and stews.
Second, when you go back to the roots of wine in the old world, wines and food are what I would say “of a place.” That means that the food and wines of a particular region, whether that is in Italy or France or Spain or Portugal or Greece or Germany, are really meant to go together. Now, there are some foods, like Thai food, where there is virtually no native wine production that pairs with the food, and so from that perspective, you can not rely on a regional wine to pair with a food because it may not exist with any volume.
Now, I will say that some people strongly poo-poo that notion, that you can correctly pair a food and a wine or even that what wine you pair with a food even matters, and we have some links to articles that argue that point. And some people are really aggro about that. But I think there are probably a few reasons for people disagreeing with the concept that there is some correct or right way to pair wine and food.
For some, it seems pretentious, and so they just disagree with it out of hand because they are sensitive and find it offensive and they are babies. But seriously, to them the very idea smacks of snobbery and exclusion, and some people just don’t like that feeling.
For others, it feels like a lot of work, and afterall, if I like a certain food and a certain wine, who cares if I want to eat them together or not? This is the “my taste is not your taste” argument, and that is fine with me. I just don’t agree with it, but I am good with it.
For still others, the idea that there is a perfect food and wine pairing to the exclusion of others is objectively not true. And I agree with that. I don’t think there is only one or two wines that you HAVE to pair with a certain food. What I do think is that there are likely several wines that can go with a certain food, and that how you pair those two can really heighten the enjoyment. So, I don’t think it is exclusive. I do think there are some food and wine combinations that just do not go together. A light white fish with a big bold California Cabernet Sauvignon is objectively a bad pairing. But to say there are very strict rules is probably taking it too far.
So, you may be on one side or the other of this debate, or you may just not have a strong opinion, and that’s ok, too! What side are you on?
Well, regardless we are going to talk about what wines we think, and other experts think go with Thai food - and there are a lot of them, and we have three different wines that we are going to taste and review and talk about if we think they are good pairings with Thai food and if they are any good or not regardless . . .
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And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast. This week, we want you to tell anyone who is eating or ordering or loves Thai food. You just say “hey, if you are looking for a great wine to go with Thai food, listen to these morons” and then send them this episode.
ARTICLES and LINKS
Topic: What Kinds of Wine Go Best With Thai Food? 10:08
So, Carmela, are you ready to tackle the difficult challenge of pairing wine with Thai food? Now, why do you think pairing wine and Thai food can be tricky?
- First, there is a really wide variety of styles of food - yes, we can think of the famous and much loved Pad Thai, but there are so many others, like Tom Kha Gai which is a coconut soup with chicken, or Thai fried rice, or satays which are grilled skewers of meat or shellfish, or sweet and sour soup, or curries like Panang curry or Yellow curry or green curry or red curry, or stir fries like stir-fried chicken with cashews, or Thai spring rolls, and even Thai sausage, Thai barbecue, and Thai omelets. There are so many different types of Thai foods that finding a wine to pair with them is not easy.
- Then, there are all of the unique spices and other flavors that go with Thai food. There are fresh herbs like lemongrass and Thai basil; there are spices like glanagal (AKA Thai ginger) and cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, and coriander; there are citrus elements like lime; there are sauces that contain things like coconut milk and tomato paste; and there are even bitter elements like lime rinds and turmeric.
- And, there are a huge variety of proteins - despite the fact that there is not a lot of beef. There is tons of pork and chicken, shellfish like shrimp, a variety of fish, and of course nuts
So, finding wine to pair with Thai food is not easy. And to top it all off, there are heat elements like chili peppers, black pepper, and garlic and ginger which add further complication.
And heat is probably the first place to start in terms of wine pairing. The first rule of heat is that wines that are high in tannin and loaded with oak and high in alcohol and low in acidity will really not pair well with spicy food. High alcohol actually makes the spice too spicy, and high tannin and oak can make the spiciness and the other flavors muted. They are so bold, they will mask the heat and the rich and complex spices. So, it’s not that you can’t drink them with spicy foods like Thai foods, it’s just that they may overpower the food and you won’t get the full expression. I would avoid big reads like Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux style red blends, and heavily oaked whites like Chardonnay.
We have tons of articles in our show notes that will help you make some good choices with what to pair with Thai food, and there are again a ton of wines that will work.
But here are some general ideas to point you in the right direction, and a good Thai restaurant may have several of these kinds of choices if they serve wine.
- Crisp whites - like Pinot Grigios, Sauvignon Blancs, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, unoaked Chardonnays, Grüner Veltliner, and dry Rieslings are excellent choices. They will not overpower the flavors in a nice Thai dish, and their acid and citrus tones will really help to bring out what is naturally in the food. Orange wines can also be quite excellent.
- Brut to off-dry sparkling - Sparkling wine is an excellent choice because the bubbles can help accentuate the flavors. We would always move towards brut sparkling wines with a lot of acid and citrus to get the full flavor profile
- Off-dry whites - a lot of times sweet or semi-sweet wines are hard to pair with savory foods, but with really spicy foods in particular, some sweetness can help to cut the heat and they are usually lower in alcohol, too. Think about semi-sweet wines like Gewürztraminer or an off-dry Riesling.
- Light reds, especially those you can serve chilled. Think Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Valpolicella
- Mellow reds, like a smooth and balanced Merlot-based blend
- Dry, crisp Rosés, like those from Provence, which are generally Cinsault and Grenche based. You can also try Rosé wines made from Gamay or Pinot Noir or even Cabernet Savignon.
On that note, there is an unusual wine we are going to be trying today that is normally a red wine, but we are having the Rosé version. The wine is called Pineau d'Aunis (pronounced Pinot Dough-Neice - the s is spoken) and it is supposed to be similar to Pinot Noir, and even sounds the same but is spelled quite differently. The wine is also known as Chenin Noir, and is most well known in the Loire valley of France, however it is genetically not related to either Chenin Blanc or Pinot Noir, in case you were wondering. And also, in case you were wondering, we are going to also be tasting a Chenin Blanc today, so there’s that.
Anyway, this light red or, in our case Rosé, is supposed to be a good pairing with Thai food, and we will be the judge on that!
So, on that note, I think it’s time to learn a little more about the specific wines we are drinking today. Whaddya say?
ARTICLES and LINKS
Wines to Pair with Thai Food That We Chose for This Episode 17:05
As usual, all of the wines we have chosen for this episode are under $20, and all of them should be relatively easy to find because I bought them all at wine.com. And, even if you can’t find the exact wines we are drinking today, for example, one of them was out of stock on wine.com when I looked recently, at least two of the varietals should be easy to find. One of the wines again is Pineau d'Aunis which I don’t think will be easy to find, but we did find one online at a good price, and so maybe we’ll find out if it is worth seeking out!
The first wine we are going to try today is called Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc, and Chenin Blanc is supposed to be a really good pairing with Thai food. Which seems like a stupid thing to say since we are doing an episode specifically on pairing wine and Thai food - so, like, you would hope so.
Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc is from South Africa which is a wine area that is growing in popularity because it makes good wines at reasonable prices. The winery describes their wines as made for “daily enjoyment” and they want to make wines that are unpretentious, light-hearted, and for both the experienced and novice wine drinker. They claim their wines are made from sustainably farmed grapes, and though they do not say it, I expect this to be an unoaked wine.
The next wine we are going to be drinkin is the Maison Angelot Bugey Gamay which I chose because first, I wanted a light red wine, and second because the name and the bottle cracked me up. This is supposed to be a light and easy drinking red wine. I found some interesting things about how the wine is made online - this is how the winery describes it; The juice is converted into wine through carbonic maceration in temperature-controlled fiberglass tanks over the course of 6 days, and the caps are punched down twice a day. The result is a wine that is totally slurp-able.
Carbonic Maceration is a method used primarily on light to medium bodied red wines to make their fruit flavors really come out and to tamp down on their tannins. Evidently, in Carbonic Maceration, the initial fermentation is not caused by yeast, but instead occurs from the inside out.
This is how Wine Enthusiast describes Carbonic Maceration: This method involves filling a sealed vessel with carbon dioxide and then adding whole, intact bunches of grapes. In this oxygen-free environment, the berries begin to ferment from the inside. They use the available CO2 to break down sugars and malic acid (one of the main acids in grapes) and that produces alcohol along with a range of compounds that affect the wine’s final flavor.
Once the alcohol reaches 2%, the berries burst, releasing their juice naturally. A normal yeast fermentation will then finish the job.
So this should be a perfect light red wine with very low tannin to pair with Thai food.
The last wine we are going to try is the Henri Bourgeois Le Vert Galant Pineau d'Aunis Rosé. (pronounced Pinot Dough-Neice - the s is spoken)
I know basically nothing about this wine beyond what I have been reading in preparation for this episode. According to the winery: The family only uses organic fertilizers, and strives to meticulously maintain the vines by means of green pruning, managing water stress and using cover crops. The vineyard elevation allows for perfect sun exposure, while the nearby springs keep the vineyard soils cool. The gravity-flow winery employs gentle grape handling at each stage of winemaking, and in the maturation—on fine lees and even the bottling process.
This wine does come from the Loire Valley, and the bottle has a picture of Henry IV, King of France. One story about this grape and wine is that during a battle, King Henry fell in love with the local Pineau d’Aunis wine, and evidently, King Henry was a bit of a womanizer, and his nickname was ‘Le Vert Galant’ which, while the terms is directly translated as the green gallant, actually means someone with let’s say a rich sexual appetite. So there’s that.
Anyway, I am super excited about this one because I know so little about it!
But, I think that is enough information - let’s get to drinking! We’ll take a quick break and be right back. And, if you have these wines or similar wines, drink along with us!
ARTICLES and LINKS
Chenin Blanc, Gamay, and Pineau d'Aunis Rosé Wine Thai Food Pairing Tasting and Reviews 24:35
Wine: Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc (Click here to find out more about this wine on wine.com. Affiliate link)
Region: South Africa
Grapes: Chenin Blanc
What we tasted and smelled in this Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc:
- On the nose: Honey, glue, apple, pear, baking spices, allspice, cloves, vanilla
- In the mouth: Tart, pith, a bit of bitterness, Granny Smith apples with lemon juice on it, some body, honey, pear
Food to pair with this Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc: A good food wine, Thai Curry with chicken, Pad Thai, Thai spring rolls
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and a 5 or 6 means we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc Wine Rating:
- Joe: 8/10
- Carmela: 7/10
Wine: Maison Angelot Bugey Gamay (Click here to learn more about this wine on wine.com. Affiliate link)
Region: Savoie, France
What we tasted and smelled in this Maison Angelot Bugey Gamay:
- On the nose: Very fruity, dried fruit, strawberry Starburst candy, some cherry, strawberry jam, raisin, craisin, fruit candy
- In the mouth: Slurpable, smooth at the front and tangy at the end, fruit juice, Red Kool Aid
Food to pair with this Maison Angelot Bugey Gamay: Pad Thai, noodle wine, fried rice, soup, a very spicy curry
Maison Angelot Bugey Gamay Wine Rating:
- Joe: 7/10
- Carmela: 7/10
Wine: Henri Bourgeois Le Vert Galant Pineau d'Aunis Rosé (Click here to learn more about this wine on wine.com. Affiliate link)
Region: France, Sancerre
Grapes: Pineau d'Aunis
What we tasted and smelled in this Henri Bourgeois Le Vert Galant Pineau d'Aunis Rosé:
- On the nose: Strawberry, watermelon, strawberry lemonade
- In the mouth: Watermelon, some bitterness on the end, strawberry, some citrus
Food to pair with this Henri Bourgeois Le Vert Galant Pineau d'Aunis Rosé: Needs food, 5 star spicy curry
Henri Bourgeois Le Vert Galant Pineau d'Aunis Rosé Wine Rating:
- Joe: 6/10
- Carmela: 6/10
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
- Carmela: Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc
- Joe: Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc
Taste profiles expected from Chenin Blanc, Gamay, and Pineau d'Aunis Rosé 42:55
- Radley & Finch Alley Pack Chenin Blanc
- Winery: Balancing white cereal and stone fruit with yellow citrus and hints of lifted spice.
- Finding wine.com: Radley & Finch's Alley Pack Chenin Blanc is a bright and vibrant white wine. It has a light golden hue and a nose of ripe citrus, honey, and white flowers. On the palate, it is medium-bodied and well-balanced, with flavors of juicy yellow apple, honeydew melon, and a hint of minerality. The finish is crisp and refreshing, with a lingering hint of citrus.
- Paradise wine Buffalo: Light- medium body Chenin Blanc packed with flavors of fresh orchard fruits and a hint of lemon citrus on the finish.
- Maison Angelot Bugey Gamay
- Winery: Replete with spicy red fruit and with low acid and tannin, this wine is downright fun!
- Henri Bourgeois Le Vert Galant Pineau d'Aunis Rosé
- Winery: The nose shows ripe red fruits such as raspberries, watermelon, and cherries. The palate shows an incredible persistence and a fresh and crisp character. A note of minerality is slightly hidden behind the tannic lace and the beautiful structure of this rose.
- Ferry Plaza wine merchant: Savory herbal aromas of sage, thyme and tarragon mingled with fresh strawberries. The palate shows tart flavors of pineberry, raspberry and papaya. Vibrant and juicy with a notable mineral thread all the way through the finish.
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 46:21
Ok, so, Carmela, it is just about time for us to go, but before we do, we want to thank you very much for listening to us - and if you haven’t done so yet, now would be the perfect time to subscribe to our podcast and also a fantastic time to leave us a nice rating and review on our website or Apple podcasts or other podcast service - and it is an awesome and free way to support us and help us grow listeners.
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Alright, with that, we are going to sign off, so thanks again, and we will see you next time. And, as we say, life is short, so stop drinking shitty wine