Here at Weekly Tasting, we love food just as much as we love wine, and frankly, takeout is one of our (not so) guilty pleasures. Tonight, we’re dining on Thai food! The flavors of Thailand can be incredibly complex and include a myriad of tastes and textures, like the creaminess of coconut, the earthy spiciness of fresh turmeric and ginger, the pungency of fish sauce, and the bright freshness of lime juice and herbs. Thai dishes can also range widely in their level of heat, falling on a scale of gentle and mild to fiery hot. Whatever your casual cuisine preferences may be, we guarantee there’s a wine that will elevate those flavors, and we’re here with pointers on how to find the perfect pairing.
Grab a menu and let’s get started!
First things first: appetizers - fried to be exact. We’re talking crab rangoons, crispy spring rolls, coconut shrimp, and fried tofu. Fried foods, as delicious as they may be, can tend towards greasy and be heavy on the palate. Believe it or not, we recommend popping open some sparkling wine. The crisp acidity and bubbles of a Champagne, Cava, or even Prosecco will cut through any heaviness of the food, leaving your palate fresh and ready for the next bite. If you like a little heat, opt for a demi-sec sparkling wine - touch of sweetness will balance the spiciness.
We can’t talk about Thai takeout without mentioning Pad Thai. It is a perfect combination of sour, sweet, spicy, and salty. This rice noodle-based explosion of flavor is made possible with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, palm sugar, and Thai chili powder, and then elevated with cilantro, lime, and roasted peanuts. A rich tasting white is ideal here, particularly with a hint of sweetness to match with the touch of sweetness in the dish. If you’re still on a bubbly kick, go for a Moscato d’Asti. If you prefer still, off-dry Riesling is the way to go. Don’t want sweet? We suggest the luscious texture of a Viognier, especially if you like shrimp or chicken in your Pad Thai.
Curries of all colors (yellow, green, or red) are a Thai takeout must. The key here is to mind the heat. If you like your curries mild, an Alsatian Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer will hit the spot. Both of these wines will be dry but fruity and have enough body to stand up to the richness of the curry. If you like some spice, choose an off-dry version of these wines, which will likely come from Germany or even New Zealand. Prefer a red? Try a gently sparkling, lightly sweet Lambrusco.
Protein-dominant Thai dishes, like stir-fried basil and pork, chicken, or beef can stand up to red wines. Spicy food can make tannic wines taste astringent, and the combination of high alcohol and spice can also feel harsh, so look for a red with moderate to low tannins, such as Pinot Noir. The herbal notes in Grenache will also pair nicely with the basil flavors in this dish, but be cautious - Grenache-based wines can be higher in alcohol. If you want red wine-inspired flavors but without the tannin, try a fruity rosé.
Lastly, we can’t end a meal without something a little sweet. Mango sticky rice is simple, yet hits the spot - creamy coconut rice topped with juicy ripe mango. The key to pairing wine with dessert is to have the wine be the sweeter of the two. Here, we’re going with a late harvest wine or an ice wine. The candied citrus and tropical notes in the wine paired with the mango will be magical. The coconut rice also has enough richness that it won't be overwhelmed by this nectar of the gods.
Two major takeaways:
Aromatic cuisine deserves equally aromatic wines - think Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, etc.
High alcohol wines will make spicy food taste harsh and will amp up the fire on your palate - beat the heat with lower alcohol wines as well as wines with a hint of sweetness. Tannins and alcohol are also tricky. If you’re going red, look for less tannic varieties - Pinot Noir, Grenache, Lambrusco, or Barbera.
There are a lot of options, but if you still can’t decide, go for an off-dry Riesling. It’s a stand-out with any Thai dish.
For other wines that are great for Take-out food, Try our Wines For Take-out Food Pack from Master Sommelier Laura Maniec.