Photo: Randy Mayor Styling: Cindy Barr
Let three simple strategies guide your selections for wines that work with four fiery, flavorful dishes. First, consider sparkling wine; the bubbles help refresh and cleanse the palate. (That's why beer is often a spicy-food standby beverage.) Not in the mood for fizz? Then opt for something sweet. Just as soda can counter spice, an off-dry riesling offers a similarly soothing touch of sweetness—with much less sugar. Finally, avoid wines that are high in alcohol or tannins, which only serve to fan the flames. Fruity whites and reds, with modest alcohol, make thirst-quenching and delicious partners for chile heat.
The Argentine white grape torrontés produces aromatic wines that are dry but quaffable with spicy Asian cuisine.
- Value: Familia Zuccardi Santa Julia Organica Torrontés 2009 (Argentina, $10) Fresh and floral with white peach flavors.
- Dominio del Plata Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés 2009 (Argentina, $13) Floral and honey aromas with fresh citrus flavors.
- Trapiche Broquel Torrontés 2009 (Argentina, $17) Generous notes of apple and white peach.
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Bubbles help beat the heat. "Extra dry" indicates more sweetness than "brut."
- Value: Barefoot Bubbly Extra Dry NV (California, $10) Sweet pineapple and peach.
- Mionetto Prosecco Brut NV (Italy, $14) Apple and melon fruit with a dry finish.
- Moët & Chandon Nectár Imperial NV (France, $40) Apple and honey aromas follow in the flavor.
Lamb prefers red wines. Serve these lighter-bodied, low-tannin reds slightly chilled.
- Value: Red Truck Organic Zinfandel NV (California, $11) Plump with cherry and strawberry.
- Jean-Luc Colombo Côtes du Rhône Rouge "Les Abeilles" 2007 (France, $12) Berry and cherry notes.
- Georges DuBoeuf Moulin-à-Vent Aged in Oak 2008 (France, $25) Blackberry fruit with a soft finish.
Riesling is a classic match with pork dishes; these wine selections are also a perfect complement to sweet-spicy jerk seasoning.
- Value: Yellow Tail Riesling 2008 (Australia, $8) Tropical fruit, citrus.
- Pacific Rim Columbia Valley Organic Riesling 2008 (Washington, $14) Stone fruit sweetness.
- Chateau Ste. Michelle-Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling 2008 (Washington, $25) Peach nectar and orange.