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Pairing Hot Sauce With Wine, Can’t We All Just Get Along? (hint: They Can)

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Pairing Hot Sauce With Wine, Can’t We All Just Get Along? (hint: They Can)

Published: April 29, 2020, 11:04 p.m.
Contributor: HotSauceSurvey

It seems as if the realm of hot peppers and spicy sauces and the world of Wine have nothing in common; as if they weren’t part of the same reality.

On the one hand, you have Wine. A complex fermented drink, incredibly nuanced and sophisticated, that somehow has always looked down at the rest of drinks. This highbrowed beverage, though, has lost its stiffness in years past and is now much more approachable as wine popularity and awareness has grown.

Wine is not an exclusive drink anymore; on the contrary, it’s a friendly pairing for all kinds of food and can add new layers of enjoyment to any meal.

The spicy food universe, comprising hot peppers and hot sauces, has also evolved. With so many flavor combinations out there, with so many dedicated people behind the craft Hot Sauce movement, spicy sauces and seasonings are now easily as complex as a fine wine.

Today’s we’re bringing wine and hot sauces to the table and finally get them to settle their differences. The result will be a new friendship that all of us will enjoy.

The big no-nos

Hot sauces and wine can pair nicely, if you know what you’re doing, resulting in something greater than the sum of its parts, but there are a few deal-breakers.

Both hot sauces and wine have vital characteristics that can be opposing, resulting in a mismatch. Take note and avoid the big no-nos in pairing spicy food and wine.

Alcohol and Heat, a Dangerous Combo

Have you ever wondered why spicy food goes great with a cold beer? It’s because spicy food and Alcohol work well together, but there are limits. High alcohol volumes of above 13% make spicy food taste spicier. The same receptors that put your tongue on fire when in contact with the spicy capsaicin, the hot compound in peppers, reacts to alcohol, which is a natural irritant.

For a successful pairing look for low proof wines, often found in cold climate wine regions like Coastal California, New York State, Germany, France or Northern Italy. If you want to pop open an alcoholic wine, then pair it with a mildly spicy hot sauce, low in SHUs.

Overpowering Acidity; Making Wine Look Bad

The other restriction, for pairing wine and hot sauces, is acid. Wine is naturally acidic, which makes it thirst-quenching and pleasant. Hot sauces are often acidic, too, especially when vinegar-based.

Whatever you do, make sure your hot sauce is less acidic than your wine, or you’ll make it taste dull. As with all successful wine pairings, wine must be the most acidic item on the table.

The Keys to Successful Pairings

Having put aside the risks of creating disastrous hot sauce and wine pairings, we can now focus on successful strategies.

Find Reconciliation Through Sugar

Sugar tames the heat; we all know that. Both flavors actually complement each other gracefully, which is why we drizzle spicy sauces over Fruit or why we love Sweet and spicy Chinese food.

To successfully pair hot sauces with wine, you can always source a sweet wine like a Riesling or a Muscat. Red Zinfandels, although dry, are slightly sweet too and complement hot sauces nicely.

Look for Similarities

Hot sauces are never just about the heat; they have complex personalities and well-defined traits. Some are fruity, and some are smoky, some remind you of spices and others to Citrus fruits. It comes as no surprise that there’s a wine to meet each flavor profile.

Smokey chipotle-based sauces go great with equally Smoky red Shiraz wines; Citrusy sauces will shine when paired with a lemony Sauvignon Blanc. Floral sauces will find their match with aromatic white wines like Gewurztraminer and Torrontes, while Earthy concoctions will complement truffle-scented Pinot Noir Beautifully.

Experimentation is key. Mix and match to find the most rewarding combinations.

Join the Cause

Hot Sauce and wine pairings are often ignored as part of planning any meal. Although the topic is still uncharted territory, mostly, you have the opportunity to be part of the pioneering expedition.

Try your favorite hot peppers and sauces with different wines and share your findings with others. That’s what the Hot Sauce Survey is all about, a place for spice enthusiasts to learn, share, and grow!

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