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Wine Pairing: Thai food

Category: Wine Pairings

Wine Pairing: Thai Food

In Short:
An off-dry Riesling from either Australia or Germany will have the perfect level of fruit, acid and sweetness to stand up to complex thai dishes.

Sweet, salty, sour, sticky, smokey, crunchy, fiery: Thai cuisine remains a moreish delight made up of many flavours and textures. From the hawker stalls of Bangkok to your own homespun take on Pad Thai, via succulent BBQ or sumptuous curries, no wonder Thai meals traditionally last for hours. But Thai food’s complexity can also result in confusion over the best wines to pair with the dishes in question. With multiple small dishes - salads, steamed fish, fresh herbs, curries, sticky rice, skewers -  all competing for attention, what is your best course of action?

This isn’t the time to match food with wine from its country of origin. Thai diners prefer to drink tea with their food and the homegrown market, although promising, isn’t quite mature enough yet to compete with most international vineyards. In much the same way you don’t have to drink English wine with a roast dinner (although that’s now an appetising possibility), this is a chance to match Thai dishes with the best of new and old world wine.

With strong flavours you’ll need a bottle of wine that enhances rather than overshadows the dish. The proven pairing is off-dry white, with Riesling leading the charge. The best off-dry Riesling has the perfect level of fruit, acid and sweetness to cut through - the kind of bottle that can stand up to fiery Massaman curry and Tom Yum soup. Even until relatively recently, drinkers considered Riesling to be overwhelmingly a sweet wine, which has meant that the off-dry varieties have developed an appeal all of their own: the more intense the spice, the better the match.

Much of the best off-dry Riesling comes from two countries: Germany and Australia. They may be separated by almost 9000 miles but they share an expertise in creating sabre sharp white wines with an elegant finish. One to look out for is Dr. Hermann, whose Hermann Erdener Treppchen Auslese 2014 has delicious notes of stone fruit, spice and honey. From the other side of the world, try the Clare Valley from Jim Barry, a down-under Riesling produced on the Lodge Hill vineyard: think rich, zingy with notes of white peach.

Of course there are other alternatives. Sparkling wine is always a good option as it combines well with the dominant flavours found within most Thai food -  a brilliant bubbly accompanies lemongrass, ginger and galangal wonderfully. Chilled red always feels like a sophisticated choice and can make a great match for meatier dishes - particularly Sua Rong Hai, also known as “weeping tiger”.  Rosé is good for taming the wilder chilli flavours with sufficient character to stand up on its own - a bottle of Floração Rosé 2019 is a good standby in case of a chilli emergency.

What’s clear is that whatever your wine preference, there is a match for you. Thai food is no longer a challenge - just make sure you pick the right bottle to accompany it and you’ll never fear a spice clash ever again.