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Wine Advisor Express:
Wine and fire

We're talking about SPICY fire today: the endorphin-inducing glow of hot chile peppers. Staying with yesterday's general topic for one more day, let's tiptoe across the tricky ground of matching wine with hot-and-spicy Asian fare.

Turning again to Madhur Jaffrey's new "World Vegetarian" cookbook, I tried Aloo Gobi, a Punjabi-style dish that turns home-fried potatoes and cauliflower into a satisfying dinner with the help of a lot of fresh ginger and a spice-rack full of Indian flavors.

I added peas to Jaffrey's recipe, partly to avoid criticism for offering dinner with nothing green in it but mostly to add a green-veggie component that I hoped would heighten the dish's affinity with white wine. And I kept the cayenne within reasonable limits to hold things to a wine-friendly level of heat, but had a jar of bright-red Vietnamese sriracha sauce handy so I could doctor dinner to taste and observe how increasing the heat would affect the wine match.

What wine to serve? I've found that slightly sweet wines work well with hot-and-spicy fare, and the intriguing aromas of Riesling often make a happy marriage with the exotic flavors of Asian cuisine; so a typically "off-dry" Riesling might be just the thing. But what about a DRY Riesling?

I grabbed a bottle from one of my favorite Marlborough wineries, Grove Mill, and the match worked well. The wine offered a burst of Riesling character on the nose and palate, full of pine and minerals and aromatic white fruit that sang in tune with the ginger, cumin and coriander in the dish; and although the wine lacked the consoling sweetness of a German Spatlese or Auslese, its honeyed, unctuous texture, just a bit short of bone-dry, worked similar magic in balancing medium-hot spiciness.

Things got a little more tricky when I added more hot sauce, though; and by the time I put in enough to turn the dish from turmeric-tinted bright yellow to spicy pink, it became apparent that the best solution for truly fiery dishes is beer. If you're matching hot-and-spicy dishes with wine, I recommend keeping the fire under control.

Grove Mill Grove Mill 1998 Marlborough Riesling ($13.99)
Clear bright straw color. Forward aromas of apples, aromatic pine and minerals, the characteristic Riesling "petrol." Full and almost unctuous flavor, oddly reminiscent of honey on the palate; it's not sweet, though, but steely and just slightly off-dry. Very impressive wine. U.S. importer: Appellation Imports, Annapolis Junction, Md. (Jan. 16, 2002)

FOOD MATCH: Aloo Gobi - Indian potatoes and cauliflower with ginger and spice.

VINTAGE NOTE: Although I purchased this wine recently, it is several years behind the current vintage, and may be showing some mature-Riesling character. I would expect Grove Mill's 1999, 2000 and 2001 Rieslings to be generally similar in character, subject to vintage and maturity differences.

WEB LINK: The winery Website is at

Thanks for your responses!

I appreciate the E-mail notes that nearly 100 of you sent yesterday in response to my call for your thoughts about my tentative plan to add another once-a-week E-letter featuring wine-friendly recipes and food-and-wine commentary.

Based on your encouragement and support, I expect to offer this new publication soon. It will require separate registration (we won't send it to anyone who doesn't specifically request it), and I'll offer sign-up instructions in the Wine Advisor as soon as we're ready to go. Stay tuned!

This is Wine Advisor Express, daily edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, distributed Tuesdays through Fridays. For archives of previous articles, and to read more about wine, visit Wine Lovers' Page,

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Thursday, Jan. 17, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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