What to pair with your spicy Asian dinner

Thai stir fry!

Thai stir fry!

Load it up… my plate that is! My muse tried her hand at some spicy Thai stir fry with snow peas, broccoli, chicken, rice noodles and chili paste. The result was best exemplified by my empty plate, the empty wok and my very full belly.

When it comes to wine pairing, Spicy Asian cuisine has become pigeonholed by its overly recommended partnering with Riesling. They do work well together, but too often that’s the only choice at restaurants and the frequent advice of wine stewards. I’m guilty as charged, too.

Although Gewurztraminer is another easy match for spicy food, I wanted to find something that doesn’t always come to mind so obviously. Enter Vouvray!

Vouvray is made from Chenin Blanc grapes and grown in France’s Loire Valley. The wine can run the gamut from fruity and sweet all the way to bone-crushing dry. Try to find something left of center… that is leaning to the sweeter side without being cloyingly sweet. The “La Craie” Vouvray is an excellent example of a demi-sec Chenin Blanc. Soft fruit, with some sweetness to balance all that hot and sassy chili paste in the Thai snow pea dish, is the calling card of the “La Craie.”

Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, it retails for around $18.

Man Salad & Chenin Blanc

ManSalad

Heavy clouds but no snow may be the weather story of the season for this dreary Eastern Tennessee “winter.” We can’t spring ahead but we can start dreaming of April. This healthy, but slightly heartier, salad carries some extra oomph with olive oil marinated portabella mushrooms, sweeter red bells and protein-rich eggs.

Although, this salad will keep you fuller for longer, you’ll still want to look for a lighter white wine to avoid overshadowing the delicate nature of greens. Anything from the Loire Valley like a Sancere, Vouvray or even Muscadet will do fine. I went with the American version of Vouvray and got a classic California Chenin Blanc.

Perhaps the flagship white in their collection, Pine Ridge Vineyards is well-known for their Chenin Blanc- Viognier blend. Lots of stone fruit flavors and crisp apple aromas surround this clean-finishing white. Its fresh and versatile nature is ideal for salads and day dreaming of not-too-far-off Spring evenings.

Pine Ridge Chenin

Blueberry cheesecake & Brachetto d’Acqui

CheeseCake

When it comes to matching dessert wine with the post-dinner dolce, foodies can easily over think the pairing. If doubt comes knocking at the cellar door just remember that it’s really hard to beat a good cup of coffee, especially with cheesecake.

This miniature ode to the classic dessert has an extra dash of nutmeg inside and is topped with a Grand Marnier and blueberry reduction.

So if coffee is not your cup of tea, then trying a Brachetto d’Acqui from the Marenco sisters might be enough to get your just deserts.

PinetoBrachetto d’Acqui (brah-KET-ohh daKwi) comes from the Piedmonte region near France. Slightly effervescent with raspberry and strawberry flavors (whose aromas you’ll notice as soon as you fill the glass), Brachetto d’Acqui typically runs close to $20 for a standard 750 ml size bottle. You also can’t go wrong with a sweet or semi-sweet style of Vouvray from the Loire Valley.

Loire Valley offers light and lively whites

American exploration of the French wine world is often limited by the internationally touted giants of Bordeaux, Burgundy and, increasingly, the Rhone Valley. Considering the historical achievement of their vineyards, there is little astonishment that other areas of France have not been able to break through in producing equally appreciated still-wines. That premise has been challenged as of late by the ever-increasing attraction and lure of white wines from France’s Loire Valley.

The Loire River, France’s longest, may not measure up in length to the African Nile, but it quite possibly holds the cradle of white wine sophistication within its shallow valleys. From coastal growing districts like Muscadet to the inland villages of Vouvray and Sancerre, the Loire River Valley produces some of the best whites in all of France, if not that of the entire Western European seaboard.

If one were to begin a wine journey from the Atlantic port city of Nantes and follow the Loire River eastward into France, the likelihood of first encountering a wine called Melon de Bourgogne would be high. Melon de Bourgogne is the signature grape of Muscadet and what the locals drink for white wines. Naturally paired with the offerings of the great sea, a Muscadet, by many standards, is a simpleton compared to a bossy California Chardonnay. However, what it lacks in pretention is easily made up for by its amiable way of complimenting both the local sea-fare and the easy-breezy, cultural and climatic environment of its residents. If you are looking for the best that Muscadet has to offer, then look for those from S<0x00E8>vre et Maine. Three of my favorite Muscadet’s are the Domaine de la Quilla, the Harmonie by Michel Delhommeau and the Sauvion.

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