How to Find the Perfect Thai Food Wine Pairing [+ pairings for popular dishes]
The advice that wine doesn’t go well with Thai food is passé. Even wine experts are coming around to the notion that science doesn’t support the old supposition.
Thailand, the land of smiles, is also a country with a rich culture and cuisine. Thai food has become increasingly popular worldwide because of its unique flavors and variety.
One thing that many people don’t know about Thailand’s cuisine is how it pairs well with wine! In this article, we get you started with exploring the best choices for a Thai food wine pairing.
The Delightful, Delicious Complexity of Thai Food
Thai food is so popular around the world that it should be no surprise that wine lovers broke through the old rules and came up with great choices for Thai Food wine pairing.
As someone who has lived in Bangkok and explored dishes throughout the beautiful country of delightful people and amazing cooks, I long ago learned how to find the perfect Thai Food Wine Pairing. Albeit, there were a few disastrous choices along the way!
Pairing wine with Thai food does take some consideration. Thai food isn’t necessarily natural for pairing with wine.
First of all, Thai food involves a complex variety of flavors, textures, and spices. An additional complication is that eating Thai food rarely involves a single dish.
Typically, we order one dish in a restaurant as our meal. Not so with Thai food – or at least this shouldn’t be the case. Thai food is meant to be enjoyed in a family style where your group orders a variety of dishes and everyone samples each.
In my family, we all have our favorite dish, but we also order a few dishes that are meant to be shared across the table.
Also, a Thai meal typically includes an appetizer, soups, entrees, and a fruit dessert.
After reading this article, you will be able to confidently carry out a Thai Food wine pairing and select the best wines for popular Thai food dishes. We also give you some of our Top Picks for you to order a bottle of wine to go with your next Thai take out meal!
Can you drink wine with spicy food?
Contrary to popular belief, wine can be a good pairing with spicy foods, but it depends on the type of wine. Forget about your old-school, dry white wines and go for an off-dry white wine or a fruity, medium tannin red wine to cut through the spice.
Dry whites are notorious for turning sour when paired with spicy food. If you enjoy this type of pairing often, try going from a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay to something like a Riesling or an unoaked Chardonnay.
A lot of fruity white wines pair well with spicy foods because their sweetness cuts down on some of that heat – Pinot Grigio is often considered one of the best matches out there! They also have lightness since they’re white grapes so if you’re looking for something refreshing these should be your first choice.
In general, look for low-alcohol wines with medium tannin. Avoid oaky wines as they will intensify the sensation of heat.
For something unexpected, try an ice cider or even a sparkling rosé. They both have low alcohol and high acidity which compliments spices well while adding some sweetness on top of that spicy food for balance.
If you’re looking for red wine recommendations, consider lighter bodied wines with medium tannins like Zinfandel or Chianti.
The Best Choices for a Thai Food Wine Pairing
Not all Thai food is spicy, of course, but some of the best Thai food dishes really turn up the heat. Let’s start our Thai food wine pairing journey by exploring a list of wine choices and some pairings with Thai food.
A successful wine pairing begins with understanding the dish’s flavor profile. Each dish has a different taste, from salty to spicy or anything in between. Understanding these flavors before pairing wine can lead to successful combinations.
Chardonnay with Thai Food
Chardonnay is another wine that can be paired with Thai food. The wine tastes like apple, pear or peach flavors and has notes of buttery vanilla with oak overtones.
The five things to know about chardonnay are:
- Burgundy is the homeland for the world’s most popular grape. France is the world’s main producer of Chardonnay wines.
- Other regions where the grape is grown include Sonoma County (California) and Tuscany (Italy).
- The Chardonnay grape is a blank canvas. It’s popular for its versatility as it can be produced to taste like a buttery, creamy white wine or a crisp and acidic wine. This varietal also takes on the characteristics of its terroir more so than other grapes.
- Most Chardonnay is oaked – something we need to avoid for a Thai food wine pairing.
- The top five Chardonnay wine producing countries are: France, USA, Australia, Italy, and Chili
You can pair a Chardonnay with Thai food but look for an unoaked version that has been aged in steel barrels. The result is a crisper, more refreshing wine with fruity flavors.
We recommend the: Morgan Metallico Unoaked Chardonnay (2019)
The Morgan Metallico Unoaked Chardonnay’s aromatics are intense with pineapple, jasmine, and subtle vanilla. The palate has ripe fruit flavors of Asian pear and lemon meringue.
This wine encompasses a light-medium body with bright acidity and a long finish. It’s a perfect accompaniment to shellfish or lighter summertime fare, especially when paired nicely alongside spicy foods like curries!
Viognier with Thai Food
An alternative to Chardonnay is a Viognier wine, made from a white grape originating from the Rhône Valley in southern France. Viognier wine is often crisp and slightly sweet with fruity and floral aromas. Viognier ages well in the bottle.
French Viogniers are among the most expensive white wines in the world. California also produces some Viognier as their climate is perfect for it to grow there too!
Viognier has a rich, honey-like flavor that can help to temper the spice of Thai food. Viognier’s acidity also helps cut through the heat in some Thai dishes. If you have never tried pairing Viognier with spicy foods before then this is your chance to give it a go!
The complexity of Viogneir’s aromas make it a good pairing for a Thai curry or Pad Thai.
Viognier is often described as having aromas of honeysuckle, honeydew melon and apricots. There are a few Viogniers to try with Thai Food:
From the Yalumba Samuel’s Collection, the Eden Valley Viognier 2017 is a pure expression of the valley with fresh apricots, lifted ginger and saffron. This wine has an expressive stone fruit flavor that finishes in alluring freshness.
The most complete wine from this brand’s collection, it complements spiced dishes well as its long finish develops honey flavors and toast complexity over time to make for a truly exceptional taste experience.
The Lebanese Chateau Musar Jeune 2018 has lemon-colored hues with a delicate touch of pears, lime and pineapple on the nose – there is also a hint of jasmine. Meanwhile, the palate tastes tropical fruits such as quince and lemon zest, which are balanced by its refreshing acidity. It’s the brightness of the wine and high acidity that makes it a perfect pairing for the spices found in most Thai food.
The Guigal Condrieu 2018 from the Rhone Valley in France is typical of the Viognier grape with its aromatic notes of white peach and apricot. This wine is brilliant clear golden yellow in color and displays fresh floral (violets) and fruity (apricot, peaches and citrus). Fresh on the palate without sharp tannins or too much acidity this full bodied wine will complement Thai food well.
The Guigal Condrieu 2018 Viognier would be delicious to pair with chicken curry flavored noodles as it balances spicy dishes nicely. It should also pair well with Thai dishes that feature ginger flavors.
Best Red Wines to Pair with Thai Food
Before we go with a compromise, such as a Rosé wine, let’s not give up on finding a red wine for a Thai food wine pairing for curries. Remember that a wine with high alcohol content (ABV) can intensify the heat in spicy Thai food.
So, let’s look for a low ABV red wine with a touch of fruity sweetness.
Thai Food Wine Pairing: Gamay
A Gamay has an average ABV of 11% to 13%, but it is a light-bodied red wine that has a slight fruity touch.
A Gamay wine pairs well with Thai red or green curries because it has a rounded fruity flavor that is offset by the hot spices in the curry. The acidity of this Gamay balances out the spiciness of Thai food, which is perfect for those who don’t like their palate to be overwhelmed.
Gamays are also good when paired alongside fried foods as they have a light body and can handle some spice without becoming too heavy or unpalatable. It’s worth noting though, if you want something more hearty then maybe try pairing your Gamays with Thai noodles instead!
Here are a two Gamay recommendations to get you started:
- Regnie 2019 from the boutique winery Antoine Sunier in Burgundy, France.
- Chateau Thivin 2019 from the Beaujolais, Cote de Brouilly appellation in France.
Thai Food Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir
A natural choice for a Thai food red wine pairing would be a Pinot Noir. A touch of sweetness from the wine can balance out some of the spicy heat. Pinot Noir has fruity undertones that mesh well with Thai flavors and are usually light in body.
Look for a Pinot Noir made from grapes grown in cool climates, which tend to have the lowest alcohol levels. Our recommendations:
- Mac Forbes Pinot Noir 2018 from the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Australia.
- La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2018 from the Sonoma Coast, California.
- Cloudline Pinot Noir 2019 from the Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Pairing a Rosé Wine with Thai Food
A Rosé wine is a pink or light-colored wine. It gets its color from red grapes that are picked before they’re fully ripe, usually when their sugar levels have been converted into acidity (a process called “bleeding” the grape).
This allows them to be sweet enough for early consumption but also acidic enough in flavor and dryness. Rosé wines can range in hue from pale peach colors to deep burgundy shades, depending on variety and region of origin.
Rosés come in many styles that include dry, off-dry (also called semi-sweet), fruity, and more. Some are crisp while others have notes reminiscent of fruits like berries or tropical fruit such as mangoes or pineapples. The type chosen should fit well with the complexity of the Thai dish.
The Thai dish, Pad Thai, is made up of rice noodles and a variety of spices such as tamarind and red chili peppers. It also includes peanuts, eggs, tofu, or shrimp/pork plus vegetables like shiitake mushrooms or green beans.
The complexity of the flavor profile in this dish makes it perfect for Rosé wines that have fruity notes to them that complement the sweetness from the tamarind sauce and fresh acidity from tomatoes found in many dishes.
Look for a Rosé wine from Portugal or Spain because their Rosés are often lower in alcohol content. The lower alcohol content is necessary for spicy Thai foods so that the heat is not accentuated by the wine.
For instance, a Portuguese Rosé has on average 11.0% alcohol content while Spanish rose wine has an average of 12%.
The lower alcohol content will also allow you to drink and enjoy more glasses without feeling too tipsy or drunk – which is helpful when you need the freshness of the wine to cleanse the palate between bites of spicy food!
Here are a few of our best recommendations for a Thai food wine pairing with a Rosé wine:
- Gazela Vinho Verde Rose from the Vinho Verde wine region of northern Portugal.
- Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Rose 2016 from the Douro wine region of Portugal.
- Herdade do Rocim Mariana Rose 2020 from Alentejo wine region of Portugal.Gaintza
- Txakolina Rose 2019 from northern Spain.
How to Pair Champagne and Thai Food
As we make our way to our top pick for a Thai food wine pairing, we come to what some would say is the best wine to drink with Thai food in all of its wonderful complexity.
Champagne is light and crisp, but with a depth that can’t be found in many other wines. It’s the perfect choice for Thai food because of this combination of complexity and brightness.
Champagne harmonizes well with spicy dishes like Tom Yum soup as it has enough acidity to cut through some of the heat while still playing nicely off its complex flavors. This same balance also makes it an excellent option for curries or soups made from coconut milk as they are often richly spiced without being overly hot (think red curry).
Thai food and champagne is a perfect combination – the bubbles in champagne cleanse your palate of any strong flavors left behind from hot dishes and helps to break up the spiciness, which is difficult to soothe when drinking plain water or iced tea.
Champagne also doesn’t have too dry a finish, so it complements all sorts of Thai curries (red, green), papaya salad, larb salads and other spicy dishes without leaving you feeling thirsty!
Champagne doesn’t have to be expensive. You can buy a decent bottle for between $15 and $25. But let’s not forget the more exquisite champagne choices either. Surely Thai food deserves the best!
You’ll recognize some of these champagnes, but we tried to put in a surprise or two in our recommendations for our Thai food wine pairing with champagne!
- Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut
- Miraval Champagne Fleur de Miraval. It comes in a beautiful pink gift box.
- Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2017 (California)
- Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2007
- Ruinart Blanc de Blancs
Thai Food Wine Pairing with Riesling
Riesling wine is a great pairing for many types of Thai food. The combination can be enjoyed with spicy, salty or sweet dishes and will work well to cut through the spiciness that often accompanies Thai cuisine.
Rieslings are typically known as one of the best white wines for a Thai food wine pairing because they have enough acidity to make them versatile but not too much sweetness that would overwhelm a dish. They also pair well with seafood and chicken dishes, which are common components found in most Thai meals.
When it comes down to selecting a specific type of Riesling, there are certain things you should keep an eye out for when deciding on what bottle might be right for you:
- A dry Riesling with a lower acidity is best for spicy dishes.
- An off-dry or semi-sweet Riesling will work well with salty or sweet Thai recipes.
- Try to find an aromatic, full bodied wine which has some sweetness and not too much tannin for the perfect balance of flavors in your meal.
With these tips in mind, let’s get you started on a perfect list of Rieslings for for your next Thai meal.
- Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling 2019 from the Columbia Valley, Washington
- Also from Washington’s Columbia Valley: Chateau Ste. Michelle Harvest Select Sweet Riesling 2018
- Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Auslese Goldkapsel (Germany)
- Egon Muller Scharzhof Riesling 2017 (Germany)
- Standing Stone Vineyards Off-Dry Riesling 2019 from Finger Lakes, New York
Finals Thoughts on a Thai Food Wine Pairing
Thai food is one of those foods that can be a bit difficult to pair wines with. Many people choose to use beer, but if you want something more nuanced and complex, the right wine pairing will make your meal all the better.
You’re not limited to just white wine with Thai food, but you should consider the other flavors in your dish. If you’ve been making a mental note of what wines go best with different types of foods, it’s time to start adding some new entries into that list. Thai cuisine is another world all on its own and can be enjoyed immensely by pairing it up with a good glass (or two) of wine!
Don’t forget to share your creations with us! Good luck, and happy eating!