A Portuguese wine to pair with spicy Thai food

Pairing wine with something as spicy as Thai food is no easy task.

I love Thai – something I often cook at home – and it was the book written by famous Australian chef David Thompson that taught me one of the guiding principles of the cuisine that makes it all the more difficult to pair with wine.

Thompson is the owner and chef at Nahm, a restaurant in Bangkok that currently rates 13th on the list of the world’s best restaurants, and hence is officially the best Thai restaurant in the world.

In his first book, entitled simply Thai Food, he goes to great lengths to explain the importance of getting the balance of saltiness, acidity and sweetness right. This is equally important in the humble Tom Yam soup (pictured) as it is in a green curry or the dressing for a spicy Thai salad. That final flourish of balancing the salty fish sauce with the sugar and lime juice is what makes the difference between good and mediocre Thai food.

Now add to that the searing heat of fresh chilli, the pungent essence of fresh Thai basil, coriander leaves and kaffir lime leaves and try to match it with a wine!

Back to David Thompson, I went to his restaurant the last time I was in Bangkok and got to have a chat with him, especially about wine pairing.

The wine list at Nahm focuses on whites, especially Reisling from Germany, and the New World where they tend to have some residual sugar and Gewurztraminer.

These wines have a mix of slight sweetness, acidity and fresh fruit aromas that perfectly complement the flavours of Thai food whilst at the same time having enough freshness to help put out the fire going on in your mouth.

So how does this lead me to the wine in the photo? Well, the Muscat grape is the only sweet variety traditionally grown in Portugal and the purple muscat grape “Moscatel Roxo” is something quite special. Almost extinct as recently as 20 years ago, there has been a revival of its use, especially for premium fortified wines, but as a table wine I only know of one other, the excellent Moscatel Roxo rosé from Domingos Soares Franco in Setúbal that is equally well suited to Thai food.

This one, however, also from Setúbal is a white, although slightly tinged with pink. It is priced at under €10, presenting great value for money. I picked up a bottle at my local Pão de Açúcar supermarket.

On the nose there are the floral notes typical of the variety with good acidity and a full yet intensely fresh mouth-feel with just a touch of sweetness – all in all a perfect wine for spicy Thai food.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]