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Wine Reviews: Review of Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Johannisberg Riesling 2003
Sweet wine for spicy foods
by: Vino Joe

Wine Reviews Home / Vices Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Matching wine with food can be described as fun, filling and delectable. It can also be quite challenging, depending on the food. Pairing strategy often goes beyond the simple "red wine with red meat, white wine with fish" rule of thumb. (In fact, there is a great book titled “Red Wine with Fish” that turns that myth completely upside-down!) Yes, it's true that a char-grilled steak tastes great with a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and a plate of raw oysters are delectable with a glass of true French Chablis. But what do you drink with quiche Lorraine? Okay, real men don't eat quiche, so how about artichokes, buffalo wings or scrambled eggs?

For those who pass on wine with breakfast, and others who don't particularly care for artichokes, there's still the matter of buffalo wings -- and similarly hot and spicy dishes (JLo included). What wine matches with wings that make you sweat, chili that makes you cry and habanero poppers that make you scream? The easy answer is no wine at all -- extinguish your thirst with an ice cold beer. But instead of taking the easy way out, you can remain ultra-cool and hip by washing down your fiery food with a glass of wine.

It can be done, but it takes a big of logical thinking. Spicy hot food will be elevated to new heights of fire by introducing alcohol, so you want to avoid the California Cabs and Chardonnays bursting with 15-16% alcohol. In addition, you can temper the spice with something sweet. Not necessarily dessert-style sweet, but rather open, forward flavors of ripe fruit. With those two thoughts in mind, a good wine choice for spicy food is Riesling, which can be as low as 6% in alcohol (lower than some beers) and tastes something like biting into a fresh apple.

In particular, I recommend Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Johannisberg Riesling. This wine exudes aromas of fresh, sweet fruit, such as ripe apricot, peach and something exotic -- maybe guava or muscat. It also has a strong smell of mineral, perhaps reflecting the limestone-rich soil of the vineyard. In the mouth, this Riesling tastes of delicious, sweet fruit upfront, like a bowl of fresh fruit salad. Candied peach and pear, overripe apple, white cherry and spice are some of the flavors. It's all held together by a good balance of medium acidity, and despite its sweet smell and taste, it finishes completely dry. It's a really fun, bright almost-sweet wine with ample structure and a surprisingly long and balanced finish. I matched it successfully with extra-hot General Tsao's chicken from the local Chinese take-out place; I suggest it with similarly spicy foods, Asian/Indian cuisine and antipasti that includes spicy smoked meats. In addition, it is easy to enjoy by itself, and makes a great introductory wine to those who have yet to graduate from white zin. Best of all, it runs about eight bucks a bottle, a super value.

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