Pairing wine with Thai food can be complex as there are a lot of immaculate flavours and spice levels to take into account. But this shouldn’t put you off. A glass (or two!) of wine with Thai food is a great way to elevate your meal. In our Ask the Sommelier series, we put your wine-related questions to top sommeliers. In this instalment, co-owner and sommelier at hotly anticipated London restaurant AngloThai Desiree Chantarasak shares her favourite wine pairings for Thai food.
‘I recently travelled to Thailand and fell in love with the food, which I’m now exploring cooking at home as well as searching out the best Thai restaurants in my city. I’d love to start matching my wines a little better to the dishes I cook. I know that Thai dishes contain lots of aromatics and heat, which makes choosing a wine tricky – what are some general rules and tips for finding the perfect wine for Thai food?’
Stefan, Berlin in Germany
Sommelier Desiree Chantarasak responds:
‘I think pairing wine with Thai food, or even Asian food in general, is something that people are getting more open to. Typically, people might just go to an Indian restaurant and get a beer, but I think the new interest in pairing wine with this style of food is a nice progression. Pairing wine with Thai food can be complex, as with any cuisine, as there’s such a complete spectrum of flavours. You’ve got your sweet, salty, spicy, and sour, so it’s a total rainbow of different flavours. There’s also umami and a real heat, which can be scary elements to match a wine with.
‘When you’re pairing wine with Thai food, being wary of the spice levels is a good place to start. I tend to look for wines that are slightly lower in alcohol as a lot of spice in the food can be exacerbated by a high ABV wine. Another element to consider is tannins, as strong tannins can clash with the high spice level in lots of Thai dishes. I’d recommend erring on the side of caution to let the food flourish.
‘I also like to look for wines that have good acidity and freshness, and more fruit concentration, whether that be a decadent red fruit in a red wine or more of a wild tropical or stone fruit flavour in a white. Another important element is having good texture in a wine. This can be quite hard to decipher, but I think a simpler way to approach this is to look for something with body to stand up against food.
‘In general, an aromatic wine like a Riesling is a great choice to pair with Thai dishes that involve lots of herbs like coriander and lemongrass, as those lovely flavours work well with vibrant aromatic grapes. I find that these aromatic wines are dynamic, and can be paired throughout a Thai meal, going from spicy seafood snacks at the beginning to mango sticky rice at the end. For me, an aromatic Riesling goes best with classic Thai dishes that epitomise that sweet, salty, spicy and sour flavour combination, like a Som Tam salad. Lesehof Stagård and Thorsten Melsheimer are both brilliant Riseling producers, and I’d also recommend the F.W. Nalbach Sonnenschein Riesling 2020 – it’s a super-accessible example of an off dry, citrus-filled, textured Mosel Riesling.
‘Something else I think would go nicely with Som Tam or similar Thai dishes would be a Txakoli from the Basque Country. It’s got a spritz to it, and it’s super-fresh with great acidity, creating a dynamic pairing with the sweet and sourness of Thai dishes.
Keep red wines fragrant and light-to-medium-bodied, and let the Thai food do its thing
‘For reds, go with something like a Gamay or Beaujolais. These wines have beautiful, bouncy fruit notes, but also a medium body that creates a nice balance that’s not too overpowering for the spice. Something like that would go well with a duck or beef red curry, essentially something rich, unctuous and warming. I’d also go for cooler climate reds, like a Zweigelt from Austria, which is super-aromatic with loads of freshness. Keep red wines fragrant and light-to-medium-bodied, and let the food do its thing.
‘I think in general, slightly chilling your red wine allows all the fresher flavours to come through and really keeps it as vibrant as possible. Lapierre Raisins Gaulois Gamay 2020 was the first red wine John [husband and chef/co-owner of AngloThai] and I ever drank chilled, and we never looked back.
‘Another wine that I love with Thai food is an orange wine. Orange wines made with grapes like Muscat or Pinot Gris are a great option for pairing, as the tropical fruit flavours, great aromatics, and acidity can match well with seafood dishes and aromatic herbs. One I’d recommend is Nibiru’s 2021 Muller Thurgau Grundstein – these guys are making our house wines for when AngloThai opens, and they have such skill and precision.
‘A lot of the wines I’ve mentioned can span the whole meal, but something we tried recently which was pretty spectacular was a sweet wine, Nibiru 2019 Rosé Auslese. It’s 100% Merlot, and a gorgeous deep pink colour. It has all that lovely red fruit character, but it’s almost umami as well. It was the most wonderful wine for pairing with Thai desserts, and would make for the perfect end to any meal.’
AngloThai is opening a permanent restaurant in central London soon
Interview by Louella Berryman