Spicy, oriental and fusion food
Unlike the wine-producing countries of Europe, the newer wine-producing countries and regions of Australia, California, New Zealand and South Africa do not have deep rooted traditional cuisines of their own — instead they beg, borrow and steal from every other cuisine that excites their imagination. (It’s true now of Britain too.) On the other hand, you have countries with a wonderful culinary heritage, such as China and Thailand, who have no wine industry to speak of and where there are no established food and wine matches. With no precedents to constrain you, you can have a lot of fun experimenting with different combinations. Here are some starting points you might find useful:
Middle Eastern and North African
The food of the southern Mediterranean is on the whole spicier than that of the north. Spices such as cumin and coriander are common to the cuisines of Turkey, Egypt and the Lebanon, while in Morocco they’re joined by saffron and chili. The best wine choices tend to be simple inexpensive dry whites, reds and rosés and, for fuller-flavored dishes such as tagines, more robust rustic reds — the kind you find in Morocco.
There’s a myth that wine doesn’t go with Indian food. Well I wouldn’t put my best bottle of burgundy with it, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t drink wine with curry if you enjoy it. The thing to remember is that there are many styles of Indian food, with differing degrees of spiciness.
For milder Indian dishes I generally find that simple crisp whites and rosés work best. With hotter dishes I prefer a ripe fruity white such as a Sémillon or a sweet jammy Australian or Chilean red.
This is one of the great cuisines of the world — and again very varied. Most people’s perception of Chinese food is based on the more delicate, refined flavors of Cantonese cuisine, although some dishes (such as Szechuan) are distinctly hotter and spicier.
German Kabinett Riesling and Alsace Gewurztraminer are the most frequently recommended wines because they have a useful touch of sweetness, but any off-dry white such as an Australian Colombard should do. Light, fruity reds work better than oak-aged reds.
This is not the easiest of cuisines to tackle (the Japanese traditionally drink sake), hut Japanese food is increasingly fashionable, and so it’s worth considering which wines to serve with it.
With raw fish such as sushi or sashimi, or tempura, try a bone dry white such as Muscadet or (if you’re feeling extravagant) a blanc de blancs Champagne. With spicier dishes such as teriyaki try a light fruity red such as Beaujolais.
Although Thai food is hot, the main seasoning ingredients — coriander, ginger, lime leaves and lemongrass — are surprisingly wine-friendly. I would go for any crisp citrusy New World white - New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would be perfect. You could also try an Australian or New Zealand Rieslin. Satay is tricky — try an Australian Chardonnay.
Central and southwest American Chillis are the common factor here. I reckon you can’t beat big sweet jammy reds such as Zinfandel or Chilean and Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, though if the dish is really hot watch out for flavor overload. (A more restrained alternative is a young Rioja, which is surprisingly good.)
Sauvignon Blanc copes well with the raw tomato, lime and coriander combination you frequently find in Mexican cooking.
Increasingly modern international menus feature one or more of these cuisines. Either choose a wine that goes with a wide range of flavors or try out the recommendations outlined above.