There are several rules of thumb when it comes to pairing foods with wine, and one that you will often hear is that Riesling wines are a sure-fire ringer with spiced foods, and you know what, it's true.
Riesling actually comes in a few styles, but there are some essential traits in its structure that you can rely on:
Acidity - High
Alcohol - Medium 11.5% to 13%
Sugar - Dry to Off-Dry
Body - Light
Fruit - Lemon, green apple, grapefruit, pear, peach, apricot
Non-fruit - Honey, mineral
With this tested profile, Riesling works with spiced foods for a few reasons, such as the below:
The fruit on the palate provides a ripe feel that works well with spice.
Many Rieslings are considered off-dry, but the high acidity gives the wine such seamless balance that you get a wonderful food marriage; the residual sugar for spice and the acidity to match, marry or compliment food texture.
The high acidity works as a wonderful palate cleanser.
Riesling Wine and Caribbean Food Pairings
Riesling's makeup lands it in a fortunate position to be flexible in food pairings. That high acidity works as a palate cleanser and texture balancer but coupled with that fruit expression and sweetness on the palate, this wine holds a position as a consistent player at my table.
Jerk chicken, pork, or shrimp all work well with this grape. In addition to the acidity and residual sugars we've discussed above, some non-fruit elements lay in the background that are herbed and nicely compliment the spices used in Jerk seasoning. You'll also find the honey noted in this wine to work well with allspice, nutmeg, and sometimes the cinnamon found in Jerk.
Escovitch and other Fried Fish
The acidity in Riesling makes for a wonderful partner to fried foods, as it lightens the weight of anything fried and breaks down any fat on the palate. The residual sugar also does not hurt when thinking about the Scotch Bonnet Pepper used in the Escovitch Fish dish.
Riesling is a winner with Pholourie for, by now you've guessed it, that acidity for texture and the ripeness on the palate for the accompanying sour.
Quick Tips to Know What Riesling to Buy
Riesling originated in Germany but now can be found around the world. Most Rieslings that we get in our market will be dry to off-dry and will come with healthy acidity, so you won't need to worry about the wines coming off as too sweet for yourself or your guests.
If you are in doubt about the sweetness of the wine, in Germany, the wines will come with secondary descriptors, called Prädikat, that let you know how sweet it is. Still, more basically and universally, the alcohol percentage on the bottle is a great indicator. Anything 11% ABV or less will be, at minimum, off-dry and sweeter.
Riesling's most significant go-to regions are Germany (the birthplace) and Alsace, France. Though the previous are the areas I can safely recommend for consistency, I will say that I have had stunning Rieslings from Ontario, northwest Italy, and Central Otago in New Zealand. As with everything, it is well worth it to try one grape from many regions; the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. Understanding the different expressions of a grape, depending on climate and winemaking, makes for an interesting and devourable study!
I remain a Riesling fan and a loyal one, given not only its delicious nature but also its versatility in food pairing!