Keep your fancy Bordeaux and expensive Cabs away from Thai food because the predominant flavours of Thai food – sweet, sour, hot and salty – are all horrible for big, tannic wines. Spice, chilli heat and acidity will make tannic wine taste bitter, ruining the experience of both the food and the wine. To complement the elements in Thai food, the accompanying wine must have a good level of acidity to support the acid in the food and a little residual sugar to offset the dish’s spiciness. Champagne contains good levels of acidity and a small amount of sugar, making it a great match with Thai food that usually has a strong acidic element, especially its salads or sour curries which are often dominated by lime juice or tamarind. The sweetness in champagne can tame the heat and quench the fire of spicy dishes like red or green curry, allowing one to return for another delicious bite.
Champagne also works well with fried Thai food because the bubbles can cut through the grease and refresh the palate. Slightly off-dry champagne even works well with creamy curry as long as it is not overly spicy. In addition, the acidity in champagnes is good with salty food, so champagnes can pair quite well with salty Thai dishes too.
Consider the sauce
The thing to keep in mind is the sauce. With a cuisine as flavourful as Thai, the old adage “white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat” does not carry much weight anymore. Consider the main ingredients in the sauces – coconut milk, spicy red or green chillies, lemongrass, garlic and tamarind – when choosing a wine.
To stand up to the kaleidoscopic nuances of Thai cuisine, a bottle of Champagne Devaux can spring forth some surprises! Jim Thompson: A Thai Restaurant and Wine Bar at Dempsey Hill is one of the select establishments in Singapore that carries this champagne. Its bua thod (prawn with curried battered bitter leaves served with sweet chilli sauce) was a marvellous match with a glass of Devaux Grande Réserve NV. The floral perfumes with hints of stone fruits, such as peach, yellow plum and apricot, jumped out of the glass, blending well with the notes from this dish.
Holding up well to the acidity
Made from 70% Pinot Noir from Côte des Bar and 30% Chardonnay from Côte des Bar, Côte des Blancs and Vitry, the luscious Grande Réserve also had an acidity that measured up to the chilli lime dressing in the sang wa goong (prawn salad with assorted Thai herbs and vegetables served on fresh bitter leaves) as well as in the yam ma-moung (green mango salad with dried shrimp, shallots, cashew nuts and fresh prawn).
The spicy tamarind sauce used in its beef roll skewer (neau yang gap nam jeem jeaw) also held up well to the acidity of the wine which had an intense and complex palate yet still delicate for these Thai appetisers. A yellow plum finish brought a satisfying end to the enjoyment.
Not limited to appetisers
However, do not just limit the champagne to appetisers because it can carry its weight through the main of gaeng khew wan goong (green curry with Thai eggplant, sweet basil leaves and prawns) with remarkable finesse as well. Spicy, yet with a slight touch of sweetness, the green curry sauce called for a wine to tame the heat. The robust Devaux Blanc de Noirs NV made from 100% Pinot Noir from Côte des Bar rose to the occasion – its subtle sweetness quenched the fire of the chillies while the bubbles cleansed and refreshed the palate. The curry, made more aromatic with the inclusion of basil, paired well with the Blanc de Noirs with its intense and complex nose of plum, roasted apple and tobacco. The round and concentrated wine tasted of dried fruits with aniseed and mentholed nuances.
In general, champagnes can cut the richness of coconut milk-based Thai curries and refresh the palate following a highly seasoned dish.
What about desserts?
It was also a smooth affair matching this wine with the dessert of khao niow ma moung (yellow mango with sticky rice and sweet, rich coconut milk). As the wine had undergone malolactic fermentation, it has just the right acidity to provide a round finish to mesh beautifully with the creaminess of the coconut milk. Although the fragrant mango added an edge of sweetness, it was still not too sweet as to warrant a demi sec champagne.
All in all, the bubbles, acidity and lightness of the champagnes complement and refresh the palate with richer or spicy dishes yet remain delicate for the light dishes.