For this first low-brow pairing, we rounded up some of our favorite hot sauces that we tested to withstand real heat.
We're not the first to talk about natural wine and spicy food. Night + Market, the LA-based Thai restaurant slash natural wine bar, has been perfecting its spice and chilled light red combinations for years. Our last guide featured Kichin, a Korean restaurant with tons of spicy and unexpected wine combos. Action Bronson even brought a skin contact Pét-Nat from Celler la Salada to his "Hot Ones" interview in 2016.
Much like the commercial side of the wine industry, many hot sauces are mass-produced and industrialized. However, there’s a growing movement of small batch, responsibly farmed, anti-preservative hot sauce makers. For this first low-brow pairing, we rounded up some of our favorite hot sauces that embody these principles. We sourced them all from the Heatonist in Brooklyn and paired them with wines that we tested to withstand real heat.
This typically means it's going to be easier to drink and will allow you to drink more of it when you're feeling the heat.
Acidity in wine makes your mouth water and refreshes your palate. On the other hand, tannins (derived from grape skins, seeds, and stems) have a drying effect that you'll want to avoid.
This one might be obvious but when your mouth is on fire, you're going to want a cold drink.
This is a light, bright wine paired with punchy, low viscosity hot sauce. Adoboloco's Kolohe Kid (Kolohe is Hawaiian for mischievous) has medium heat and very few ingredients: apple cider vinegar, chili pepper, sea salt, garlic. Hot sauces with limited ingredients tend to be more versatile: we like to pour this generously on eggs, burritos, fish, salad–literally anything. The Partida Creus 'Vinel-lo Blanco Ancestral' is a Catalonian sparkling blend of white grape varieties with crisp, zesty, mineral elements. Together, they bring out the best in each other. The bubbles from the Partida Creus are energetic and can help intensify the heat for an extra kick. They add more character to whatever you're eating without being overpowering, and you'll never get sick of them.
This wine and sauce are both made in New York, have honey as an ingredient, and are strikingly similar in color. This sauce from Bushwick Sauce Company begins with a little sweetness and finishes with scorpion pepper-level heat. The Wild Arc Piquette from the Hudson Valley is effervescent and made from pomace (crushed grapes), soaked in water for a short amount of time, and re-fermented with a bit of local wildflower honey. It's very low alcohol – only 7% – so drink as much as you need to cool off. Together, they're fizzy and slightly sour. The piquette can taste like wild raspberries, while the sauce has a sweet yet vegetal flavor.
Sichuan Peppers have a different kind of spice. They're tingly and numbing – perfect with any type of Asian food or for spicing up a meal of eggs and rice. The Fly by Jing Szechuan Chili Crisp is moderately hot with an addictively crunchy texture. This flavor profile requires a wine with enough personality and acidity to hold its own. The Altaber Pinot Noir from Burgundy has a cranberry, mineral palate that makes it easy to drink, while still being complex. They're both elegant takes on staples of French and Szechuan cuisine.
The Clark + Hopkins Assam is a medium-heat sauce with lingering tamarind and ginger flavor. Made with ghost pepper (AKA bhut jolokia), it has heavy North Indian influence but could be sprinkled over Ethiopian and Thai dishes or added to any curry recipe. Its building heat requires a wine with an equally long finish. The Alsatian Rietsch 'Tout Blanc' is ripe and powerful enough to cut through most foods. This bright white wine not only distracts from the spiciness, but cuts through the creamy consistency of the sauce.