Thai food is rich and flavourful and uses a myriad of spices in their sauces and curries. Typically one would lean towards a refreshing crisp and fruity white wine to pair with Thai Food. That is my first choice but let’s lean into the challenge of pairing red wine with Thai Food and what could work.
One of the dishes that comes to mind is a more umami driven version of Pad Thai Noodles and it is a popular street food in Thailand called “Pad See Ew”, also a Thai noodle dish but made typically with beef. This dish calls for Thai Black Soy Sauce as its flavour base and flank steak which both can offer the weight and intensity for a red wine.
Pad Thai is usually lighter and made with tofu, chicken or prawns and a sweet sauce so it pairs best with fruit forward white wine. Pad See Ew is richer, saltier, has a sour note and you can achieve char grill flavours by grilling the steak. This gives us flavours and intensities that red wine can marry with.
First up I would recommend Pinot Noir with its earthy character and lovely cherry flavours. The acidity would be a refreshing contrast to the salt and the sour note and yet will delight the palate with complimenting cherry notes and silky texture.
Tempranillo and Sangiovese could also work as they have dried cherry notes and hints of sweet cherry tobacco that would marry nicely with the grilled steak and salty base. A Gamay would work well if the beef wasn’t grilled, as it is not typically oaked and the lighter body and red berry fruit flavours will compliment the beef, greens and noodles.
Most Thai curries are very rich and made using numerous ancient spices and coconut milk. I would not suggest red wine with green or red curry due to a sweeter sauce base, but yellow curries including Massaman curry are more savoury, using potatoes & carrots, cardamon, cumin and could pair well with a Zweigelt or Blaufrankish red wine which are both produced here in the Okanagan Valley at Upper Bench and Mt Boucherie but also other wineries too.
Teroldego is intensely fruity and soft and could be a better match for Thai red and green curry dishes. Stags Hollow produces red wine from this grape so it is available in Okanagan Falls. All the curries would be complimented by a rose wine with some off dry sweetness, tang and crisp acidity to offer a cleansing and refreshing counter balance. Also, a slightly off dry rose wine would go very well with Pad Thai too.
Let’s not forget about rose sparkling wine. It would be a great match for deep fried spring rolls and deep-fried coconut shrimp. The bubbles will refresh the palate and offer a cleansing sensation from the deep-fried oiliness of the dish, but the flavours will be enhanced in both the wine and the food. If you are sitting down to enjoy a meal with a variety of Thai dishes, the red wine lover in your group will be able to find something to pair with. I do tend to recommend a Riesling or Gewurztraminer for Thai food in general but this was a fun exercise.
Whatever you choose, enjoy!
Katherine McEachnie DipWSET