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Forget beer, choose right wine for spicy hot pot (3)

By John H. Isacs (Shanghai Daily)

19:37, January 04, 2013

(File photo)

Wine solutions

The spiciness of ma la hot pots varies and therefore so do the ideal wine solutions. At many restaurants, you have an option to pick the spiciness of your hot pot, from "small" hot to "large" hot. Therefore, I'll choose the best wines for moderately spicy hot pots and very spicy hot pots.

When I enjoy a moderately spicy ma la hot pot, I often serve a big Ausi Shiraz from Barossa or an Amarone wine from Veneto. Both red wines have super ripe dark fruit flavors with a touch of sweetness and soft tannins. These attributes are perfect for a moderately spicy ma la hot pot as the combination of fruit and sweetness assuages the sensations of heat and numbness while the supple tannins of the wines help cleanse your palate of any greasiness.

As both wines are somewhat high in alcohol, about 14 to 16.5 percent, it is important to chill the wines before serving. With ma la hot pot, I suggest serving the wines at about 14-15 degrees Celsius.

The lower temperature will further comfort your palate. Two wines I've had great success in pairing with moderately spicy ma la hot pots are the Italian Masi Costasera Amarone Classico DOC and Ausi Torbrech Woodcutter's Shiraz.

Very spicy ma la hot pots border on the realm of extreme eating and require personal fortitude and in my opinion, a fortified wine. I suggest a semi-sweet to sweet Sherry or sweet port.

These fortified wines feature a flavor intensity and bold character that's not overwhelmed by very spicy foods and they have the requisite sweetness to counteract the heat and numbness of a very spicy ma la hot pot.

It's essential to serve these fortified wines well-chilled, at about 10-12 degrees Celsius, so the sensations of alcohol are mitigated. Some ideal partners with the most fiery and numbing ma la hot pots are the semi-sweet Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium Sherry or the sweet Lustau East India Solera Sherry. If you're a Port lover, then I suggest a straight forward fruity Ruby Port from Dow's, Taylor or Grahams.

As a rather sad footnote to this story, unfortunately I have yet to find an enjoyable and authentic ma la experience in Shanghai. If you know of one, please let me know.

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