Ginger is an extrovert, making pairing both challenging and rewarding. Few flavors as brash as ginger also have its affability. Equally at home in savory, sweet and pickled dishes, both fresh and dried ginger have a chameleonic ability to take center stage without overshadowing the other players in the dish.
It’s a perfect ingredient for fall, offering both warmth and brightness as the weather turns cold and dark. There’s a Chinese proverb, “薑還是老的辣”—older ginger is spicier, i.e. with age comes wisdom which you should keep in mind when shopping, as the larger, older roots have stronger and better flavor.
Ginger contains gingerol, a chemical that stimulates the tongue much in the way chilis do. Use the same wisdom as pairing with spicy food—low tannins and a touch of sweetness—with Vouvray labeled Tendre or Sec Tendre, which offers ginger-friendly notes of quince and stone fruit.
Even in savory dishes, ginger has a concentrated flavor that both hints at, and blends well with, sugar and spice and everything nice. Pair with a sweet wine with noble rot, such as Sauternes or Barsac—which often have hints of ginger along with bright and balancing acidity.
Ginger’s sharpness recalls lemons and limes, so pairing with especially tart wines can be overwhelming. Instead, try Gewürztraminer, which has powerful citrus, floral and even ginger notes that can seem sweet even when vinified dry.
Ginger can make you pucker with its piquant punch, almost like a radish or raw turnip. Contrast this earthy power with a juicy, low-tannin red wine like Valpolicella. It’s a fun and fruity—but still serious—wine that usually boasts background notes of Christmas spices.
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
Published: September 6, 2022