Food and Wine Pairing for a Football Party: Spicy Vietnamese Wings and Chenin Blanc

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The college football season came to a rousing conclusion on Monday, but there’s huge NFL action coming up this weekend – followed, of course, by the Super Bowl on February 1. Even if you aren’t a fervent football fan, you gotta love the games as party excuses, with lots of great food and drink.

Which is where we come in, with a recipe that checks off all the boxes for winning football food:

• Plenty of heat to warm you on the coldest of winter days. checked box
• Can be eaten it with your fingers. checked box
• Goes great with protea Chenin Blanc. checked box

The recipe is for Spicy Vietnamese Fried Chicken Wings, and it comes from cookbook author Kim Laidlaw and Bay Area Bites, a website produced by KQED in San Francisco. You can find the recipe here, with really nice step-by-step instructions and photographs to guide you through the preparation process.

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Kim says this is a dish “with plenty of umami and tang,” which might raise the question: What’s umami?

Umami is the most recent addition to the pantheon of human tastes categories, joining sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Chemically, it’s L-glutamate, the broken-down form of glutamate. More basically, as the science correspondent Robert Krulwich put it, “Humans … have receptors for L-glutamate and when something is really, really yummy in a non-sweet, sour, bitter or salty way, that’s what you’re tasting.”

The name itself was given by the chemist Kikunae Ikeda, who first published on the L-glutamate phenomenon in the late 1800s. It means “delicious” in Japanese.

That it certainly is, and we love this particular recipe for how it shows off the protea Chenin Blanc’s ability to get along with spicy dishes.

Pairing with spicy foods can be a delicate balance. The protea Chenin Blanc has a fresh, crisp acidity that lifts the flavors of the dish and refreshes the palate. At the same time, the wine’s rich fruit and aromatics balance and complement the big sweet-and-spicy character of the wings.

Generally speaking, whites are going to do better with spicy foods than reds, where the astringency from tannins can clash badly with the heat. But some softer, fruitier reds can work; one trick to helping a red-and-spicy pairing go well is to chill the wine before serving it, which can tame the tannins a bit.

One final note: Of course you should feel free to adjust how much chili you hit these wings with, depending on your own palate and the paste you use. We actually used Sriracha, about 1-2 tablespoons, and found the dish to be plenty hot!


Let us know what you thought of the recipe in the comments below, or check out these other Chenin features :

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