The Thai New Year, or Songkran festival, isn’t a holiday I’ve previously had occasion to celebrate, but inspired by a vacation to Thailand and a love of the country’s food, my brother and his wife organized a family dinner at a favorite local New Jersey restaurant, which was marking the festivities with specials and dance performances.
Of course I brought along a few bottles of off-dry Riesling, though not wanting to hew strictly to culinary stereotypes, I also grabbed a lemongrass-scented Sauvignon Blanc and a lighter, berry-flavored Pinot Noir to experiment with as matches. Sadly, they only served to show why Riesling is such a go-to wine for Thai food, falling flat against many of the vibrant, intensely spicy flavors with which we started the meal.
Admittedly, the evening went by in a blur of dishes whose names I didn’t all catch, as my brother and his wife did the ordering and the plates were rapidly passed. The table was groaning with sampler platters and other appetizers such as steamed mussels in a curry sauce, a spicy beef salad (yum nur) and a green papaya salad (som tum) full of fiery chiles that caused tears to stream down my cheeks. After the latter, nothing would do but the softly sweet peach and nectarine flavors of the Leitz Kabinett Klosterlay 2007 (or some Thai beer) to soothe our anguished-but-happy taste buds.
Next came a series of noodle dishes, some spicy (pad kee mau), some not, a tamarind chicken and a whole roasted fish with a mango-based sort of slaw, among other items. With its lively acidity, the Leitz (which I found for $19) held up admirably throughout it all, its accents of citrus and stony minerals giving a lift to the bright herbal and sweet-and-sour fruit elements in many of the dishes. 89 points, non-blind.
As for the other wines, it was only that we didn’t choose the right dishes to pair with them. Oh well, there’s always next New Year to try again.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Riesling Kabinett Rheingau Rüdesheimer Klosterlay 2007 (90, $22).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Top Values among German Rieslings, for $25 or less.