Tasting: Stella Rosa’s Spicy Wines

Drink Features spicy wine
Tasting: Stella Rosa’s Spicy Wines

A few years ago, an unlikely wine pairing went viral: rosé and fresh jalapeños. No, I don’t mean drinking a glass of rosé and eating a raw jalapeño on the side. People were actually putting jalapeño slices in their glasses of wine, with some comparing the flavor combination to a spicy margarita. I tried it and genuinely enjoyed it, and although it’s not ideal for those nicer, more expensive bottles of rosé on your wine rack, it actually gave my cheap Tuesday night bottle the kick of concentrated flavor it needed.

Of course, there were plenty of wine professionals that scoffed at the combo, and fair enough—it’s definitely not traditional. But, if you ask me, the wine industry’s preoccupation with tradition is part of why it’s seeing a slump in sales. And while some people are willing to spend major money to source the finest bottles of Burgundy and Champagne, the vast majority of wine drinkers are looking for something more approachable, more affordable and, frankly, more fun… and maybe even something with a bit of heat. Enter Stella Rosa’s line of spicy wines.

This large brand is known for its semi-sweet and semi-sparkling wines, which often tend to be more accessible for beginner wine drinkers. Some of their wines skew toward the lower-ABV end of the spectrum, which is a category that’s gaining popularity as more consumers attempt to reduce their alcohol consumption. But now, Stella Rosa is embracing another trend: spicy beverages. The brand’s line of spicy wines, which includes flavor combinations of chili with lime, pineapple and mango, are easy to drink and capitalize on this growing trend in the beverage industry. And although they may not be the most complicated or richly textured wines you’ve ever tasted, it’s undeniable that the flavor combos really work, whether you’re drinking these wines on their own or adding them to the spicy cocktail recipe of your choice.

I’ve tasted through Stella Rosa’s lineup of spicy wines, and without further ado, I’m here to report my delicious findings.

Lime & Chili

The lightest and most refreshing of the three flavors in the lineup, the Lime & Chili flavor tastes like summer. I was fearing that it would veer too far into spicy margarita territory, but that definitely wasn’t the case—it actually tastes like wine, albeit with an acidity that’s a bit sharper and pronounced than what you might expect of a traditional sweet wine (which, despite their sweetness, tend to contain a lot of acidity anyway). The hint of chili is palpable but not overwhelming, so even those who tend not to prefer spicy flavor profiles can still get behind this wine. If you’re looking for an ingredient to add a twist to a classic spicy lime margarita, this should be your go-to bottle.

Pineapple & Chili

As soon as I twisted the cap off of the Pineapple & Chili bottle, I could immediately smell the aroma of pineapple. That sweet, tropical-smelling fruit note is definitely the star of the show here, perhaps overpowering the flavor of the chili. The spice, though, is still perceptible, although it’s less noticeable than it is in the Lime & Chili bottle. On its own, the flavor of the pineapple is a bit much, but pairing this wine with rich, fatty pork tacos or a spicy seafood salad might help tame that sweetness. If I was going to use this wine in a cocktail, I’d add it to something with a lot of acidity.

Mango & Chili

The Mango & Chili flavor is intense at first, with the mango notes almost completely obscuring the flavor of the grape juice itself, but this one also had the strongest chili flavor out of the three flavors I tried, which balanced out the sweetness from the mango flavor nicely. Honestly, it doesn’t really taste like wine, per se, but the flavor is good—great, even, if you’re okay with your wine tasting a bit like mango juice. The hint of chili sent a tickle to the back of my throat while the flavor of the mango filled my palate with a tropical lusciousness that’s hard not to enjoy. Both the chili and the mango notes are strong in this wine, so I think it’s best used as an ingredient for cocktails, but it’s also a solid option on its own for true spice (and sweet) lovers.

Are Stella Rosa’s spicy wines for everyone? Maybe not. But for those looking for a lower-ABV wine option (or just another ingredient to add to their bar carts) who love the combination of spicy and sweet flavors, it’s hard to deny the appeal of these wines. I think this line of beverages is fun, delicious and ideal for spice-loving summer sippers.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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