Indian Food has such complex flavors and tastes, that pairing a good wine can be quite a challenge. There is the easy way. You can skip the wine, and have a beer instead. Or finish your wine, cleanse your palate, have an appetizer, and then sit down for dinner. This way you will do justice to both the wine, and the food.
Here in California we are blessed with a broad selection of exquisite, and yet reasonably priced wines. We also have a wine revolution underway in India. It is now possible to pair a wide range of wines with Indian food.When selecting a wine, the mantra goes, “Simple wine with complex food, and complex wine with simple food”. Spicy food goes well with wine that is less tannic. Tannins come from the stalks and skins of the grapes, and give the wine a tinge of bitterness.
Since all our palates are varied, here are some general guidelines for choosing wines with your favorite Indian food:
Pairing White Wines
White wines are low on tannins, and much more dry. A dry wine does not stay on the palate for very long. White wines are therefore easier to pair with spicy foods.
Food Pairing with White Wines
Chicken Tikka Masala (Chenin Blanc)
Fish Curry (Sauvignon Blanc)
Hot spicy tamarind curry sauce (Gewurztraminer).
Tandoori Fish/Chicken (Chenin Blanc)
Butter Chicken (Chardonnay)
Vegetable Fritters and Samosas (Sauvignon Blanc)
Coconut based Sauce (Sparkling Wine)
Dosas (Indian Crepes) (Riesling)
Saag Paneer (Riesling)
Gulab Jamun (Sweet Muscat)
About the White Wine Varietals
1. Gewürztraminer: This wine is from the Alsace region of France (borders Germany). This is dry, sweet wine, which compliments the spiciness and rich complex flavors of Indian and Thai cuisine.
2. Sauvignon Blanc: This wine is also known as Fume Blanc and is a dry white wine. It should have a fruity (more like citrus and melons), herb flavors (cilantro, thyme) examples are Sula Vineyards, Kendall Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve, Chateau St. Jean, Chateau Souverain and Cloudy Bay (NZ).
3. Chenin Blanc: This wine is also known as Pinot Blanco (S.American), is originally from the Loire Valley in France. It is a dry, grassy crisp wine. Sula Vineyards from Nasik, India produces a good wine. French wines from Anjou or Savennieres are good too.
4. Chardonnay: The most popular wine in the world. Since it is aged in oak barrels, this wine has a sweet vanilla flavor and its fermentation produces a rich buttery taste unlike the Sauvignon Blanc that has a little acidic taste to it. Therefore it goes well with cream sauces. A good Chardonnay from Chile or Australia, Lightly aged, Chilled California Chardonnay always works.
Choosing Red Wines
We have to be very careful with red wines because they can completely clash with the food, and make it hard on the palate. Here are some general guidelines on red wines:
· Avoid wines with high tannins (gives a bitter after taste)
· Choose fruity reds like Merlots, Pinot Noirs (low on tannins)
· Avoid full- bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.
Food Pairing with Red Wines
Lamb Curry (Shiraz)
Tandoori Chicken (Beaujolais)
Spicy Lamb Vindaloo (Merlot and Shiraz)
Chicken Xaccuti (Pinot Noir)
Spicy Shish Kebabs (Pinot Noir)
Egg Curry (White Zinfandel)
Mutton Biryani (Pinot Noir)
About the Red Wine Varietals
1. Shiraz: This grape grows in clusters and the wine is quite peppery, with chocolate flavors and is the native of the Rhone valley in France. Foppiano Estate and Central Coast wines are very good. The Australian Shiraz and Spanish wines are worth mentioning.
2. Pinot Noir: From the region of Burgundy, this grape is the hardest to grow and the most difficult wine to ferment. That explains the price of this wine. This has a peppermint, berry and tomato flavor therefore one has to be careful in choosing a good pinot to accentuate Indian food. The wine from Carneros Valley and some from New Zealand are good.
3. Champagne Rose: This Sparkling pink wine is made by adding red pinot juice to white wine. It is a versatile wine and can be quite expensive but absolutely the best with Indian food.
4. Zinfandel: An exclusive California grape this wine is fruity with citrus and vanilla. Frog’s Leap Zinfandel, comes to mind.
5. Merlot: This grape is widely planted in the Bordeaux region of France. It has a much lower acidity and astringency than cabernet, with a wide a range of herbal, fruity (currant, plum, cherry), spice (coves and bay leaf) flavor to it. Columbia Crest Merlot goes fabulously well with spicy lamb.
6. Gamay: This grape produces the Beaujolais wine. It has a fruity (banana), light wine. Beaujolais Nouveau is the first set to come out after the harvest and should be consumed immediately. Look for a French wine with low alcohol (less than 12%)
Here are some other red wines that go well with Indian food: Saint Emilion (Bordeaux), Riojas, Cotes du Rhone, Costieres de Nimes and Corbieres Wines of Southern France, Osborne Solaz (Spanish Wine), Grenache, Beaujolais, Barbera, Viognier.
Wine Piyo! Mast Khao! Bon Appetit!