What’s The Wine, So Your Curry Can Shine?

Wine Glass and WineIndian 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

Tandoori ChickenChicken 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).
Sula Chenin Blanc 2004 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

Egg BiryaniLamb 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.
Pinot Noir Coasters 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!

6 thoughts on “What’s The Wine, So Your Curry Can Shine?

  1. Thank you so much for your complete descriptions and suggestions — will be trying a beaujolais with Tandoori Chicken!

  2. I founded Wine for Spice to address this very question.

    see http://wineforspice.com

    My wines can be summed up in one word – REFRESHING – a refreshing alternative to a gas injected lager. And being cool refreshingly sparkling wines they are refreshing at curry-time, summer-time and anytime

    First, the wines are all naturally semi-sparkling. Carbon Dioxide enhances taste and adds natural acidity when dissolved thereby adds to the mouth watering feel. But a fully sparkling wine or beer has too much gas and lager has gas injected producing large bubbles leading to bloating with food.

    Second, the wines should be cool to ice-bucket cold – So thirst quenching like a cold lager.

    Third, a refreshing wine also should have a good level of mouth-watering acidity. Think lemon juice – the classic Indian “Nimboo Pani”.

    Fourth, avoid mouth-drying tannin. Furthermore, tannin is exaggerated at low temperatures.

    Fifth, the wines should be free from oak, which clashes with spices such as cumin, coriander and ginger giving a bitter, harsh after-taste.

    Sixth, moderate alcohol; a good degree of alcohol is required to provide body but excess alcohol over 12.5% can add to the burning sensation of chillies. Take a sip of vodka before and after biting into a chilli to feel this. Furthermore, the wines are so moreish that you will find yourself drinking quite a bit. Wine for Spice™’s range has an alcoholic strength of 11.5% to 12.5% by volume.

    And finally, Seventh, aromatics, fruitiness and sweetness should rise in relation to the chilli heat of the accompanying dish. This is based on my Goan Grandmother’s trick of adding some sugar to an over hot curry. Suck on a sweet before and after biting into a chilli to feel this.

  3. Hi,
    This article about sula vineyards and indian wine is very interesting.
    If you want to discover others great informations about sula vineyards and indians wines, you can
    fell free to visit the following website http://www.indians-wines.com/
    I will take time now to read others post on this great blog 😉
    Remember dont drink too much wine if you dont want authorities delete it from market 🙂

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