You might not think of pairing wine with Indian food and opt for a beer or a soft drink instead. However, we are here to prove that you can serve wine with curry and other Indian dishes and to tell you which are the best wines to choose with different dishes.
We guarantee you that it will open a whole new dining experience for you.
Is Wine and Indian Food a Good Pairing?
Indian dishes have diverse flavors although they are all based on herbs and spices. You will find that some Indian food is just mildly spiced while others can blow the roof of your mouth off.
Because of this, you will need different wines for the different heats and flavors.
Indian food can be vegetarian or vegan, can include seafood, or be made with meat. Just as you generally serve a dish such as a steak with red wine and seafood with white wine, the same criteria applies to Indian dishes.
You don’t want to drink a glass of full-bodied red wine with a mild fish curry.
Wine is also a good palate cleanser whatever food you eat. This is especially true for Indian food which is full of spices. Having a sip of wine after each mouthful allows you to taste the flavors of the curry, not just the heat.
In addition, sweeter wines provide balance for the heat of Indian cuisine.
The 6 Best Wines to Pair with Indian Cuisine
It can be challenging to find the perfect wine to complement Indian cuisine because of the varied spices used in different dishes. However, we have chosen six wines that pair well with Indian food and have given examples of the best dishes to choose for each wine.
1 – Riesling
Riesling can either be off-dry or slightly sweet. Sweeter Rieslings have strong tastes of apricot and peach, while dry Rieslings have tastes of apple and grapefruit.
Rieslings with an off-dry finish work well with chili-laden dishes in creamy sauces. Try a glass of Riesling with palak paneer which is a dish consisting of cubes of Indian cottage cheese in a creamy spinach sauce.
Sweeter Rieslings can help to reduce the heat in a curry so try it with a vegetable madras which is very spicy.
White wines are generally low in tannins and Riesling is no exception. Because of this, serve it with seafood or vegetable dishes such as Chana Masala which is a dish of chickpeas in an onion and tomato gravy.
We don’t recommend that you serve Riesling with meat dishes as there aren’t enough tannins in the wine to break down the fat in the meat.
Riesling is also a good choice to serve with Indian desserts such as Gulam Jamun or the cashew slice, Kaiju Katli.
2 – Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is a medium-bodied red wine with a dry, but fruity flavor of cherries and raspberries as well as mushrooms and the forest floor.
It is high in silky tannins so it goes well with meat and poultry dishes as it will break down the fats in the meat, enabling you to taste the meat and not just the spice.
Try the wine with tandoori chicken or chicken tikka masala. It also goes well with beef and lamb dishes whether they are mild or hot.
Pinot Noir has a bold and robust flavor which helps to reset the palate every time you take a sip of wine.
3 – Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best white wines to pair with Indian cuisine. It provides a clean taste to many Indian dishes. Sauvignon Blanc has hints of lime, grapefruit, passionfruit, white peach, and bell pepper all of which complement the earthy flavors of the food.
The light acidity and citrus flavors are a great accompaniment to such herbs and spices as turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garam masala.
Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with vegetable dishes such as malai kofta which are fried potato and paneer balls in a rich and creamy mild gravy of sweet onions and tomatoes, and the Indian cheese dish, palak paneer.
The crispness of the wine complements the creaminess of these dishes.
Because the wine has citrus flavors, it goes well with seafood dishes. The hints of lime and grapefruit can lessen the fishiness of the dish which can be overpowering.
These types of dishes are rarely highly spiced as this would destroy the flavor of the fish so you need a prominent flavor in your wine.
As with most white wines, Sauvignon Blanc is low in tannins so it is best not to serve it with a meat-based curry. You could get away with a turkey curry as this meat is low in fat.
Something to think about when using up your leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or Christmas.
4 – Shiraz
Shiraz is a medium to full-bodied red wine with robust and bold flavors and high tannins. It has notes of black fruits such as plum and blackberry as well as pepper and spice.
Because Shiraz is such a bold wine, it goes best with Indian dishes that have fewer herbs and spices such as matar kachori which are deep-fried pastries with green pea stuffing, and aloo matar tikki which are potato patties.
Drinking this wine with a dish with fewer flavors allows you to enjoy the richness of the wine.
5 – Gewurztraminer
Gewurztraminer is another white wine that pairs perfectly with spicy Indian dishes. It is an aromatic wine that has hints of tropical fruits such as lychee and pineapple, as well as apricot. The fruitiness and sweet flavors are a match made in heaven with spicier dishes.
Pair it with dishes containing turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and lots of chilis. Dishes such as vegetable jalfrezi which is spicy, and tandoori chicken are excellent choices as is biryani.
6 – Champagne
Perhaps you’ve never thought of pairing Champagne with Indian cuisine, but, yes, you can eat it with either Champagne or other sparkling wines.
Its smooth texture and bubbles complement dishes with fewer spices so think of mild vegetable or seafood curries. Because it doesn’t have many tannins, it’s best not to drink it with meat dishes.
At a pinch, you could get away with turkey as it is lean.
The earthiness of potatoes complements the fruitiness of the Champagne. There are many Indian potato dishes to choose from such as Bombay potatoes and potato samosas.
How Do You Know Which Wine to Pair with Indian Cuisine?
It can be difficult to decide which wine to pair with which Indian dish. Indian food has such a variety of flavors and levels of heat that you can’t just say that only one wine pairs with all.
Hopefully, our suggestions have helped but we would also like to give you a few extra pointers. These should also help you to decide which wine to choose.
The Acidity of the Wine
Acidity in wine helps to cut through the richness of food which is why it complements the bold flavors of Indian dishes. You will find that white wines tend to be more acidic than red, especially sweeter ones.
White wines are excellent paired with Indian dishes served in a creamy sauce but, because they are low in tannins, they don’t pair so well with meat.
The Tannins in the Wine
Red wine has the highest tannins in comparison to white wines so pairs well with chicken, lamb, and beef curries. They are best served with food that has a high-fat content like meat.
The tannins break down the fat in the food, enhancing its flavors. However, a lot of Indian food is vegetarian so with these dishes, you can pair white and sparkling wines as these have the fewest tannins.
What are the Benefits of Pairing Wine with Indian Dishes?
If you are in India, you probably won’t see that many natives drinking wine with their food. They often drink lassi which is a yogurt-based drink made with different fruits. Plain, banana, and mango lassi are the most popular.
They also enjoy Masala Chai tea which is a black tea made with various spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and black peppercorn mixed with milk.
However, although wine and Indian cuisine seem like unlikely partners, they can open a new world of flavors and elevate your dining experience to a new level.
Is Wine a Good Palate Cleanser?
Yes, wine is an excellent palate cleanser, especially red wines. Indian food has a strong flavor because of the different herbs and spices and these can overwhelm your palate.
This can mean that you won’t taste the flavors and just have a burning sensation in your mouth.
Red wines are the best palate cleansers because they are highly acidic. Acids will clean out your taste receptors and you will then be able to taste meat, fish, or vegetables.
Although you may never have thought about drinking wine with Indian food, we suggest that you give it a try. Start off with our choices and once you find that they can be a match made in heaven, you can start experimenting.
Remember that high tannins and high acidity pair best with meats, while low tannins and low acidity go well with vegetable and fish dishes. We hope that you enjoy your journey into Indian food and wine.