“Traditional wine pairings don’t apply when it comes to Indian food.”
Alpana Singh, American Master Sommelier and restaurateur in Chicago
Choosing an appropriate beverage with a meal as intricate and flavourful as Indian cuisine is no small feat. So it’s easy to understand why many people do not immediately consider wine when they think of this type of food – the idea of trying to complement such complexity seems impossible.
An assortment of colorful curries, chutneys, and sauces make Indian cuisine a complex culinary delight. To balance the plethora of intense flavors in this type of cooking necessitates a simple wine to bring harmony to the overall savoring experience.
Tips On Pairing Wine With Indian Cuisine
Deciding which wine to pair with Indian cuisine requires extra thought. Unfortunately, regular wine pairing conventions don’t apply here. You must completely disregard them to achieve an ideal match.
How Spicy is the Dish?
To create the most flavorful Indian dishes, it is essential to select spices that will bring out all of their succulent and vibrant flavors. Many Indian dishes have a complex flavor profile that is heavily spiced. For an intensely flavored Indian dish, a great pairing depends mainly on the number of spices used.
For lovers of spicy dishes such as chicken vindaloo, it is imperative to pay attention to the alcohol content in your wine. Wines with a higher alcohol content will amplify the spices already working away at your meal – making it too hot for comfort! Therefore, it’s best to opt for wines with lower ABV levels.
Enjoy the depth of flavors from your spicy Indian dishes to their fullest by pairing them with a light-bodied red such as Gamay, Riesling, or Pinot Noir/Pinot Gris. This balance between heat and those other ingredients in play will tantalize your taste buds.
For more subtle yet still flavorful dishes, uncork a Chardonnay or Bordeaux Blanc bottle for an indulgent experience.
Pay Attention to Sauces and Spices
The distinct flavor of Indian cuisine is created with spices like cinnamon, peppercorn, cumin, coriander, mace, and cardamom. The wine selection process changes depending on which spices are used and at what level.
For instance, consider the savory and spicy flavors of traditional Sambar Rice. The rice, lentils, and sambar sauce mixture consists of okra, carrots, shallots, tamarind, and sambar powder. This irresistible combination begs for a bolder wine pairing, such as Shiraz, to bring out its flavor truly.
Dal-chawal is a delectable lentil and rice combination. It incorporates cooked lentils, mustard seeds, cumin, garlic cloves, turmeric powder, and cilantro. If you’re looking for the perfect accompaniment to dishes like dal-chawal, a Chenin Blanc should be your go-to. Its zippy acidity and light flavors complement the buttery texture of these dishes.
Best Red Wine with Indian Food
Pinot Noir is a refined and robust red wine, perfect for enhancing the flavor of Indian delicacies like tandoori or chicken tikka masala. Boasting high levels of tannins to break down fatty proteins in these dishes, this medium-bodied vintage offers an exquisite yet dry fruitiness that will elevate any meal.
Satisfy your taste buds and pair a zesty meat curry with the delicate yet complex flavors of Shiraz – an exquisite blend of two rare French grapes, Dureza, and Mondeuse Blanche.
Enjoy a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, a full-bodied red wine that tops the list for its robust flavor. Experience its lush and thick taste as it coats most of your mouth before lingering longer than other varietals – make it perfect with masala chickpea!
So as you can see, red wine does pair up nicely with Indian food, but you need to choose a suitable variety to get the most out of your meal.
Wine Pairing for a Few Indian Dishes
For those who love fiery food, Vindaloo dishes are the ultimate option in Indian gastronomy. These curries boast a sauce made of curry paste, coconut milk, vinegar, chilis, and other flavorsome ingredients such as garlic, onions, and spice blends like garam masala or turmeric combined with cayenne pepper and paprika.
They’re typically paired with pork or lamb but can be served alongside chicken pieces, tofu chunks, or veggies for an equally delicious outcome!
Vindaloo sauce’s zesty, spicy flavor perfectly complements a dry or slightly fruity rosé. Gamay and Pinot Noir are excellent choices for red wine lovers—both light-bodied and full of fresh fruitiness.
Saag paneer is an iconic Indian vegetarian dish of spinach and other leafy greens that have been professionally ground into a paste and perfectly spiced. To complete this savory experience, fried paneer (traditional Indian cheese) is added as the finishing touch.
To cut through the richness of the most popular vegetarian Indian dishes, opt for a Sauvignon Blanc with more acidity. Depending on how ripe the grape used to make this wine is, it can range from having zesty lime notes to flowery peach flavors.
The delectable murgh makhani is an Indian food specialty that has delighted palates for centuries. With a creamy curry crafted with tantalizingly spiced tomatoes, rich butter sauce, and indulgent coconut milk or cream, it’s no wonder this dish continues to be one of the most popular in the world! The luscious texture of creamy Indian dishes tames the aromatic spiciness. Its fresh tomato acidity pairs beautifully with a dry red wine such as Merlot for an extra dose of dark fruit.
Merlot is a wine with deep and smooth flavors that can bring depth and harmony to the overall savoring experience. However, if you’re looking for something a little lighter, opt for a Beaujolais Nouveau or a light-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon instead.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Masala is an Indian delicacy characterized by tender, yogurt-infused chicken pieces and a velvety tomato sauce – an unforgettable combination of flavors! To bring out the warmth of this dish, reach for wines with robust acidity like Barbera, Lambrusco, or Zinfandel that offer just the right amount of sweetness but less alcohol content.
If your Chicken Tikka Masala lacks zest, pair it with a Zinfandel or Syrah – these bolder red wines will elevate the taste to new heights. The jammy flavors and tannins of these wines will help to cut through the heat and bring out more of the subtle spices.
There are some great Indian recipes out there. In this link, you will find the best recipes for Dahi Vada, Dahi Bhalla, Chana Paneer, and more in case you are planning for the perfect Indian meal.
Quick last-minute choices for the perfect Indian food accompaniment
If you’re unsure what kind of wine to pair with Indian food, these wines are guaranteed to be a safe bet. Enjoy their matchless flavor combinations that enhance the taste of your favorite dishes for an unforgettable experience!
Riesling (sweet or dry)
Riesling is an aromatic grape variety that exhibits flowery, almost perfumed aromas and high acidity and makes for a perfect pairing with Indian cuisine. Moreover, these wines are usually made from single varietals alone – making them incredibly pure in flavor!
Grüner Veltliner is an exquisite white wine grape variety that offers palate-refreshing primary notes of lemon, lime, grapefruit, and nectarine. The delightful flavor profile of this delicious vino can perfectly complement an ideal companion to spicy with a kick!
To sum up, the kind of wine for Indian food differs depending on your meal. Start with evaluating whether your dish is creamy, meat curries, or tikka masala. Considering how fiery it will be, decide which type and shade of wine to pair with your cuisine.
To have the perfect accompaniment for Indian food, try serious Indian restaurants, where experts in Indian meals can give you excellent suggestions for pairing Indian food. Once you learn the difference between white and sparkling wines, fruit-forward wines, dry wines, and red wines, you can choose the best wine to pair with Indian food at home.