How to Pick the Right Wine for Indian Foods

The biggest problem with matching wine to Indian food comes down to one word: heat. If you are addicted to searingly hot dishes such as vindaloo, you’ll just have to accept that your choice is, to put it mildly, limited. But if you prefer creamier or more medium-spiced dishes, then things get easier.

If in doubt, the safest bet for Indian food is, as with Thai, to avoid red wines for reasons of tannin and look instead at whites. Since the dominant flavour in Indian cooking tends to be the sauce rather than the meat, it’s perfectly possible to have red meat and white wine.

There are two routes to go down: either find a big, pungent white that will wrestle with the food head-on (like an Alsace Gewurztraminer). or go for something deliberately more neutral that acts as a straight man’ to the food and soothes the spiciness.

Lush Tokay Pinot Gris or Pinot Blancs (again from Alsace) are good bets here. For creamier dishes like korma or passander, Rieslings are a decent match. For fish curries, New Zealand or South African Sauvignon Blanc work OK. A personal favourite of mine is white Rhone, which can work with many dishes, though it’s not always easy to find.

If you fancy something out of left-field, big dessert wines like Tokaj work surprisingly well. They have the lushness to stand up to even pretty hot dishes and plenty of cleansing acidity to keep the mouth fresh. You won’t find many on restaurant lists, but if you’re entertaining at home they could be a real crowd-pleaser.

Tannins and heat

Tannins cause the mouth-drying sensation (you can feel it on your teeth) that you get in red wine. They’re an essential part of red wine’s make-up and, usually, an essential ingredient in providing ‘structure’ when it comes to food matching. But because they dry your mouth out they exaggerate any heat in food, so be very wary about ordering any red wine with spicy dishes. If you insist on red, make it a soft one like a Dolcetto, Beaujolais or Valpolicella.

Filed Under: Food & Cooking


About the Author: Leona Kesler is a head-chef at a very popular food restaurant in New York. Also she is a blogger who shares her experiences, tips, and other informative details about food and cooking. Her recipes are featured on many magazines.

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