Saturday, December 02, 2006

Pairing Wine & Indian Food

I love Indian food, especially when paired with a good glass of wine. So when Mallika wrote on Quick Indian Cooking about matching wines and other beverages with Indian food, I had to add my 2 cents. Especially after finding an interesting match for last night's takeout supper of Chicken Tikka Masala and Aloo Palak (more on that later).

One good way to go with Indian food is a crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc. Dryer styles provide a nice offset to the spicy food, cleansing the palate a bit before the next burst of flavor. A Simi 2004 Sauvignon Blanc would be a nice choice. You could also do well with a Mondavi or other basic dry Sauvignon Blanc. Note sometimes this varietal has a citrus element, which you don't want to be too strong matching with something so flavorful like Indian food.

Another option is to go for something with a bit of sweetness like a Riesling. The Ayler Kupp I posted about is a nice affordable choice.

Viognier is a lively tasting white varietal that also has potential for standing up well to Indian. This Alamos from Argentina is a good option in this department.

If you want Chardonnay with Indian, I'd recommended staying away from very oaky/buttery versions. (I once made the mistake of matching a fairly pricy bottle of chard with big oak and butter flavors with Indian--the taste of the wine was overshadowed by the food.) In other words, a "naked" or unoaked chardonany works best. Many white burgundies have potential here, such as Macon Lugny. While California Chardonnays have a reputation for being heavy on the butter, you can find some good naked chards from CA--I'M Chardonnay is a very good one I'd recommend.

Personally, I wonder why they bother putting red wine on the menu at Indian restaurants, it's just not something I would order. But if you were so inclined, something spicy like a zinfandel would be what I'd try.

Now, if you're still with me, last night's interesting blend I hadn't tried before--an Oveja Negra Chardonnay-Viogner from Chile's Central Valley. The blend is 70% chardonnay (unoaked I assume) and 30% viognier. The viognier gave it a lively taste with just a hint of sweetness, a nice touch combined with the tasty meal.


jens at cincinnati wine said...

Sula Chenin Blanc works well too!

jens at cincinnati wine

drdebs said...

Great post. Indian food and wine is a real challenge, I agree. Lots of flavors going on there. The chard-viognier sounds perfect to me. I'm going to keep my eyes out for that!

Mallika said...

This is great, thanks! You are now officially my wine expert of choice.

cookingchat said...

Thanks for the tip Jens! And Mallika, I'll trade wine tips for Chicken Tikka Masala recipes any day

Joe said...

I once read that the best wine for Indian food was beer! I kinda stick to that, but I love Alsace wines (Gewurtz, Muscat, etc.) The Hugel Gentil is a nice choice.

annabanana said...

Recently had vegetable korma with Gruner Veltliner, Hugo, Huber, Austria - excellent combination - and only $12.

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almaz said...

Well, i'm a sommelier in an Indian restaurant in Athens, Greece.
You cannot believe how many pairings of Indian food and wine we have made here.
From the first time i came here i had arguments how to pair wines with this kind of food, but later on i managed to do so. There are some rules you have to take in your mind before you try to pair Indian dishes with wines. First the level of spiciness of the food, second the texture, and finally the spices being cooked with the raw meat, fish vegetable and so on.
After that, i have found that many red and white wines complement well with Indian food, and do my recommendations to our customers, which they appreciate my help.
Greek people love wine and they pair their food with it whatever they have on the menu.
Next time i will write my discoveries!!!

David said...

Almaz-thanks for stopping by, I'd be especially interested in hearing about red wine pairings that work well for you with Indian food, I pretty much always go with white.