Wines of a tannic nature are not a good choice
Finding the right wine to drink with Indian and South Asian cuisine can be an interesting affair. Most people would think that red wine is most suited due to its old time pairing with meat, and it being cooked in spices. But with a major aspect of Indian food being vegetarian, it’s important not to forget the non-meat dishes when matching wine to suit.
Although wine drinking is not a typical activity at the dinner table in an Indian home. The wine market in India has begun to grow over the last ten years. It has now become something enjoyed by the newer generation of Indians. The growth of domestic wine companies in India has certainly given a reply to the demand. Domestic wine companies also dominate wine volume sales and have expanded the Indian wine consumer base with low cost wines.
Some popular wines in India are Reveilo, La Reserve, Sante, Sula Red, Ivy Shiraz, Nine Hills, Riviera Blanc, and Chantilli and Marquise de Pompadour; both produced by Indage who bottled the first wine in India. Three of the largest wine companies in India are Sula Wines, Grover Vineyards and Indage who own approximately 90% of the market.
Most people would agree that beer is the most common beverage enjoyed with Indian food. Hence, the advent of Indian beer brands such as Kingfisher and Cobra. But wine is seen as the ideal companion with a meal and wine with a rich Indian meal is no exception.
Wine choice can be down to personal preference but research and sommeliers have shown that there are some excellent pairings of wines with Indian and South Asian cuisine. One well known, sommelier (a person who specialises in wines for a restaurant or hotel) is Costanzo Scala. He points out the following three approaches to pairing wine with Indian food:
- If you like Indian food spicy, then the Indian palette often wants a wine that is mineral based and acidic, which adds to the spices and brings them out.
- If you prefer combinations of flavours in Indian food and not too spicy then creamy wines coat the palette. Buttery whites combine with the flavours of Indian food quite well.
- If you want something to calm down the spice then go for a sweet wine such as Pinot Gris or Riesling or Gewürztraminer that have some residual sugar.
Indian food is associated with a variety of spices. Dishes like Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Gosht, Paneer Tikka, Tarka Daal and Biryani are full of complex flavours and zestful aromas.
Finding wines to suit such dishes rich in spices involves tasting sessions and exploration of flavours. Many well known wine drinkers and good food specialists have conducted such research and have discovered particular wines that do give the palette an enjoyable union when consumed with Indian cuisine.
Here are some of the popular wines chosen to pair with Indian and South Asian cuisine:
- Gewürztraminer - A white wine from the region of Alsace in France which is mildly sweet. Particularly suited to South Asian dishes that are tandoori based or rich in masalas, herbs, ginger, garlic and cardamom.
- Sauvignon Blanc, Cotes Du Rhone or Australian Shiraz – Good accompaniment for tikka dishes and tandoori Prawns and paneer dishes.
- Riesling - White German type is the best. Often fruity wines, flavored with apples, plums, and peaches, they have a high acidic content and are mildly sweet along with being tart. It is best paired with curried dishes such Rogan Josh, masalas and red meat dishes which are rich and heavy in flavour with spices.
- Rose – These wines are pretty dry. They have the depth of a red wine as well as the acidity of a lighter white wine. Hence, go great with heavy meat dishes, like lamb but not poultry.
- Pinot Noir – This is one of the most popular red wines for Indian cuisine. Mainly available in fruity flavors, this red wine is smoother and silkier in texture compared to other high-tannin wines. It is also a wine that goes well with all types of dishes, whether spicy or tangy, chicken, seafood, vegetarian dishes or paneer.
- Champagne or Sparkling Wines - Champagne and other sparking wines can be paired with several types of Indian cuisine, including vegetarian. If you have a rich & creamy curry, or something heavy like saag, makhani balti dishes, paneer and potatoes, Champagne goes well with it, as it offers a nice change-of-taste due to its bubbly acidic texture.
Other good pairing wines include, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Verdelho. Wines of a tannic nature are not a good choice for Indian and South Asian cuisine such as Merlot. This red wine does not combine well with Indian food due it being very tannic, which is a bitter or astringent taste.
It is very important to serve wines at a suitable temperature. Typical temperatures are, white wines at 5-8 degrees and reds at approximately 15 degrees. Spicy foods taste much more nicer if the wines are cooler. Also, the alcohol content of the wine should not be above 12% proof. Most wines vary between 10.5-12.5% alcohol.
Choosing a wine for a meal is always down to personal preference but we hope the tips have given you a little guidance to finding that right pairing for one of the most wonderful and popular cuisines in the world.