Don’t be afraid to serve wine with Indian food. The right wine can enhance any meal, especially spicy Indian meals. The complex flavors — spicy, sweet, salty — and layered flavors in Indian dishes make food and wine pairing challenging. It’s not impossible however, just follow a few guidelines.
The Main Rule to remember is fiery dishes need a wine to balance the heat, not add to it. Stay away from anything too high in alcohol, because it intensifies the spice. Avoid highly tannic wines (like a bold Barolo or a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon), which can add a bitter taste to highly flavorful, pungent dishes.
If you’re just beginning your exploration, start with a Gewürztraminer with lychee and rose aromas that hint at a sweetness making it a natural fit. Another great pairing is a Kabinett-style Riesling from Germany. The slightest off-dry taste and tasty acidity works well.
When you’re ready for other options for searing-hot dishes a slightly heavier in texture wine comes to mind like a Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France or for the more adventurous wine drinker, the up-and-coming white varietal of Torrontes from Argentina. It has a gorgeous, aromatic nose, but doesn’t have a ton of complexity that get lost with a more subtle dish. Torrontes is a favorite of mine, and it is affordable. Check out www.BevMo.com for it.
A Pinot Gris from Oregon also makes a nice choice. If you have a salty or fried dish, cut through it with a highly acidic white wine based on Sauvignon Blanc grapes, such as a Pouilly-Fumé or Sancerre.
White wines aren’t the only choices for Indian meals. Meaty, gamey dishes like lamb that have intense, heavier flavors including chile and garlic sauces or smokiness can stand up to red where crisp, delicate white wines would wilt.
One of the least known but most worthy picks is a Chinon, a light-bodied, savory, earthy red wine composed of Cabernet Franc grapes with distinct violet aromas from the Loire Valley of France. Another great option is a Burgundian-style Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon or New Zealand. Smokier flavors are complemented by medium-bodied spicy, flinty Shiraz.
You might also think about trying a Valpolicella from Italy or a slightly chilled Beaujolais Cru from France; both are perfect with pork dishes.
And finally, when in doubt, you can’t go wrong pairing Indian food with Champagne. Those fine bubbly nuances easily match the multi -layer flavors present in most Indian dishes. The edgy combination of Champagne and Indian street food makes for an engaging party theme whose sense of style won’t be lost on trend loving friends.
Enjoy the following recipe on a cool fall or winter day. I have confidence that you’ll choose just the right wine.
Palak (spinach) Wali Dal (lentil)