Can you pair wine with curry?

 


After all the Christmas and New Year festivities, I have to escape for a good curry! We all have a favourite curry but matching these exotic dishes with wine can be tricky. Come to think of it, I often drink lager! But, as restaurant lists improve giving more thought to your wine can brings tasty rewards.   

The spicy flavours of Indian food are not perfect partners for reds but the lighter style Beaujolais (Gamay grape from Burgundy in Central France), Loire Valley reds such as Saumur-Champigny and Chinon (Cabernet Franc from around the Anjou-Saumur region) and Barbara d’Asti the soft Italian from Piemonte, go well with milder Korma, Rogan Josh and Pacanda dishes. Interestingly, I’ve recently been served these wines slightly chilled to give an extra dimension to these exotic matches.
For medium strength dishes like Dopiaza and Bhuna, more powerful reds are called for; Zweigelt, the grape that gives its name to this Austrian beauty, a blockbuster Shiraz from Australia’s baking Barossa Valley or a Californian Zinfandel come to mind.

For me though, curry’s best bed fellow is white wine; a crisp, Cotes de Gascogne (from the relatively neutral Colombard grape) from south west France and Muscadet, the under-rated wine from the vineyards around Nantes are generally a safe bet with anything from a mild Tikka to a lively Balti or the hot-sweet-sour flavours of Dansak. Semillon and Chardonnay from Australia, and blends of these two classic varieties are wine list regulars and will never let you down. Understandably neutral flavoured Italians also link well with Indian spices; Soave (from Veneto) and Frascati (Lazio) are well worth a shot.  

Gewurztraminer, that’s the name of the grape by the way, from the Alsace region in north east France is also a good partner for Indian cuisine as its unique spice aromas and flavours are in harmony with Indian spices, curds and oriental herbs. Alsace wines are generally a good bet with Indian cuisine, a partnership not lost on ‘Wines of Alsace’ whose international marketing campaign links their wines (look out for Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris as well as Gewurztraminer) with Asian food.

I recently saw Puligny Montrachet, one of the world’s finest whites from Burgundy’s finest Chardonnay vineyards, on an Indian restaurant wine list. I wasn’t tempted as the Indian spices would mask this fabulous wine but it shows how Indian restaurants are taking their food-wine combinations very seriously. If you do want to try a white Burgundy with your next ‘Indian’ look out for the likes of Montagny, Givry or Mercurey; good value from the Chalonnaise region, south of Beaune.

At the other end of the scale, many Indian restaurants now list Champagne, often with a surprisingly low price tag. If you want a cheaper bubbly though go for Cava (Spain), Prosecco (Italy) or an Australian, as sparkling wine goes really well with curry.

But, I can hear you say, never mind the expensive stuff, what about the wine I pick up from my local bottle shop with my usual Friday night takeaway. OK, add these wines to your scribbled order; Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre or a fruity number from New Zealand), Viognier from the south of France or, if you’re in a red mood pick up a Chilean Pinot Noir or a New Zealand Merlot, or viceroy-versa.

Curry and wine matching is getting easier as wine lists improve. You can of course order your usual lager next Friday night but just for a change, go on, ask for the wine list. Your friends will be really impressed and they’ll enjoy the wines. That said, if you’re a Madras or Vindaloo fan …. I’d stick to lager!


John, one of only 380 Masters of Wine in the world, is a corporate entertainer, TV & Radio  broadcaster and writer on wine.

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