With the principles of ‘balance’ stemming from searching for that 'perfect' beverage to balance a dish - consider these thrown out of the window in India. Learn why!
Love Indian food? That makes two of us! Or, more like two billion of us engaged in this spicy love affair with the most aromatic cuisine in the world. Ever find yourself asking, “what wine goes well with Indian food?”
Well, this question is as broad as saying “what should we drink with European food?” The difference is, that the kaleidoscope of flavour found in India’s incredible cuisine forged its path without any glass of wine in the Chef’s hand. So, essentially - there are no rules when it comes to wine pairing here. Sure, certain beverages ‘suit’ different cuisines, and in India, it’s likely to be a cold glass of iced water, a salted yoghurt ‘lassi’ or, if you’re in the sub-continents south, hot herbal tea to set you into a heady state of flavour delirium.
With the principle of ‘balance’ stemming from understanding a beverage with a dish, this is out the window in India. There are good examples where it is all about enjoying fire with fire. A glass of warm ‘Chivas Regal’ with your Mutton Masala? Believe it or not, it’s a classic. Turning up the heat, is often what India is all about.
But, you’ve got a Good Pair Days subscription and, likely, you’d much rather a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio over a room-temperature whiskey with that vindaloo. Fair, we can’t all handle such heat. You don’t know your Hollywood from Bollywood, your Punjabi from Hindi, your North from South! Tick that box? Well, it’s safe to assume just looking at you instantly disqualifies any generationally inherited knowledge of the above ‘food and drink’ fundamentals.
You’re more of a Lisa Simpson ‘seeing through time’ after eating Apu’s food. And that’s okay! We’ve got you, and we are here to help. Get out your Uber Eats app and search for that nearby takeaway joint to pair with the picks from your monthly box of wine. Here are our favourite ‘classic’ dishes best suited to your Friday night ‘in’ feat. Indian takeaway and a banging bottle of vino to go along with it.
Wine: a juicy, peppery red like Shiraz
We are loving these creamy curries with a spicy red. One that is packed with ripe fruit flavour, and holds a good balance of fruit, tannin and acidity. Think an Australian classic such as a Barossa Shiraz, or a similarly warm region – like a Côtes du Rhône from Southern France. Want to experiment a little further? Turn up the spice and acidity with a Gamay or a Blaufränkisch.
Vegetable paneer dishes
Wine: a crisp, dry white like Grüner Veltliner
You want the ‘tang’ factor here with paneer (that’s cottage cheese) Grüner has great natural acidity and works with the legumes and herbaceous flavours from the vegetables. Delicate warm spices such as garam marsala are magical too with Grüner. Alternatives; Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends, or Northern Italian styles, such Pinot Grigio, Cortese (Gavi) or Garganega (Soave) are equally epic.
Tandoori roasted meats
Wine: a fruity, textural white like Viognier
Look for inherent ‘stone fruit’ flavours in the wine. Don’t be afraid of the aromatic and oily varieties; think Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne blends, or a ‘New World’ Chardonnay - particularly if it has a hint of butter and smokiness. These whites when served cool, are refreshing alongside the heat, and cut the fattiness of the meat while offering to elevate the fruit and spice in both the wine and the smoky Tandoori imparted flavour.
Wine: a crisp, fresh (unoaked) white such as Chenin Blanc, or a ripe, dry Riesling
Put down the mango lassi (although this works so well) and bounce to the beat of a zingy high acid Chenin Blanc with the vindaloo spice. Alternatives include dry Riesling (from the Clare Valley Australia, or look to the Rheinhessen in Germany)
Pani Puri (and deep fried 'Chaat')
Wine: Pét Nat
Pani Puri? You know those little crunchy balls of coriander, sweet chutney and fresh lemon juice? Well, a spritely Pét Nat may just be the only kind of bottle to equal the fun had when consuming these crispy bundles of joy. Don’t look past an onion bhaji or a fried samosa, either. Perfect for a Fried-day night of fun and frivolity!
Hot tip: When considering just how vast the food landscape of India can be, don’t fear any failure - go for it, and keep a few tips from us in mind.
About the Author
Sally Humble is an award-winning sommelier, semi-retired from her nights concerned only with the hydration levels of others. When she's not either feeding her two goldfish or playing Wordle, she is spending her days sourcing only the most delicious wine to send to your door!
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