Ok, so for most people beer would be the best bevvy to match with curry. But if you’re a wino like me, there are wine options. However, certain ‘rules’ need be observed to get the best tasting results.
India is not a wine drinking nation, this was helped partly by the Phylloxera louse at the end of the 19th Century and partly by the prohibition of alcohol once independent from British Empire. Public opinion, religious pressures and I suspect, the Brits’ demonstration of an altogether dark side to the vino, also played it’s part.
Now how about that Indian cuisine? Curry in its many guises is one of the most challenging foods to match with wine; so many complex spicy flavours, textures and acidity to take into account.
The heat from chillies however, pose the biggest challenge, as these actually numb our tastebuds.
This ‘heat’ from spices, reacts with the tannins in wine as it strips the fruit flavours making it more astringent, almost metallic in flavour…..blarg! So when choosing a wine to match a hot curry, take into consideration how ‘hot’ or ‘spicy’ the dish is, this will determine how much fruit and sweetness to look for in a wine to balance the flavours.
When considering flavours, always look out for the most prominent flavour in the dish – this is the one to find the best wine match to.
So, for example in a lamb based dish like Rogan josh, the meat will exercise more influence on the pairing and a red wine is in order, while in a delicate fish or chicken based dish, the sauce will become more important and this is what you should base your match on.
The most common wine match for curry is most definitely Gewurtztraminer, an aromatic variety with high natural sugars giving rise to delightful off dry whites… lychees, roses, Turkish delight with floral tinges in a glass. Perfect! The sweetness in these wines offsets the hot flavours from chilli beautifully.
For Indian currys when looking for a red or white wine, always look for wines with generous fruit, sweetness and low tannins.
Merlot is a good option as it has softer tannins combined with ripe plum flavours, especially when chilled down slightly.
A weighty champagne preferably off-dry, works extremely well too as the bubbles help cool the mouth. Mmm, as if we needed another excuse to pop a cork. Viognier is a good option as it has low acidity, and a sweet edge with enough body to hold its own against strong flavours like those found in for example a chicken korma, flavoured with garlic, ginger, cumin, Yoghurt and chilli.
A rosé, like the one I’ve just pulled the cork on would do the trick! The 2011 Domaine Triennes Rosé from Provence. This is an unwooded rosé made from mostly Cinsault and Grenache. An onion skin coloured wine yielding all the perfumes of Provence. Aromas of strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, wild rose, geranium and jasmin with a medium bodied palate and a lovely creamy, round mouthfeel. Simply a beautifully fresh, balanced and elegant example from the ancestral home of rosé.
On the local side of things, I would go with a ‘Close Encounter’ Riesling from Paul Cluver. Riesling like Gewurtztraminer are both aromatic varietals, this example has higher residual sugar (unfermented sugar) with lovely notes of apple and lime which follow through to the beautifully balanced palate-‘sweet and sour tug of war’ and creamy mouthfeel. A winner!