Finding the perfect glass of wine to go with Italian or French cooking is relatively easy. Finding the ideal match for Indian food, however, can be more complicated, due to the cuisine’s complex and deep flavours.
Picking a wine that can stand up to these rich flavours and spices can be a challenge: if a wine is too delicate, the Indian food will overpower it.
Wines should generally be below 12% ABV; wine that is too strong – Cabernets, for example – will clash with the food, as will wines with heavy tannins. Highly tannic wines, such as Barolo, can add a bitter taste to highly flavourful, pungent dishes.
Merlot is soft and fruity without too many tannins to interfere with any heat. Wine should also be free from oak, as this also clashes with spice, giving a harsh taste.
Wines that work with Indian food include low-alcohol varieties – Rieslings, for example – as they don’t accentuate the heat. Its slightly off-dry taste and acidity really works. Gewurztraminers – with slightly spicy notes – would also be ideal as they balance out any spiciness. It’s rose and lychee aromas hint at a sweetness that makes it a natural fit. Viognier is low in acidity and has the body to stand up to strong flavours, but works better with mildly-spiced Indian food.
Fruity-noted wines work well, as do wines made with a blend of grapes – these match well because, similarly, Indian food is made with a blend of spices. A good rose would be suitable for the same reasons – the tannins are light enough but it is low in acidity and has a fruity hint. They have the depth of a red wine and the acidity of a lighter white wine. They pair well with heavier meat dishes, such as lamb, but not so well with poultry.
Believe it or not, champagne is an excellent pairing: the added sugar complements Indian flavours, the acidity balances, and the bubbles bring an added layer of texture. Champagne goes particularly well with dishes based on ginger. As sweetness and fruitiness rise in relation to chilli heat, champagne seems to be the ideal partner for the sweet/savoury taste Indian food can have.
It is very important that wines are served at suitable temperatures. White wines, in general, need to be between 5 and 8 degrees, and reds at approximately 15 degrees. Indian food taste much better when wine is nicely chilled.
Although beers and lassis are ever-popular, there is an increasing demand in London for wines to match curries. As a result, high-end Indian restaurants are devoting more attention than ever to creating the perfect wine list.
At the award-winning Amaya restaurant, for example, they have created a hand-picked range of exceptional wines, including vintage and non-vintage champagne. The wine-by-the-glass is also an excellent option: it takes you through a journey to accompany six or seven small portions.