The widely held belief that wine doesn’t pair with curry has largely been dispelled with the new and more subtly spiced curries on the market. But what of really hot curries like a Vindaloo?
I decided to put the issue to the test with a ‘very hot’ Chicken Vindaloo from Tesco and one from my local takeaway. Vindaloo aficionados would have probably thought both a touch weedy in that neither burnt the roof of my mouth off but they certainly contained a good blast of chilli heat that was enough to challenge any wine or beer.
The drinks I put up against them were a bog-standard can of supermarket lager, a bottle of Greene King IPA (Indian Pale Ale), an Alsace Gewürztraminer, a full bodied, fruity red Stormhoek Pinotage from South Africa and a mango lassi - all served chilled, even the Pinotage.
I limbered up my palate with a medium hot Chicken Rogan Josh which was a fairly easy run-in for all the drinks. The lager tasted a bit watery (as it did without the curry) and the mango lassi a bit sweet but the fragrant Gewürztraminer, the hoppy IPA and the fruity Pinotage all survived.
Next the supermarket vindaloo. This time none of the drinks fared quite as well except the lassi and the lager which survived the chilli heat better than the IPA. The Gewürztraminer also lost some of its fragrance and the Pinotage some of its intensity but they still hung on in there.
Finally the vindaloo from the takeaway, which was hotter still. The Gewürztraminer really couldn’t cope with this unless you added some raita and dal but the Pinotage still kept going. The lager and lassi stayed the course while the IPA again proved it is at its best with milder curries.
Conclusion: yes, you can drink wine with hot curry - it depends what you like. Lager won’t taste of anything but will provide a cool, refreshing liquid accompaniment as will lassi though drinking a yoghurt drink isn’t to everyone’s taste, especially if you already have a good dollop of raita on your plate.
If you bring that and other side dishes like dal or a vegetable curry like a sag aloo (potatoes and spinach) into the equation then you’ll find that a fragrant Gewürztraminer will match nicely. But the big surprise - although I’d had an inkling it would work because South Africans regard it as the best match for curry - was the Pinotage, welcome news to those who prefer drinking red wine to white. But don’t drink it at room temperature, chill it first!