What wine to pair with curry - my top 5 picks
If you’re wondering which wine to pair with curry, you’re not alone. There are probably more opinions about the matter than there are types of curry from “wine is never a good idea* to *any wine you like*.
3 things to bear in mind when you're pairing wine and curry
- How hot the curry is. Clearly it’s easier to match wine with a mild curry than a searingly hot one.
- How many other dishes you’re serving and how hot they are. It’s easier, in other words, to think about a wine that will go with the whole meal rather than one element of it.
- and what type of curry you’re talking about - Thai and Malay curries, for example are different from Indian curries with their warmer spices. And home-made curries tend to be hotter and pokier than shop-bought ones or ones made from a bought curry sauce.
Pairing wine with curry is all about offsetting the heat
What you need with curry - and this is why cold lager and lassi work so well - is a refreshing contrast to the heat of the food. A touch of sweetness helps, particularly with hotter curries and green curries as does a fresh, palate-cleansing acidity.
What doesn't work so well - in my opinion at least - is tannin and high alcohol which can emphasise and unbalance the spice in a curry. So although ripe fruity reds can work - especially with meaty curries like rogan josh - you don’t really want a 15% oaky monster.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that many Indian restaurants don’t have brilliant wine lists so it’s a question of what will pair best rather than what’s ideal. Here are 5 good all-rounders that I think do the job.
5 wines that almost always work with a curry
A fruity rosé
Fruity rosés have consistently come out best in the tastings I’ve done for the What Food, What Wine? competition in the past. Think Spain, Portugal or South America rather than Provence. See for example this Andhra Curry-leaf chicken that would pair well with a dry-ish Portuguese or Chilean rosé.
Off-dry riesling will certainly work with chicken, fish and vegetable curries, if not with very meaty ones or ones with a powerful tomato sauce. German, Austrian, Australian and New Zealand rieslings would all do the trick.
This speciality of Alsace - also found in New Zealand and Oregon - has a particular affinity with Thai green curries but pairs well with mild to medium-hot Indian curries too
Other aromatic whites
Such as fragrant Hungarian whites, dry Muscat, Sylvaner/Silvaner and Torrontes from Argentina
Yes, chardonnay! Particularly fruity styles or blends with grapes such as semillon, chenin and colombard. Good with mild, creamy or buttery curries, especially with chicken. (Viognier is good with this sort of curry too.)
Does red wine go with curry?
Not always but it does. I’ll probably go for a juicy, fruity but not too oaky Shiraz or a Chilean Carmenère (similar to a Merlot which would also work well). Pinotage is surprisingly good match with hotter curries and rioja crianza or reserva for rogan josh.
Incidentally you may find Gewurztraminer an odd omission from my top 5 as it’s often paired with curry but it can easily overpower milder curries. Great with a spicy duck curry though
Wine pairings for five popular chicken curries
Chicken is one of the most popular types of curry but think about the sauce and level of heat when you're choosing your wine
A mild creamy curry that goes particularly well with viognier. Chardonnay is good too.
Chicken katsu curry
Try an aromatic white wine like an off-dry riesling or a feteasca regala from Romania, a great pairing I discovered recently
Chicken tikka masala
A strong fruity Portuguese rosé works particularly well with this curry
Slightly hotter with a spicy tomato sauce. You could try a light red wine like a grenache with this one
Thai chicken curry
Goes well with Australian riesling, New Zealand sauvignon blanc, pinot gris or a fruity rosé. (That applies to a Thai prawn curry too as you can see from this post)
Top image © I Wei Huang at shutterstock.com
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