Top pairings | What wine to pair with curry - my top 5 picks

Top pairings

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

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.

Pinot gris

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

Chardonnay

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 5 popular Indian curries

Indian curry wine pairings
Image credit: Alberta Studios

Dhansak

A sweet and sour curry that incorporates lentils, often served with a pineapple ring to add a hint of sweetness. Given its sweet and sour profile, a Riesling, particularly one with a bit of residual sugar, can balance the spice and complement the dish's complexity.


Tikka Masala

A popular item at most Indian restaurants, tikka masala combines grilled meat (usually chicken) with a creamy, spiced sauce. The sauce of Tikka Masala can pair well with a medium-bodied Chardonnay, which can complement the richness without overwhelming the flavours.


Korma

A rich curry known for its creaminess, often using spices like cardamom and cinnamon for flavour rather than heat. The mild, creamy nature of Korma calls for a wine that is aromatic but not too robust. A Viognier, with its floral aromas and stone fruit flavours, is an excellent match.


Jalfrezi

A type of curry that features green chilies stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, and coriander, known for its spicy but not overwhelming heat. This spicier curry pairs well with a fruit-forward Zinfandel. The wine's bold flavours can stand up to the heat and complexity of the Jalfrezi.


Vindaloo

Vindaloo is renowned for its heat and uses few spices in large quantities, making it a favourite for those who love spicy food. Given its high heat level, a slightly chilled, off-dry Gewürztraminer can provide a refreshing contrast, with its aromatic sweetness balancing the intense spice.


Wine pairings for 5 popular Thai curries

Thai curry wine pairings
Image credit: Larissa Farber

Massaman Curry

Known for its mildness and rich flavour, massaman curry is a fusion of Thai and Indian cuisine, featuring a combination of spices like cinnamon and cardamom alongside traditional Thai ingredients such as lemongrass and galangal. It's commonly prepared with beef or chicken and served with potatoes and peanuts. Given its rich, slightly sweet, and savory profile with a mild spice level, a Pinot Noir could complement this curry well. The wine's fruity notes and subtle earthiness can harmonize with the curry's complexity.


Green Curry

This curry stands out for its spiciness and vibrant color, derived from green chilies. Its flavour is enhanced with Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, and coconut milk, making it aromatic and intensely flavoured. It often includes eggplant and chicken among its ingredients. With its high spice level and aromatic profile, a Riesling, especially a slightly off-dry one, would be an excellent match. The wine's sweetness can counterbalance the heat, while its acidity can cut through the curry's richness.


Red Curry

Characterized by its fiery taste and deep red color, red curry is made with a paste of red chilies, garlic, and other spices, blended with coconut milk. It's a versatile curry that's typically spicier than its green counterpart and is often served with beef. For this spicy curry, a Gewürztraminer could be a good pairing. The wine's spicy notes and slight sweetness can complement the curry's heat and flavours without overpowering them.


Panang Curry

A milder curry with a nutty flavour, Panang curry includes ingredients like cumin, coriander, and peanuts, along with the usual base of coconut milk. It has a thicker consistency compared to other Thai curries and offers a subtly sweet and savory taste. This milder curry with a nutty flavour profile could go well with a medium-bodied Chardonnay. The wine's creamy texture and subtle oakiness can enhance the curry's richness without clashing with its flavours.


Yellow Curry

Yellow curry has rich and creamy texture with a signature yellow color that comes from turmeric and other spices. It can vary in spiciness and is often made with chicken or other meats, along with potatoes and onions. Due to its turmeric and spice-driven flavours, a Viognier could pair nicely with yellow curry. The wine's floral aromas and stone fruit flavours can complement the curry's depth and slight sweetness.

Wine pairings for five popular chicken curries

Chicken korma :image copyright BBA Photography at shutterstock.com

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

Chicken korma
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

Chicken Jalfrezi
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)

See also Six drinks you might not have thought of pairing with Indian food

Top image © I Wei Huang at shutterstock.com

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And for more hot tips and recommendations check out my Substack Eat This, Drink That, Live Well.

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Comments: 27 (Add)

Steven on August 29 2023 at 17:19

Orange wine is overlooked here. A great combo with curry.

Mark on April 1 2023 at 12:54

My old boss David Howell, CEO of lastminute.com, steered me towards Chianti with Indian. That was 20 years ago. Still works a charm!

Jackie on October 14 2022 at 21:31

What white & red wine to go with a massaman curry please ….love your opinion

Mike on September 7 2022 at 13:09

Enjoyed a semi-dry Reisling with a Vadouvan (mild French curry) corn chowder made last night. Link to recipe follows.
https://oaktownspiceshop.com/blogs/recipes/summer-corn-chowder-with-vadouvan

Gene on August 12 2022 at 11:08

What's your tip for the rich tomato based curreies?

Fiona Beckett on October 18 2021 at 07:47

That DOES sound good!

Suzanne on October 17 2021 at 23:50

I just paired a mild Indian chicken curry with a Rosato (Nero d'Avola) from Sicily (Filari della Rocca in Contessa Entellina). Wonderful pairing.

Fiona Beckett on April 24 2021 at 07:58

Great to hear! Am so pleased!

Tantlus on April 23 2021 at 23:40

Based on your advice I got a Portugal rose for our yellow curry ramen dish.....it was an AMAZING pairing! I see why it is consistently coming out as the best! Thank you!!!

Alex Lake on April 3 2021 at 16:03

Having a mild lamb curry tomorrow (Madhur Jaffrey's Lamb Raan) and wondered about Cabernet before considering Cinsault... So will give Musar a shot. Perhaps a relatively exuberant vintage that's still on the young side, so going with 2005. Did also toy with the idea of a Ridge zin, which certainly works very well with smoked pork butt.

lowandslow on March 12 2021 at 14:50

Will be making fish fillets in curry sauce (Madras) from Madhur Jaffery and would like to try a chenin/viogner blend or just chenin blanc from CA. or would the off-dry reisling be better? Or chard as the sauce is made with milk.

JAMES ANGLE on February 26 2021 at 13:58

With chicken Pad Thai, I have always had a German Spatlese. Beautiful combo. Fantastic.

Fiona Beckett on February 25 2021 at 07:34

Depends on the curry and the level of heat, I guess, Jack. These posts are designed to give options, some of which will appeal more than others!

Jack on February 25 2021 at 01:26

Just tried a Torrontes to match with a chicken curry and found it fighting to be the star of the show - a clash more than a complement.

Goronwy on April 3 2020 at 17:19

Fernet branca I’ve been struck by how well its subtle tones goes with Vindaloo..My Friend however was unimpressed and thought baileys cream liquor heavily iced complemented it better

GDoobsy on February 21 2020 at 06:37

With Indian curry, especially Butter Chicken but right through to Vindaloo don't dismiss Australian Sparkling Shiraz, lightly chilled, it cuts right through the spiciest curries. Also well-aged Barossa Shiraz of the big fruity kind can work really well. It's as much about size as anything: big flavours need big wines.

Mike Mitchell on October 13 2019 at 15:14

We had a wine dinner with loads of different dishes recently. the surprise (to us) winner was indeed a Rose - a Sancerre one with a little age. And second were some dry and off dry Rieslings. A bit of sweetness and good acidity seemed to be the keys.
With finely spiced meat dishes really old Riojas worked very well too.

Jonathan on October 12 2019 at 18:13

Sweeter (sh) / fruiter Cape Chenin Blanc

David McDowell on May 23 2019 at 09:47

Going with the ‘aromatic whites’ suggestion, I opened a locally-produced English Huxelrebe (‘Tom Hill’ from Halfpenny Green Vineyards) with a mild home-made curry yesterday and thought it complemented the food very well. My wife, on the other hand, thought it was pants. There’s no accounting for taste !

WSchulz on January 19 2018 at 15:20

Really interesting. I'll save this for the next time I serve curry. I found this article pretty useful as well although it is a bit more general https://www.sp-bx.com/hosting-a-dinner-properly-food-wine-pairing-tips-and-guide/

Bill on July 18 2017 at 18:06

IMO a good full bodied wine of any colour is destroyed by any kind of spicy food - Stick with nice cold beer or lager and even saké and the like.. and please leave the expensive wines for non spiced dinners..

Chloe Monamy on January 12 2017 at 12:31

Spicy Goat Curry (Matt Moran recipe) paired amazing with an aged Gossett Riesling (2012) ... amazing...

Hugh on November 14 2016 at 17:59

How, in your opinion, would a New World style Sauvignon Blanc pair?
These generally have good acidity and a touch of sweetness.

I agree with you on the Pinotage, especially if it is a meaty hot curry.

Charlie on October 13 2016 at 19:47

I've had a Malborough Syrah that had smooth ripe tannins which paired beautifully with a tomato based curry a top Soho Indian.

Jim Oremland on October 16 2015 at 16:23

One that I find works quite well is Vinho Verde. The slight fizz does a terrific job of cleansing the palate between bites.

Ewan Murray on October 14 2014 at 08:50

Manasté, not Manasée! Sorry.

Ewan Murray on October 14 2014 at 08:49

Interesting you mention the omission of gewurztraminer. I organised an Alsace wine dinner at Café Spice Manasée, and before we started discussing the wines and suitable food matches Cyrus said "No gewurztraminer!". He said it didn't have the necessary acidity and freshness to go with his cooking. He did grudgingly (with a smile) allow us to have a VT with dessert!

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