Indian food and wine aren't exactly a combination that most would call intuitive. In fact, most people tend to pair water with almost all Indian food, primarily because the food tends to be pretty darn spicy for people to handle.
Many food critics would suggest teas, waters, and beers for Indian fare rather than a bottle of wine. However, if you listen to chef advice, some of the best Indian food and wine pairings are not worth skipping out on.
Want to pair Indian cuisine with wine? This guide will shed light on the best pairings for this often hard-to-pair culinary category.
Creamy Curries and Riesling
Curries are a major staple in Indian fare, and it just wouldn't be fair (ha!) to produce a pairing guide that doesn't involve curries on there. Most people, though, get very worried about pairing wine with curry, primarily because of how strong the flavors in curry tend to be.
Thankfully, there's an easy way to pair curry with wine. Curries need a bold, strong flavored wine to match with them. For most food critics, one of the best Indian food and wine pairings you can ever experience is the rich flavor of a curry balanced with a hearty Riesling.
Yellow curries, such as kormas, tikka masalas, and pasandas, often will need a special touch to fully bring out their flavor. So, you will need a rich flavored wine to bring them out — and this makes them great with reds and bold whites alike.
Along with bold white wines like Rieslings, creamy yellow curries tend to pair well with light red wines and richer white wines. So, Zinfandels and Sangiovese wines tend to be great picks, too.
Red Curries and Rosé
The rich, tomato-filled goodness that is known as red curry works wonders with a lot of wines. After all, tomatoes and wines go together perfectly well in Italian food; why wouldn't they do the same with Indian food?
There's one major difference with Indian food and wine pairings versus Italian pairings, and that's the flavor profiles. Since tomato-based curries tend to be very spicy, you will need to avoid too much dryness and acidity in the wine.
So, the best option here? According to experts, a Rosé wine — ideally a sweet one — is the best wine pairing you can have. This is especially true for particularly spicy dishes like vindaloos and jalfrezis.
Saag Paneer and Sauvignon Blanc
Saag Paneer is a classic dish in Indian restaurants, and unfortunately, it tends to be one of the toughest in terms of Indian food and wine pairings. However, there are a couple of tried-and-tested approaches you can take with this dish to unleash a new level of flavor.
The easiest way to get a good pairing is to have a high acidity wine that cuts through the cheese fairly well. For this, we'd suggest a Riesling. However, if you want a more savory profile, a richer Sauvignon Blanc tends to be the way to go.
Red wine pairings are also very doable with this dish. We'd suggest a richer Rosé with Syrah, or perhaps a lighter Cabernet Sauvignon if you do choose to go the red route.
Tandoori Chicken and Pinot Noir
With most wine and food pairing guides you'll see on the net, they'll tell you to match the wine color to the meat color. This is not always the case with Indian food and wine pairings, primarily because the spices and cooking style will often throw typical pairings off.
Tandoori chicken is incredibly smoky, and often tastes almost beefy by comparison. So, a richer yet lighter red wine tends to be the better option, here. According to a number of sommeliers, the best red wine pairing you can get for this classic Indian dish is a Pinot Noir.
Other good alternatives to a Pinot Noir include Cabernet Sauvignons and Zinfandels. Like most other Indian dishes, a good Riesling also seems to work fairly well.
Dal-Chawal and Chenin blanc
Rice dishes really vary greatly in flavor in Indian cuisine, so this may be one of the more difficult Indian food and wine pairings to discuss. So, to make things easier, we're going to talk about two major categories of rice dishes — comfort food-style dishes and earthy, smoky dishes.
Creamy, comforting rice dishes like dal-chawal tend to work well with white wines that cut through the buttery texture and bring out the savory side of the dish. A Chenin blanc is a good choice here due to its light flavor but higher acidity.
On the other hand, smoky and spicy rice dishes, such as sambar rice or biryani, will need to have a stronger, richer wines that bolster the spices' effects. So, a better option here would be a Shiraz.
Breads with Chutneys and Riesling
Yes, Riesling works as the number one go-to option for this favorite Indian appetizer as well. Most breads and sauce/chutney tasting platters will have a wide variety of flavors that range from the spicy to the acidic.
Rieslings and other rich white wines tend to work the best with these platters, primarily because they're the only wines that really stand up to the flavor without adding the dryness of tannins to the mix.
That being said, some people have also found rose wines and Champagne wines to work well. However, it seems to be that the best Indian food and wine pairings tend to be focused around Rieslings and other "savory" wines.