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A Fine Balance: Choosing Wines for Indian Food

Indian food is hugely varied, and it is often easier to order a beer than to try to pair a wine with your Indian dish. With a kaleidoscope of vibrant flavours, what wines won’t be overpowered by the flavour of the food? Some red wines can actually alter the taste of Indian food and make it seem significantly hotter. Here is some practical advice for pairing Indian food with wine that would put sommeliers out of a job.

Wine Designed for Spicy Food

There are vibrant and interesting wines which are designed and marketed specifically to complement spicy food; Wine for Spice, Pink Elephant and Balti Wines are a few excellent labels which are crafted with chillies in mind.

Taking these wines for a test drive is an exhilarating experience.  Wine for Spice is an ingenious combination of semi-sparking, slightly dry and mimics the experience of pairing a lager with Indian food – it is refreshing and doesn’t linger on the palate afterwards.  Try this wine along with medium to hot curries like lamb tikka masala and dopiaza.

Pink Elephant has been ‘trumpeted’ about for good reason. It is the labour of love of two Portuguese wine-makers, and is a deliciously fruity and buoyant experience paired with lighter coconut curries like prawn malawar.

For those who love the burn of hot curries like madras, jalfrezi and vindaloo, the Wine for Spice range is a refreshing choice. This bubbly and crisp wine can overcome a hot curry and still taste fresh and lively – but if you’re really pushing the spice limit, we would still recommend a pot of cucumber raita as the best way to cool your tongue.

Other Great Wines for Indian Meals

Most wines are not made specifically for pairing with Indian flavours, but certain varieties work outstandingly well due to their properties and flavour.  Look for a fresh, crisp, slightly dry white wine that is light on the tannins and appears pale, almost clear.  In this respect, a New Zealand or South African Sauvignon Blanc pairs well.

Wines such as the 2006 Groote Post Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa fair well when put alongside herby, creamy flavoured curries like saag aloo, coriander chicken and also milder lamb-based dishes. Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from New Zealand is a terrific complement for these milder dishes as well. 

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