A Quick Summary of Indian Cuisine
Indian cuisine is renowned for its layered flavors and the medley of spices involved. Every dish has a unique and complex flavor portfolio that brings out a cascade of exotic spices with intelligible artistry. While it is often believed that almost every Indian dish is spicy, there are several dishes like Paneer Makhani and Malai Tikka that offer a tender balance of spices with sweetness.
Traditional Indian cooking has always been about exploration, given the sheer magnitude of climatic diversity Indian regions have to offer for growing spices. An Indian dish is like a televised drama where every spice, every technique, and every last quirk of the preparation is a character with its own backstory. And wines are no different, so the potential for harmonious Indian food wine pairing is endless.
What Wines Pair Well With Indian Food?
India hosts a variety of cuisines, so when you think about it in terms of flavor, the wine should balance all the elements of the dish. There are some wines that generally go better with spicy foods, some with dishes that have a more salty or sour base, and some with sweet. Let’s take Tikka Masala for example. This is a dish that uses a fine mix of spices like coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric, clove, green cardamom, and lots of dry red chili. It usually has a rich gravy made from tomatoes, like Italian food.
As Tikka Masala tends to be pretty hot, acidic, or spicy wines would make a poor pairing choice. Rieslings are ideal for Tikka masala dishes because they’re light-to-medium bodied and powered by floral and tropical notes. They balance out the spiciness and really help bring out the creaminess of the sauce with their smooth finish. Another example is Tandoori Chicken that is prepared by roasting chicken in a clay oven and marinating it with a delicious sauce made from yogurt, lemon, and a spice mix of coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, and garam masala. This dish is incredibly palatable and balances everything just right — earthiness, smokiness, spiciness, sourness, and saltiness.
When it comes to wine pairings, there’s a common saying that the color of the wine should match the color of the meat. Tandoori Chicken, however, is the exception. It needs a quality medium-bodied red wine like Pinot Noir that has long and smooth tannins to match the dish’s subtlety and complexity. Now that we have a little more understanding of how Indian food and wines can work together, here are the top 5 wines to give your next Indian meal a boost you wouldn’t have imagined.
Best White Wines With Indian Food
Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky No. 9
- Winery — Sokol Blosser
- Country/Region — United States, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
- Type — Oregon State Riesling
- Aroma — Rose, Lychee, Floral, Citrus
- Grapes — Riesling
- Taste — Ripe Pineapple, Butter, Apple, Orange Peel, Toast
- Alcohol Content — 12%
- Sugar — Dry
- Pairing — Chicken Tikka Masala, Paneer Tikka, Grilled Jerk Chicken, Fruity Desserts
Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky No. 9 is a top 2013 light-bodied vintage with incredibly complex tropical tasting notes and a buttery smooth finish. The nose gives notes of sweet tropical fruits like lychees and wild cherries. The palate is made up of a vivacious blend of ripe fruits like pineapple, orange, and pear with butter and toast on the finish. It’s both a complex and approachable wine and is one of Oregon’s finest summer Rieslings, aged in the cellar for 4-6 years.
The tannins are smooth and light throughout, but the finish is a little short-lived. This makes it perfect for pairing with Indian foods that are bursting at the seams with spices and intensity. It’s also a friendly companion to Hyderabad-style Biryanis with rich tomato sauces. Sometimes the wine adds personality to the food, but Indian foods can add personality to wines, particularly to light-bodied Rieslings and Pinot Grigios. Sokol Blosser’s Rieslings are designed to be easy to drink and relaxing while simultaneously being effortlessly complex. The wine has well-rounded tannins that give it a silky mouthfeel tempered by a momentary burst of citrus, making it an excellent companion to spicy cuisine.
Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner
- Winery — Schloss Gobelsburg
- Country/Region — Austria, Weinland, Niederösterreich, Kamptal
- Type — Austrian Grüner Veltliner
- Aroma — Green Apple, Pear, Chalk, Lemon
- Grapes — Grüner Veltliner
- Taste — Apple, Lime, Almond, Honey
- Alcohol Content — 12.5%
- Sugar — Dry
- Pairing — Sambar Rice, Dal Khichdi, Duck Confit, Chicken Tacos
Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner is a light-bodied acidic Austrian white wine made from a special variety of grape favored in eastern Europe. On the nose, you detect ripe green apples, pale lime, and chalk, while the tasting notes are a smooth mash of high citrus tropical fruits and warm rustic mineral notes like white pepper, crushed sage with salty yeast, and a short burst of lemon. The finish is crisp and light and lasts for a couple of minutes.
Schloss Gobelsburg is Austria’s oldest wine estate and the birthplace of the Grüner Veltliner grape varietal. They have a documented history of viticulture going all the way back to the 12th Century. The grapes are harvested from the lower and upper parts of the Kamptal Appellation, with the lower region bringing more maturity to the taste and is responsible for the acidity while the grapes from the upper area adding a touch of ripeness. The resulting vintage is the perfect companion for South Indian dishes like sambar and rice that have medium-spice. It adds warmth and earthiness to the sour and salty-tasting sambar, and the medium finish makes it last longer. The acidity of the wine is balanced out by the alkalinity of the ingredients in sambar.
Springfield Estate Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc
- Winery — Springfield Estate
- Country/Region — South Africa, Western Cape, Breede River Valley, Robertson
- Type — South African Sauvignon Blanc
- Aroma — Gooseberry, Butter, Asparagus Passion Fruit, Peach
- Grapes — Sauvignon Blanc
- Taste — Guava, Passion Fruit, Flint, Stone, Lime
- Alcohol Content — 12.5%
- Sugar — Dry
- Pairing — Saag Paneer, Malai Kofta, Creamy Prawns, Seafood Pasta
Springfield Estate’s Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc can be counted as the best white wine with Indian food. It pairs exceptionally well with foods that are rich in cream and cheese. It is light-bodied, acidic, and delivers a strong nose of gooseberry with hints of floral tones, passion fruit, and asparagus. The flavor bursts with minerality and dry tropical fruits like passion fruit and guava. Its crisp, tasty finish gives fresh and concentrated tropical fruit notes on the palate and a buttery mouthfeel.
Sauvignon Blancs pair well with seafood, cheese, and most vegetarian cuisines, especially a light-bodied white like Life from Stone. The stony mineral nuance is an expression of the terroir they’re grown in. Springfield Estates Sauvignon Blanc is cultivated in the rocky soils of the Breede River Valley in the Western Cape of South Africa. This wine makes an excellent pairing choice for Saag Paneer or Malai Kofta, two curries that are rich in cream, thick, and medium-spiced. It has a buttery finish that accentuates the tenderness of the cheese and cream. And it has just the right amount of acidity to cut through the cheese.
Best Red Wines With Indian Food
Meiomi Pinot Noir
- Winery — Meiomi
- Country/Region — United States, California, Sonoma County
- Type — Californian Pinot Noir
- Aroma — Oak, Cherry, Blackberry, Fig, Strawberry, Vanilla
- Grapes — Pinot Noir
- Taste — Strawberry, Blackberry, Cherry, Oak, Tobacco, Plum
- Alcohol Content — 14.6%
- Sugar — Dry
- Pairing — Vindaloo, Tandoori Chicken, Chinese Food, Rib Eye
When pairing wines with Indian foods, it is typically recommended that you choose wines with low alcohol content. But you can make an exception in the case of this Pinot Noir. Meiomi Pinot Noir is a deep garnet-shaded, medium-bodied red wine with gentle aromas of crushed herbs, vanilla, sweet fruits, and baking spices. The tannins are well-rounded and smooth so you can expect a flavorful and glossy finish.
Meiomi’s Pinot Noir grows in the coastal terroirs of Sonoma County where it receives abundant sunlight throughout the year and cool winters. This allows grapes to mature enough to acquire more earthy notes from the soil while retaining their fruity sweetness. Pinot Noir is the best choice if you’re looking for a wine to compliment Tandoori and Vindaloo dishes. It respects the dish’s level of spiciness and provides a finish that washes down the thick spicy sauce with a delicate aftertaste of tropical notes.
Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz
- Winery — Torbreck
- Country/Region — Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
- Type — Australian Shiraz
- Aroma — Black Fruit, Anise, Mocha, Violets, Chocolate
- Grapes — Shiraz
- Taste — Blackberry, Plum, Oak, Cedar, Pepper, Licorice
- Alcohol Content — 15%
- Sugar — Dry
- Pairing — Biryani, Pulao, Dal Fry, All Kinds Of Steaks
Torbreck Woodcutter is a high-quality deep-violet medium-bodied Australian Shiraz with a unique bouquet of aromas and tasting notes you’ll only find in soil from the land down under. If you’re looking for the best red wine with Indian food, this Shiraz with its soft tannic structure that incorporates strong black fruit notes and contrasts with a woody texture fits the bill.
On the nose, you get strong notes of black fruits with a hint of pepper and mocha. The dominant tasting notes are plum and raspberry that give way to a complex mid-palate of cedar, dark chocolate, spice, and vanilla. The finish is chocolatey and savory at the same time and has a medium finish. As for the best Indian cuisine match? Dishes like Biryani, Dal Rice, or Sambar Rice with a medium-bodied Shiraz like this one would be a match made in heaven. The flavors of South Indian cuisine demand a rich-tasting wine to bring out the smokiness and spiciness on the palate.
Pairing Indian Foods with wine isn’t that hard. You don’t have to be a connoisseur or a professional chef. So if you want the perfect Indian food wine match, you just have to consider the dish’s key flavors, like spiciness, saltiness, or citrus, and find a wine that balances both the texture and the flavor. Light-bodied white wines go well with dishes that are rich in sauce and spice. Full-bodied red wines can accompany dishes that are less intense and light on the stomach and palate. You can take the Indian fine-dining experience to a whole new level with the perfect wine pairing.