Vino & Curry: Wine Not?

It’s wine-o-clock, and we’re pairing it with curry. Yes, you read that right. Now, we’re not going to say ‘forget beer’ because beer and curry is a great match, but if you match curry with wine, both shine. And the best part? You don’t need to be a wine connoisseur to do it. It all comes down to two things: spice and sauce. The spicier a curry is, the harder it is to pair, but rest assured it’s possible. The base of the sauce is where you find room to play around with the nuanced flavours of both curry and wine. Let’s get into the details.

Hot & Spicy

Now when it comes to curries like chicken vindaloo and lamb masala, your first impression might be to go for a heavy red to punch through the heat. Here’s why that’s a bad idea: the higher alcohol percentage and the tannins of red wines will only add fuel to the fire. Literally. Instead, go for dry or off-dry Rieslings, especially ones from German or Australian vineyards. The crisp acidity of these wines will counter the spice while simultaneously soothing your palate, and the slight sweetness doesn’t hurt either. Alternatively, a quality rosé will do the same thing, just make sure it’s bubble-free. Why? As anyone who’s tried curry and soda together knows, spicy food makes fizzy drinks taste all wrong, so save the bubbles for another time. A nice roast chicken, perhaps?

Creamy Chicken

Creamy curries like chicken korma and butter chicken tend to be milder than their tomato-based cousins, which means more options for pairings. While Rieslings and rosés are still a solid choice, a Pinot gris can play nicely to the creamy texture of yoghurt-based curries. They’ve also got lower acidity than the Rieslings, meaning your glass of wine will interact with the food, rather than just cleaning your palate. With milder kormas, you can even bust out a bottle or two of red, provided they’re low-alcohol and low-tannin. A light-bodied shiraz or pinot noir will complement the curry nicely.

Meat Lovers

When it comes to meatier curries like lamb rogan josh or beef rendang, classic wine wisdom holds true, namely: red wine for red meat. Just bear in mind that the curry’s richness will make it a better match with a medium or light red. Always go for an unoaked wine, oak flavours don’t play well with curry. To help balance out the weight of the curry, you can chill your wine for an extra refreshing edge. Nothing too drastic, 30 minutes in the fridge before serving will do the trick.

Special Mention: Thai Curry

Thai curries straddle the line between sweet and sour, packed with bright aromatics and spices, making them a little different from the curries we’ve covered so far. They can also differ a lot from one another, so don’t be afraid to taste before you pair. Generally though, let the spice be your guide. A soft Côtes du Rhône will complement the earthy flavours in milder curries, while an off-dry Chenin Blanc will balance out the heat in spicier curries.

 

So there you have it, the right wine for all the curry times. But just in case you find yourself stuck in a sticky spot, here’s all you need to remember: Aim for acidity and low alcohol. Now go and make like the sommelier you were born to be.

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