Seven Nights of Wine Pairings
An expert’s tips on the best wine for Indian food and more
We all know the basics: pair red wine with red meat, and white wine with seafood. But what if you’re having a South Indian thali at home and want a little kick in your beverage — one that doesn’t clash with the meal, but rather enhances the coconut and tamarind flavours? What about when you mix it up the next night — will the best wine for Indian food also go with Mexican?
Faced with that exact conundrum, we picked the brain of Vishal Kadakia, proprietor of Wine Park in Mumbai, to figure out how to pair wines with more than just French cuisine.
A 7-Day Wine Forecast for Your Dinner Table
Lemon Pepper Shrimp + Moscato or Trebbiano
Sometimes, you want to start the week off on a healthy note with a light seafood dish like this one. To pair with the lemony, peppery flavours of this dish, Kadakia suggests a Tuscan white that is sharp yet fruity. Something that has a hint of minerality, acidity and citrus; each of which complement seafood and Mediterranean flavours well.
Sweet potato sabzi and Gujarati khichdi + Riesling
You are lucky enough to have dinner sent over from your mother-in-law’s home and it turns out to be a complete Guju feast. It may be counter-intuitive to choose a sweeter white, but the lighter, fruity flavours of a Riesling — like lemongrass, peach, pear and apple — cut through the spices and sugars of a Gujarati meal, Kadakia says.
Mexican burrito bowls + Sangiovese
By Wednesday, you need something quick and comforting: a fast-food burrito bowl, in the comfort of your own home. Because tequila is not the best choice for a mid-week beverage past the age of 25, Kadakia suggests a fruity red with red berry notes, like a Sangiovese, one of the most common kinds of Italian red.
A good Sangiovese will be well-structured, have long-lasting flavour and smooth, velvety tannins. Along with a melange of flavours such as sweet, spicy and zesty, Mexican cuisine has a hearty earthiness in its standard ingredients, such as beans, corn and avocado. A Tuscan Sangiovese will tick all the right boxes when it comes to flavour, Kadakia says, and serve as a worthy competitor to Senor Jose Cuervo.
Chicken in coconut curry + Chardonnay
When pairing wine with Indian food as rich and hearty as a coconut-based curry, choose a wine that has warm flavours like butterscotch, fruit overtones like nectarine and pineapple, and a light touch of oak: a Chardonnay. The underlying nutty notes of this kind of wine will enhance the flavours of the curry without making you feel heavy, Kadakia says, and its refreshing fruit flavours will cut through the creaminess.
Pad Thai + Gewurtzraminer
Thai food is sweet, sour and spicy all in one; which means you need a wine that is versatile but also aromatic and robust. Choose a crisp Gewurtzraminer, Kadakia says, in which you will find hints of vanilla, pear, honey and sweet peaches that reduce the effect of Thai chillis. Gewurtzraminer can be very aromatic, but are still light enough to let you enjoy the spices and flavours of Thai cuisine. The juicy fruit and floral hints of the wine, paired with the burst of flavours in the Pad Thai, make for a complex yet accessible pairing with a refreshing finish, he adds.
Chicken tikka masala and black dal + Merlot
When going with heavier food, the saying stays true that you need to pick a heavier wine. However, stay away from reds as rich as Bordeaux’s when it comes to North Indian cuisine, and pick a Merlot insead, Kadakia advises. Merlots are traditionally one of the lighter red wines and often carry notes of cassis, plum, vanilla and berry. The jammy scents and full-bodied finish will provide a nice partner for the heavy, flavourful North Indian dishes you plan to indulge in. Complex layers of juicy dark fruits, baking spices, earth and firm tannins make a strong companion to go with the creamy, spicy richness of the meal.
Dosa, idli, sambar and coconut chutney + Pinot Grigio
Everyone knows that Sundays are for dosas and idlis — as well as some afternoon sundowner drinking. A good Pinot Grigio, Kadakia says, will feature a seductive bouquet of citrus fruit and white peach, will taste medium-rich on the palate and will end with a refreshing tangy acidity. This mix of fruity and fresh is exactly what you want during a carb heavy meal like this.