Friday, June 13, 2014

How-To: Pair Wine with Indian Food Take-Out

Indian food is one of those cuisines that doesn't really have any history of pairing with wine. It wasn't a native drink in India, and the English tended to stick to their gin & tonic. That doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy Indian food with a glass of wine today. Why not? When both are so accessible now.

Of course, as a country of 1.2 billion people, "Indian Food" is more of a varied topic. But most American versions fall under the slightly less broad category of "Northern Indian" cuisine, with things like Tandoori, Naan, and paneer coming from this region that captures a wide range of global influence due to the spice trade. The food tends to be full of spices, but decidedly less spicy than "Southern Indian" cuisine. At least in comparison to Western dishes.

Take-out Indian food tends to rely heavily on stewed sauces for their complicated flavors. Tomato-based sauces can benefit from red wines with a hint of sweet fruit, like a Pinot Noir or Merlot. Cream-based sauces can use a crisp white, like Chenin Blanc to counteract their fatty richness. This works for more mild-spiced dishes.

You must remember the heat level, though, Some heat in a dish can be matched by a wine with it's own white pepper notes, like a Malbec. But the stronger heat of a Vindaloo needs something to cool it down, like a thick, sweet Riesling.

Finally, most casual Indian food in the United States tends to focus on ingredients Westerners can recognize,  the main protein or vegetable, which you can try to match your wine against. Pork isn't too common, and beef is basically right out, but you'll see plenty of chicken, mixed vegetables, fish, and even lamb.

As you can see, like all major cuisines, there is enough diversity of choice in Indian food that allows for just as much diversity in your wine selection to match it. Good luck!

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