Matching wine with Indian food

Half-way through a recent Vindaloo dinner at our local Indian joint, my friend turned to me and – tears pouring down her face – asked me to order her another beer.

Wine pairings are notoriously tricky when it comes to Indian food, so beer tends to be the go-to beverage – even for wine lovers. The tannins in wine become hideously bitter when confronted with the searing effect of chillies, and the heavy spices leach the fruit flavours from the wine leaving it too sharp and astringent.

When matching wine with Indian food, even the most delectable and award winning wines can be reduced to battery acid.

But, the good news is that there are some amazing matches to be found for Indian food if you dare to be a little adventurous and reach for a wine that is low in tannins, bountiful in fruit, and has a just an edge of sweetness to counter the heat. And I don’t mean you’ll need to rummage around in your Nanna’s special stash.

While tastes are personal, there’s no need to go all the way to the sickly end of the spectrum to get the desired result. But you do need a wine that’s fruitier and sweeter than your usual preference because it has to work harder to keep your palate balanced.

Two of my absolute favourite wines to enjoy with Indian food – and deeply spiced food in general – are Riesling and Sparkling Shiraz.

Riesling – a perfect foil to spicy food

You might not have good memories of Riesling. But it’s come a long way since your parents extracted it out of a cardboard box and threw an ice cube in it.

It’s undergoing a bit of a renaissance here in Australia, and with good reason –  a floral, fruit driven and crisp Riesling is a wine of pure joy, and they are a brilliant match for so many of the spicy foods our palates have grown to love.

Rieslings can span a wide range of sweetness levels, and while a sweeter Riesling will do wonders at cutting through the rich spice of Indian food, if you’re sweet enough already then an off-dry style, one that just has a gift of lingering sweetness as it disappears down your throat, is perfect.

Add Bollywood sparkle with a Sparkling Shiraz

If you want to put some Bollywood sparkle into your Indian dining experience, then grab a bottle of Australia’s very own bubbling success story, Sparkling Shiraz. Somehow, due the mysteries of alchemy, when the bubbles are added it turns this usually tannic varietal into a smooth, fruity and deeply refreshing drink. I’ve seen many non-Shiraz drinkers become lifelong converts after their first sip.

The rich blackcurrant and spicy plum flavours are a welcome complement to the layered spices in the food, and the effervescence is refreshing on the tongue and provides a counterpoint to any intense heat.

It has just enough sweetness to stand up to the spices, and with virtually no acids, this is a wine match that’ll make the most serious wine snob perform an outlandish musical number. And because Sparkling Shiraz is best served a little chilled, it adds to the heat quenching experience.

Sparkling Shiraz is widely stocked alongside other sparkling wines at most bottle shops and retailers.

(This article – written by The Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society’s founder, Jane Thomson – originally appeared on the Australian Good Food Guide website, and was reprinted here with permission.)