Wine Information & Reviews | Vino Critic

Last Updated 10-16-2023

Drinking wine with Indian dishes isn’t near as common as drinking wine with an Italian, French, or Spanish dishes, or even a nice steak. Pairing wine with Indian food can be very challenging due to the amount of spices and complex flavors in traditional Indian recipes. But wine can absolutely be paired and enjoyed with Indian meals!

There are several simple rules to follow when pairing wine with Indian food.

1. The spicier the dish, the sweeter the wine. 

2. The spicer the dish, pick something with lower tannins & low alcohol. 

3. Pick a stronger tasting wine to go with stronger dishes so the wine isn’t overpowered. 

4. Typically avoid pairing with very dry wines. 

5. The fruitier & more aromatic the wine the better. 

6. Rose and sparkling wines can be great options to try. 

7. Riesling pairs well with most dishes and is a good default if you aren’t sure or splitting a bottle of wine with others.

Traditional Indian Food Ingredients

There are some staples to most every Indian dish. Understanding the common ingredients can help determine which wines will complement those flavors the best. Indian food is particularly hard to pair with due to the amount of ingredients and flavors in their cuisine. Here is a long but certainly not exhaustive list of common food ingredients.

Basmati Rice, Chickpeas, Naan flatbread, Jaggery, Beans – kidney, Mung, Split Legumes, Coconut Milk, Sesame Oil, Yogurt Limes, Mango, Pomegranate, Spinach, Nuts – Almonds, Cashews, & Pistachios.

Indian Spices – Indian dishes are typically very heavy in spice with a wide variety used in each recipe. The most common or well known spices are Bay Leaves, Cardamom (green or brown seeds), Cinnamon, Cloves, Cumin, Curry, Coriander, Cilantro, Garam Masala, Mint, Mustard, Onion Seeds and Paprika. Some other not as common spices include Ajwain (similar to thyme), Anise Seeds (similar to fennel), Asafetida (pungent odor), Fenugreek, Ginger, Mango Powder, Nutmeg, Poppy Seeds, Saffron, Sesame Seeds, Star Anise, Tamarind Paste, Turmeric.

Common Wines From India

India is not known for producing wine, especially wines that are regularly found in the United States. That is due to 2 reasons. The first reason is that people from India tend to drink much less wine than people from other regions around the world. The 2nd reason is that India only started to produce wine grapes starting in the 1980s. Wine in India is becoming more and more popular though, as it becomes more readily available and grape production continues to grow. Some of the more common types of wine produced in India are cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay.

Most Indian restaurants will have only a few types of wines available. The most common wines available are riesling, pinot noir and cabernet. A cold glass of riesling will be the best default to drink with Indian food.

Here are some classic Indian food and wine pairings:

  • Tikka Masala and Riesling
  • Tandoori Chicken and Pinot Noir
  • Saag Paneer and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Sambar Rice and Shiraz

Best Red Wine With Indian Food

A lot of people assume all Indian food is spicy, however that isn’t the case. There are many different dishes and flavors in Indian food, and oftentimes a red wine is paired better than a white wine. Or if you just prefer red wine over white wine, then this list is for you. Here are some of our favorite red wines to drink with Indian food.

Malbec – great with lamb dishes that aren’t spicy. 

Pinot Noir – light wine that is great paired with curry. 

Shiraz – choose a light bodied shiraz to go with sambar rice. 

Beaujolais – light and fruit forward wine that goes great with spicy Indian dishes.

Gamay – also good with spicy wine due to low alcohol and ripe fruit notes. 

Syrah – an excellent choice with kebabs or other grilled meats.

Best White Wine With Indian Food

By default, white wine is typically a safer choice to drink with Indian food. This is due to the lower alcohol content in white wine versus red wine. Tannins and big bold flavors may also cause problems paired with complex flavors found in Indian dishes. Here are some of our favorite white wines to drink with Indian food.

Riesling – a great default for most meals if you are uncertain what to pair. 

Sauvignon Blanc – wonderful with Saag Paneer, an Indian vegetable dish with cheese.

Gewürztraminer – drink this with Tikka Masala or meat curries. 

Grüner Veltliner – drink this with green and creamy Indian dishes like Saag paneer.

Pinot Gris – the creaminess complement the creamy dishes in Indian cuisine. 

Rosé – excellent with spicy dishes like Vindaloo (a spicy curry).

Pairing Wine With Traditional Indian Recipes

Our general guidance is to pair simple wines with the complex flavor profile of Indian cuisine. The sauce, the spiciness and the protein of the meal can all impact which wine will go best with the meal.

The spiciness of a dish can be a challenge when picking out the perfect wine to complement your food. To offset the spiciness in a dish there are 3 things you can do. Pick a wine that is served cold, has some sweetness to it, and has a lower alcohol content to it.

The sauce used in the main dish will typically be a tomato based, curry based, creamy based or a green herbaceous based sauce. For tomato based dishes, choose a wine that has a high acidity to combat the acidity in the tomatoes. For a curry base or creamy based dish, choose a wine that has high tannins and medium body.

The protein used will also impact what type of wine to choose. Meat dishes like lamb go well with a full bodied wine. Chicken, seafood and vegetable focused recipes will pair best with a white wine with high acidity and fruitiness.

Curry Wine Pairing

There are several different types of curry. The most popular curry dishes are Dhansak, Saag, Korma, Jalfrezi, Vindaloo, Tikka Masala. Each has their own distinct flavor profile and spiciness. So there is not 1 general wine that goes with every curry. If we are forced to pick a wine that goes with any curry, we would suggest trying a riesling with it, as that wine pairs with most types of Indian food.

Curry can be categorized into 3 main types; red, yellow, and green curry.

Pairing With Red Curry – depending on the spiciness of the dish, we recommend pairing a red curry with a nice medium bodied red wine like a zinfandel or a white wine with high acidity like a riesling or Moscato d’Asti.

Pairing With Yellow Curry – try to pair yellow curry dishes with an unoaked chardonnay that has been chilled. The stronger the fruitiness and flavors of the chardonnay the better, so the sauce doesn’t overpower the wine.

Pairing With Green Curry – pick a lower alcohol content wine if the sauce is spicy and a wine that can stand up to the strong aromas of the green curry. We recommend pairing a green curry dish with a nice bottle of riesling or get adventurous and pair it with a Gewürztraminer.

Chicken Tikka Masala Wine Pairing

The sauce used in Chicken Tikka Masala is a creamy tomato-based sauce. So choose a wine that has a high acidity to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes and also a wine that has strong flavors so it doesn’t get overpowered by the sauce. Pick a riesling, pinot grigio or gewurztraminer to drink with your chicken tikka masala and you won’t be disappointed!

Butter Chicken Wine Pairing

Often referred to as Murgh Makhani, the Indian dish is made with a spicy tomato based sauce. Pick a wine with high acidity and some sweetness to combat the spiciness. Also, a chilled wine will be better to drink with butter chicken. Pick a sparkling rosé, riesling or zinfandel to drink with butter chicken.

Tandoori Chicken Wine Pairing

Pick a wine that is earthy, smokey and fruity to drink with tandoori chicken. A shiraz or pinot noir  will be an excellent complement to your meal.

Chicken Biryani Wine Pairing

This dish is often not as spicy as other Indian dishes. Which can allow you to pick a wine that has more tannins than when pairing with other Indian dishes. Try pairing a nice sangiovese with chicken biryani.

Best Wines To Pair With Indian Food

  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Pinot Noir
  • Shiraz
  • Beaujolais
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