Matching the right wine with the right food can make a vast difference to the appreciation and enjoyment of your dining experience and some people get so concerned about it that they often choose something else to drink altogether. When people first began to enjoy wine with spicy dishes in numbers, experts with their routes firmly in French tradition, recommended heavy wines and strong spicy wines such as Gewurtztraminer. The problem was that they understood the wines but not necessarily the food as it is just as important that the wine does not drown the spicing as the other way round.
Demand for wine in Indian restaurants is split almost 50/50 between white and red and there are some excellent choices. Recommended white wines include the obvious Chardonnay(which includes Chablis), South African Chenin Blanc, Italian Pinot Grigio or Orvieto and the hugely improved Viognier.
Excellent reds are Merlot, New World Shiraz and Margauz and the offerings of Chile and Argentina offer excellent value at present.
Chardonnay – medium to full-bodied, dry
Poultry and game birds, veal and pork, rabbit, fish and pasta preparations which feature cream and or butter, mushrooms and most Indian spiced dishes when served at correct temperature. Possibly the most popular white wine.
Sauvignon Blanc – light-medium bodied, dry
Starters, seafood, most ethnic dishes, pasta, curry, salsa, tomato sauces, oil based dishes, vegetable dishes.
Chenin Blanc – light to medium-bodied, normally off-dry
Chicken, sushi, curry, Oriental dishes, pork. South African and Chilean particularly good at present served well chilled.
Traminer – light to medium body, usually semi sweet, occasionally off-dry
Spicy cuisines such as Chinese, Mexican and Indian but can be too strong for happy marriage. Some labels are excellent.
Riesling – light to medium bodied, semi-sweet to off-dry
Crabmeat, appetizers, pork, salads. Depends very much on the label. Considerably improved of late
Semillon – medium bodied dry white
Fish, foods with creamy sauces such as pasta. Very good for spicy cuisines when blended with Chardonnay.
Verdelho – medium bodied dry white
Grilled fish, fruit platters, pastas with cream based sauce
Cabernet Sauvignon – medium to full-bodied, tannic and dry
Beef, lamb, pork, duck, game, cheeses
Merlot – medium to full-bodied, less tannic than Cabernet and dry
Beef, lamb, pork, duck, game, stews, pizza, pasta, spicy dishes. One of the best house wines
Shiraz – medium to full bodied
Excellent with rich spicy meals. Veal, kangaroo, duck. Some sparkling Shiraz can be very good with pastries and puddings
Grenache – medium to full bodied dry red
Fillet steak, sweet seafood, chicken and red meats. The white Grenache can also be very good with spicy cuisines as a good value wine.
Pinot Noir – medium to light-bodied, dry, low tannin with silky texture
Lamb, duck, turkey, game birds, beef, rabbit, semi-soft cheeses
Rose – great variations depending on level of residual sugar
Smoked foods, quiche, pork, some Mexican and Thai food. Can be served with any food
Brut – dry sparkling
Aperitifs and first courses. Fuller bodied variations go well with any fish or chicken. According to scientific research sparkling wine and champagne in particular stimulate the palate and flow of gastric juices as an ideal aperitif much better than traditional sherry or Martini. Champagne raises the necessary stomach acid to 95% of its maximum level and beer is surprisingly high at 85%. Martini could only score 57% and calvados and armagnac hardly register which is why they are best at the end of a meal as an aid to digestion. Start your spicy meal with a glass of bubbly!