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Indian Cuisine

Food, Spices & Wine

When it comes to Indian food, the first thing that comes to mind is curry. Yet, Indian cuisine goes far beyond typical curries like butter chicken and includes numerous other dishes that are often overlooked.

indian-3Spices play an integral role in Indian cuisine and are normally ground and mixed fresh immediately before cooking. Just the right amount is made for every meal and the leftovers are almost never stored.

Turmeric, cardamom, cumin, pepper, nutmeg, ginger, bay leaves, mustard, cloves, fenugreek, garlic and cinnamon are some of the most important spices used in Indian cookery. These spices are blended and added to curries (a relatively liquid side dish, although the definition is up for debate) and other dishes where they can be either extremely hot or not at all hot - but always extraordinarily flavourful. 

Traditional Indian cuisine is peppered with exotic ingredient and dish names pakora, koftas, ghee, paneer, masala, papadum and nahn. The colour palette too,  is spicy.

Beer goes Here

One thing that isn't up for debate and to which we happily concede is that beer and Indian food go very well together.

indian-1Cold beer that is. And cold Indian beer like Kingfisher lager (widely available in Canada), or Cobra (made in the UK), is almost always best. 

Perhaps it is the addition of maize (corn) and rice to the traditional barley, malt and hops that so perfectly suits Indian spices. 

When in Rome... as they say.

We can't return to the subject of wine until we further explore Indian spices - a complex equation with no definitive answer. 

Indian spices are not always used together, sometimes they are used alone or simply in different combinations. It is the spices that control the flavor and taste of the dish as opposed to what they are actually flavoring.

It is easier therefore to pair wines with spice combinations than it is to pair with the named dish that is being served. For foods that are in rich in spices there are a few simple rules to remember. Look for wines that lean toward fruit, are lower in acid and tannins and have a mild sweetness. Sweetness with calm the heat in a dish, while tannins will amplify it. Choose your wine based on how you want to interpret the spices.

Out with the Old and In with the New

The old food and wine pairing rule about pairing white with white and red with red should be ignored for Indian food. Don't be afraid to drink the right white wines with heavily spiced meats like lamb curry or korma.

indian-2If the dish is earthy or redolent with musty coriander it would likely pair well with a big Spanish Rioja (right)  - chewy but not overly spicy.

Avoid heavily tannic reds and look for whites that are not oak aged. Acid and alcohol levels should be balanced and the more complex the meal is, the less complex your wine should be.

A few wines that go well with a range of Indian dishes are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. For pakoras and samosas, try Sauvignon Blanc, while German Rieslings, Pinot Noirs and Muscadets go well with tandoori. Roses and sparkling wines also work well with most Indian food.

Champagne pairs quite well with Indian food, but admittedly we think Champagne pairs well with just about everything.