By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 20 October 2018
To celebrate National Curry Week (22-28 October 2018) we have picked out our top ten choices for serving with popular spicy Indian curries like Korma, Madras, Jalfrezi, Keralan and Rogan Josh.
One of the first things to learn when matching wine and Indian curry is not to go with your usual Pinot Grigio, Soave or Prosecco choices. Think hard about matching flavour and aromatics – and calming down the chilli heat.
First tip is to avoid fizz as anything gassy gives the food a metallic taste. For still white wines, avoid bone dry examples, but head instead to off-dry German Riesling, Demi-Sec Loire Chenin Blanc or Alsace Gewurztraminer. According to Zubair Mohammed of Raeburn Wines: “wines with residual sweetness work best with curries, as the sugar helps to take the heat out of the dish”.
Mohammed also recommends white wine with good natural acidity from cool climates, as it is important to keep freshness in hot or sour dishes. He suggests avoiding oaky whites too.
The best reds to serve with spicy curry are light fruity fresh reds with good natural acidity. Good examples are Loire Cabernet Franc or New Zealand Pinot Noir.
Indian-based wine writer Ruma Singh (pictured right) thinks the best wine of all to serve throughout an Indian meal is rose: “Rose combines the structure of a light red with the crisp acid of dry whites”. She says the common error with many people is that they lump all the cuisines of Indian together as some are chilli-hot, some cooked in a tandoor or are pepper hot as in southern Keralan cuisine.
However, Singh says that there has been a move towards healthier eating with lighter less spicy curries across the continent which makes wine pairing much easier. With the help of some of The Spice Tailor curry sauces made by Anjum Anand we chose our favourite wine and curry match:
This subtle spicy creamy dish needs whites with high natural acid and a touch of residual sugar. VOUVRAY, LE PEU DE LA MORIETTE 2009 DOMAINE PICHOT (12.5%; £18.99 Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh) is a superb example. This single vineyard demi-sec (off-dry) Chenin Blanc has underlying minerality and a touch of honeyed complexity from bottle age: STAR BUY
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
Crisp acid white or a fruity rose go particularly well with the chunks of roasted chicken, onion, coriander and creamy sauce. Our top pick here with this classic dish was an inexpensive rose: BURRA BROOK ROSE 2017 (12.5%; £7 Marks & Spencer) from south east Australia. It worked surprisingly well as it had enough structure and crispness to match the tanginess of the curry.
My top choice of grapes to match with a light white fish Jalfrezi are Riesling or Pinot Gris. Our tasters thought the off dry flavours, zesty fruits and zingy acidity of PAUL CLUVER RIESLING 2017 (10.5%; £13 Marks & Spencer) from South Africa’s Elgin region worked best.
This creamy mild curry with yoghurt, cashews and cardamom worked well with the off-dry flavours, lightly spicy notes and melony fruits of ASHWOOD ESTATE PINOT GRIS 2017 (13.5%; £6.99 Aldi) from New Zealand’s Gisborne region – with enough zippy acid in this white wine to freshen the palate.
PRAWN KERALAN COCONUT CURRY
This creamy coconut curry worked exceptionally well with the highlight of our tasting: GEWURZTRAMINER VIEILLES VIGNES HERRENWEG DE TURCKHEIM 2010 Domaine Zind Humbrecht (13%; £28 Laithwaites) from Alsace with its rich dense fruits, vibrant acid, luscious honeyed sweetness: STAR BUY
With its depth of coriander, ginger and Brahim style goda masala spice, the robustness of this dish would match well with full bodied spicy reds like Rhone Syrah or Chilean Carmenere. ERRAZURIZ ESTATE SERIES CARMENERE 2017 (13.5%; £9.99 Waitrose). Its full aromatic character has enough fruit, spicy balsamic and peppery notes to blend well with this hearty curry.
LAMB ROGAN JOSH
A ripe fruity red works well with this full bodied onion-based Kashmiri curry – and also if you are making a vegetarian option instead. You could choose a soft rounded Garnacha from Navarra or this robust unoaked rich textured plums and damson flavoured Monastrell (Mourvedre grape) from Rioja: TAPA RIOJA OLD VINES 2016 (14%; £9 Marks & Spencer).
Choose a full bodied smoky structured red like QUINTA DOS ROQUES COLHEITA TINTO 2016 (13.5%; £14 Oddbins). This blend of four Portuguese grapes Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz from the top producer in up-and-coming Dao region has blackcurrant fruits and hints of pine tree resin and enough weight and spice to match with the curry: STAR BUY
Many Indian sommeliers recommend Loire Cabernet Franc with this style of heat, but I prefer a softer rounder riper more supple red with chewy tannins like the great bargain PORTA 6 TINTA 2015 (13.5%; £7.99 Majestic Wine) from the Alenquer region of Portugal north of Lisbon.
The depth of spice and high level of heat is a real challenge for any wine pairing, so don’t bring out your finest bottles. Head instead for an inexpensive Gewurztraminer with pungent aromas of lychees and spice, full bodied fruits and a touch of sweetness to help bring down the heat of the dish: VILLA MARIA PRIVATE BIN GEWURZTRAMINER 2017 (13%; £9.89 Majestic Wine).
Join Rose’s Eggs & Amphorae Wine Tasting at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, The Vaults, Giles Street, Edinburgh on Fri 23 November £42 www.rosemurraybrown.com