The wine list at most Indian restaurants tends to be a rather hit and miss affair.
So much so that when it comes matching a wine with your chosen dish, customers usually have to make do with what works, rather than what is ideal.
I’m pleased to say that’s not the case at Raval – our extensive wine list means even the fussiest of sommeliers would find something suitable to complement their meal.
Let us assume, however, that you are, like many people, somewhat confused about pairing wine and curry.
There’s no denying it can be tricky – and that’s probably why we sell so much of our refreshing Cobra lagers.
An ice cold beer can be the perfect partner for hot and spicy cuisine because it’s a refreshing contrast to the food.
But not everyone wants a long drink and these days I am finding couples in particular are keen to share a bottle of wine with their meal.
I’m always being asked what I recommend and I give the same answer every time…it really depends on (A) what you like to begin with and (B) what type of curry you opt for.
It can get especially tricky if you choose a meal that differs greatly from that of your fellow diner – if, for example, you opt for a mild and creamy dish and they choose the hottest on the menu. But let’s assume, for the moment, that you go for something roughly similar.
The first thing you should know is that it is easier to match wine with a mild curry. And the second is that white wines tend to work better with Indian food than reds.
This is because reds are naturally higher in tannins, which add texture and a touch of bitterness to the taste, and this does not work so well with curry. They are also often higher in alcohol – and the last thing you need is a big, bold 15% drink overpowering the spices.
So, here’s a run down of some wines worth considering.
A fruity rosé
A strong fruity style of rose works really well with curry; you get the acidity, which cuts through to cleanse the palate and you get a touch of sweetness which works especially well with hotter curries. Raval’s Italian Pinot Grigio Rosé Ancora (£18.95) is a popular choice with customers, as is the slightly pricier but fruity Californian White Zinfandel (£20.95).
Gewürztraminer and Riesling
Riesling is a great choice with chicken, fish and vegetable curries – and can sometimes even work with meatier ones. Again, there is often just a hint of sweetness that comes through and complements the warm Asian spices. Gewürztraminer is probably better with spicy dishes as its bold flavours could actually overpower a very mild curry. Raval’s French Gewürztraminer (£24.95) has an aromatic, spicy bouquet with lasting aftertaste. There’s a hint of honeyed sweetness, too, in our mouth-watering New Zealand Riesling from Marlborough’s acclaimed Vidal Estate (£27.95).
This much maligned grape variety works superbly well with a range of curries, but especially creamy ones. Opt for a fruity style and don’t worry if it’s blended with other grapes such as Semillon, Chenin or Colombard because that works too. Voignier, which is similar to Chardonnay, is also an option. Our excellent value Vin de Pays d’Oc Bellefontaine (£14.95) is a great choice Chardonnay – or you could spend a little more on the superb South Australian Runamok (£18.95) which boasts tropical and citrus fruit flavours, with a fragrant hint of sweet vanilla-oak and a soft, rounded finish.
If you really want to push the boat out, opt for Champagne with your curry because it really is a classic combination. Served ice cold, the blend of off-dry fizz and acidity works brilliantly. You’d be spoilt for choice at Raval – we offer everything from an elegant H Blin from the Marne Valley (£45.95) to a world-class 1999 Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque (£185.95).
Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc
Pinot Gris is a speciality of Alsace, but is also found in New Zealand and parts of America. It pairs really well with mild to medium-hot Indian curries. The same can be said for Sauvignon Blanc so long as you don’t opt for one that’s too bone dry. Lean towards zesty, gooseberry flavours and you’ll be fine. Something like Raval’s Vidal Estate Marlborough (£24.95) would do the trick, or if you fancy treating yourself to the daddy of them all, we also stock the outstanding Cloudy Bay (£45.95)
Finally, it would be churlish to discount reds altogether. So, choose something bursting with berry fruit flavours but not too oaky and heavy. A light Merlot would work well, such as Raval’s Vin de Pays d’Oc Bellefontaine (£14.95) and, somewhat surprisingly, a light Rioja crianza or even a reserva would pair nicely with a hearty lamb rogan josh. Raval’s Rioja Tempranillo DDOC Artesa (£18.95) would certainly fit the bill with its tart cherry flavours and lively acidity.
Bon appétit curry lovers!