Tricky pairings #1 – Curry

Wine pairing is an incredibly complex topic. There is no way to cover it in just one post, and I will delve more into it in future posts, but let me give you a brief overview.

Mel’s take on wine pairing

The general goal is to find a wine that complements your food. You don’t want your wine to overpower the flavours of your dish, but you also want it to be able to stand up to the food. There are the well-known pairings: steak with a big, bold red like cabernet sauvignon, where the tannins in the wine help cut through the fat of the meat; or fish with a light, crisp white like sauvignon blanc. But these are just the basics. In my experience, these generic pairings don’t always cut it. What if your steak is being served with a flavourful chimichurri sauce, or what if the fish comes with a mango coulis? Then your tyical pairings would go right out the window. The trick is to identify the most powerful flavour component on the plate, and try to find a complementary wine for that, not necessarily the protein it is being served with.

A tricky pairing

This brings us to today’s topic: the tricky pairing of curry.  There are different types of curry and I must say that I am unclear on the differences. I just know that I prefer a Thai curry to an Indian curry.  Then, there are red, green, and yellow curries, all of which have a distinctive taste and tend to be served with different vegetables for some reason. If anyone can enlighten me, please feel free to do so in the comments. My focus today, however, is on the wine to go with these types of flavourful dishes.

Let’s break it down

In any curry dish, what is the most powerful flavour component? The curry itself, and its accompanying spiciness. Spiciness, along with tanginess and sweetness, is one of the most challenging flavours to pair with wine. Just imagine you’re eating a spicy chili. Is there a wine that comes to mind that you would want to drink? Probably not. Maybe a light beer, like a Corona or a Tiger beer, something refreshing. Or something with some sweetness, like an iced tea. What if we could find a wine that was similar? Perhaps one with the refreshing aspect of the beer and the sweetness of the iced tea?


The other night we went to a friend’s house, where two different types of curry were being served. One was a tofu red curry, and the other was a vegetarian yellow curry with peas and potatoes. I sent my husband to the LCBO with instructions to get an off-dry or medium riesling from Alsace (FR) or Germany. He arrived at dinner with a bottle of Rethink Riesling, from the Mosel in Germany ($12.80 at the LCBO).

Re-think riesling

On the nose, it is unquestionably a riesling, with the typical citrus and vinyl aroma (not at all a bad thing in this wine). On the palate, the same citrus, plus a bit of peach and green apple quite refreshing with just a hint of sweetness. It didn’t do bad things for the food, and managed to stand up to the spiciness. That said, according to the bottle and the LCBO, it is a dry wine, with the website indicating 15 grams of sugar per litre. However, it also describes it as “off-dry & fruity”. Go figure. Next time, I would probably choose a sweeter wine. Sweeter wines tend to envelop the mouth a bit more, which would balance out and cool off the curry’s spice. With that in mind, a German or French gewürztraminer would also have been a good choice.

A Thai feast, paired with a German riesling.

A Thai feast, paired with a German riesling.

So that’s what I drank with curry the other night. What do you think? What are your preferred pairings for spicy curries? Shall we do a taste test soon?

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