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Guide to the best wines with Indian food

Are you a fan of mouth-watering Indian cuisine but unsure how to elevate the dining experience with the perfect wine pairing? Fret not! In this ultimate guide, we will delve into the complexities of Indian dishes and their unique flavors, and discover the best wines with Indian food to complement them. Get ready to embark on a flavorful adventure and transform your dining experience!

Pairing indian food

  • Understanding Indian cuisine and wine pairing involves familiarizing oneself with the flavor profiles, textures, and richness of Indian dishes.
  • White wines such as Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer are ideal for pairing with Indian food due to their balance of acidity. Red wines like Pinot Noir or Merlot can also be used.
  • Expert tips help maximize dining experience by successfully matching specific dishes with appropriate wines like Gewürztraminer for Gulab Jamun or Chenin Blanc for Kheer.

Understanding Indian cuisine and wine pairing

Indian cuisine is renowned for its diversity and intricate use of spices. The complexity of flavors, ranging from mild to fiery, presents a challenge when it comes to wine pairing. Remember, the right wine can enhance the taste of a dish. Therefore, before you embark on your pairing journey, get to know the flavor profiles, textures, and richness of Indian cuisine.

Spices play a starring role in Indian cooking. Garam masala, cumin, and coriander are frequently used, forming the famous masala spice mix. The variety of spices and flavors in Indian dishes requires careful consideration when selecting the perfect wine to accompany them.

Flavor profiles in Indian dishes

The flavor spectrum of Indian dishes is vast, encompassing everything from the mild, creamy textures of butter chicken to the fiery, palate-tingling heat of Vindaloo dishes. Dairy products such as:

  • milk
  • butter
  • yogurt
  • ghee

Commonly found in North Indian cuisine, Indian cheese adds richness, creaminess, and complexity to the popular vegetarian Indian dishes.

Comprehending these flavor profiles comes in handy when selecting a wine that can enrich the overall dining experience.

Texture and richness

Indian cuisine is a delightful amalgamation of spices, ingredients, and flavors, creating a variety of Indian foods with varying textures and richness. The balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors determines a dish’s richness, while the texture is influenced by the ingredients used.

When it comes to complementing or contrasting these elements, wine pairing steps into the limelight. For instance, Chenin Blanc can be an ideal accompaniment for more delicate textures, while Cabernet Franc may be a better pairing for richer dishes.

White wines for Indian food

White wines are often the go-to choice for pairing with Indian food, thanks to their acidity and ability to balance spices. When considering wine with Indian food, popular white wine options include:

  • Riesling
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Gewürztraminer

Whether your choice is a creamy korma or a fiery vindaloo, rest assured, there’s a white wine out there that will beautifully complement the dish.


Riesling is a versatile white wine that pairs exceptionally well with a variety of Indian dishes, particularly those featuring tangy and spicy flavors. Its distinct flavor profile, encompassing aromas and flavors such as:

  • peach
  • apple
  • apricot
  • pear
  • lemon
  • green apple
  • lime

make it a favorite among wine enthusiasts. The residual sugar and acidity of Riesling balance out the heat and intensity of the flavors, while the wine’s sweetness complements and cools down the palate.

Palak paneer and spiced curries find a splendid mate in Riesling.

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is characterized by its fruity and acidic notes, making it an ideal accompaniment to the richness of Indian curries and sauces. Originating in the Loire Valley of France, Chenin Blanc boasts flavors of:

  • lime
  • green apple
  • beeswax
  • jasmine
  • petroleum

The acidity and fruitiness of the wine effectively counterbalance the flavors of creamy Indian dishes like dal-chawal, a lentil and rice combination.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc’s crisp acidity and citrus notes make it a great match for Indian dishes featuring green herbs and spices. With flavors like grapefruit, lemon, grass, and bell pepper, Sauvignon Blanc can provide a refreshing contrast to the richness of Indian dishes, enhancing the overall taste experience.

Spices such as cinnamon, peppercorn, cumin, coriander, mace, and cardamom pair well with Sauvignon Blanc, which also complements Indian snacks like samosas and pakoras.


Gewürztraminer’s aromatic and slightly sweet profile pairs well with the bold flavors of Indian cuisine. With flavors of:

  • lychee
  • rose petal
  • ginger
  • spice
  • tropical fruit flavors like pineapple and mango

Gewürztraminer offers a delightful balance of sweetness and spice. The fruity and floral notes of Gewürztraminer balance out the heat and richness of tomato-based Indian curries.

and lighter-bodied red wines such as Gamay and Pinot Noir.

Red wines for Indian food

Despite the popularity of white wines, red wines can also be successfully paired with Indian food. Options like Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc offer a range of flavors and complexities that can complement the spices and flavors of various Indian dishes.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir’s light body and fruity notes make it a suitable choice for pairing with Indian dishes featuring tomato-based sauces. With flavors of ripe cherry, raspberry, mushroom, forest floor, vanilla, and baking spice, Pinot Noir offers a refreshing contrast to intensely flavored and heavily spiced dishes like tandoori chicken and chicken tikka masala.


Merlot’s smooth tannins and medium body work well with creamy and mildly spiced Indian dishes. With flavors of black cherry, blackberry, plum, and raspberry, as well as herbal notes, Merlot is an ideal accompaniment for dishes like:

  • Korma
  • Malai Kofta
  • Butter Chicken
  • Chicken Tikka Masala

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc’s herbal and spicy characteristics complement the complex flavors of Indian cuisine. It offers:

  • Red fruit flavors
  • Bell pepper
  • Crushed gravel
  • Chili pepper
  • A balance between herbs and peppery earthiness

Cabernet Franc can provide an additional layer of depth and complexity to the overall taste experience.

Specific dish and wine pairings

To further simplify your wine pairing journey, we’ve compiled some specific dish and wine pairings as a guide:

  • Pair butter chicken with Merlot
  • Pair saag paneer with Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pair chicken tikka masala with Pinot Gris
  • Pair lamb korma with Zinfandel

These combinations will help you make informed choices and enhance your enjoyment of pairing Indian food with Indian cuisine.

Butter chicken

Butter chicken is a creamy curry dish featuring spiced tomatoes, a rich butter sauce, and coconut milk or cream. Pairing butter chicken with medium-bodied reds like Merlot or whites like Chardonnay can help balance the creamy and spiced tomato sauce.

The richness and acidity of these wines complement the dish’s flavors and prevent the wine from overpowering the dish.

Saag paneer

Saag paneer is a classic Indian dish consisting of spinach and paneer cheese, spiced with garam masala and cayenne. Crisp white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or German Riesling are an excellent choice for pairing with saag paneer.

The acidity of the wine complements the richness of the dish and its spices, making it an ideal pairing.

Chicken tikka masala

Chicken tikka masala is characterized by its creamy, orange-colored sauce and slightly spicy, earthy, smoky, creamy, sweet, tangy, and mildly spicy flavor profile.

White wines like Pinot Gris or Gewürztraminer are ideal for pairing with chicken tikka masala. The acidity and fruitiness of these wines complement the creaminess of the curry, creating a harmonious pairing.

Lamb korma

Lamb korma is a braised meat curry that is slow-cooked with onions and a blend of aromatic spices such as:

  • cardamom
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • cumin

The nutty and creamy sauce in lamb korma pairs well with dry, semi-sweet red wines like Zinfandel or Viognier.

These best wines, including subtly sweet wines, balance the flavors of the dish, resulting in a delightful dining experience.

Pairing wine with Indian desserts

Did you know that you can also pair wine with Indian desserts? Subtly sweet Gewürztraminer or Chenin Blanc can be excellent choices for complementing the sweetness of treats like gulab jamun and kheer.

So, next time you indulge in some Indian sweets, don’t forget to raise a glass of these delightful wines!

Gulab jamun

Gulab jamun is a beloved Indian dessert known for its syrupy sweetness and distinctive taste of rose water. The fruity and slightly sweet profile of Gewürztraminer balances the flavors of gulab jamun, offering a delightful wine pairing for this decadent dessert.


Kheer is a North Indian rice pudding made with basmati rice, sugar, and full-fat milk. The acidity and fruitiness of Chenin Blanc can complement the sweet and creamy flavors of kheer, making for a delectable dessert pairing.

Expert tips for successful wine pairing with Indian food

To ensure a successful wine pairing with Indian food, consider the sauce and spice level of the dish, as well as the protein used. Opt for versatile options like Prosecco or rosé when in doubt, as their flavor profiles can complement a wide range of Indian dishes.

Armed with these expert tips, you’re ready to enhance your Indian dining experience with impeccable wine pairings.

Wine with Indian food

In conclusion, pairing wine with Indian food can be a delightful adventure, enhancing the flavors and overall dining experience. With a wide variety of Indian dishes and their unique flavor profiles, understanding the nuances of wine pairing is essential. By considering the spices, textures, and richness of each dish, and following our expert tips, you’ll be well-equipped to make informed choices and enjoy the perfect wine pairings with your favorite Indian dishes.

What do you drink with an Indian meal?

Enjoy an Indian meal with traditional beverages like lassi, chai tea, and mango or masala spiced milkshakes.

What wine goes with chicken tikka masala?

For a delicious pairing, try a full-bodied red like Syrah or Malbec or an oaky Chardonnay with your chicken tikka masala.

Does Cabernet Sauvignon go with Indian food?

A Cabernet Sauvignon is an ideal pairing for Indian food, like rajma masala, chole masala and seekh kebab. Its robust body and rich flavors bring out the spices in these dishes perfectly. Butter chicken also pairs very well with Cabernet Sauvignon.

What are some specific dish and wine pairings for Indian cuisine?

For Indian cuisine, try pairing butter chicken with Merlot, saag paneer with Sauvignon Blanc, chicken tikka masala with Pinot Gris, and lamb korma with Zinfandel for a delicious experience.

Can wine be paired with Indian desserts?

Wine can be paired with Indian desserts, with Gewürztraminer or Chenin Blanc being excellent complements to the sweetness of dishes like gulab jamun and kheer.