I recently reviewed two Tesco wines with a curry for National Curry Week and was pleasantly surprised at how well they went together.
Gewurz with curry is a go-to much-cited match that I have never been really convinced about, but it worked rather well here.
Red wine and curry is a much tougher ask, in my opinion, but a chilled Carménère was a surprisingly successful match with rogan josh.
A bit of discussion on Twitter about the food and wine combinations led me to the following conclusions:
- curry works best with high acidity, relatively neutral wines with a good mid-palate;
- traditional method fizzes meet all these criteria, so don't be afraid to try Cava and curry; it's generally quite inexpensive, so a more affordable starting point for experimentation than vintage Grand Marque Champagne
- crisp, citrussy and bubbly, Cava is also not dissimilar to a good lager; the traditional match for a curry
- if you want other inexpensive refreshing bubbles with curry, I would advise that you avoid Prosecco; with its shorter fermentation and more floral profile, it does not really stand up to the spicy bitter-umami of Indian foods
- chilling reds enhances the freshness and suppresses the flavours; this works with curry and is most suitable for simply, juicy wines rather than anything too high-end, tannic or complex
- bear in mind that chilled reds become a different wine, albeit chilling does not quite turn them into white wines; they retain a texture that is still red, even if they lose their "red wine" flavours
- you can chill expensive Cali Zinfandel if you want and it will then match with a curry; but why? It is something akin to a Monster Truck - Big, Expensive, Pointless, Blue-Collar Dumb Fun.
Beer and Curry - the curry
For this experiment, we started with poppadoms and sauces; mango and lime chutneys are a complete palate-killer so, unsurprisingly, the beers won out here.
For mains, I made a (version of) coconut and tamarind chicken curry from a Meera Sodha recipe: Coconut and tamarind chicken curry | Meera Sodha
It's similar to a European stew, slightly sweet from the coconut and not too spicy with exotic flavours of ginger and cinnamon.
Beer and Curry - the beers
I tried two traditional "curry beers" from Tesco; unsurprisingly, they both worked well.
Kingfisher Lager - £2.00/650ml bottle, Tesco
Kingfisher is an Indian lager brewed in the UK, but crucially to the same recipe as the original. It is India's best-selling lager and dates back to 1978.
hoppy and aromatic; crisp, citrussy and expressively hoppy with zippy grapefruit zest and a food-friendly bitter-sweetness.
Matches well with the curry and stands up to the strong flavours - unanimously agreed as the popular favourite.
Cobra Indian Premium Lager - £2.00/620ml bottle, Tesco
Cobra is brewed in the UK from barley, rice, maize wheat and four varieties of hops; the company was founded in 1989 by Karan Bilimoria who wanted to create a beer with the refreshment of a lager, but with the smoothness of an ale.
malty and savoury with subtle aromatics; rich, smooth and refreshing with an easy-drinking sweetness; very well-made, well-balanced and harmonious if a little neutral and unassuming.
Works well with the curry, but very much in a supporting role; lacks the immediate appeal of the Kingfisher.
Alternatives and rejects
I tried a couple of other wines I had on the go to see how they went with curry - in general they did not work, so the advice here is: approach with caution.
A lovely wine, but the "red wine" fruit flavours clash with the curry; interestingly, the acidity and tannins work well with the food, so chilled down, it might be a much better match.
Copper Crew Discovers Sauvignon Blanc (around £4 per can)
A WIGIG limited-edition from Copper Crew that I had on the go, this works well with the curry on most, but not quite all fronts. With plenty of acidity and a bit of lees aging, it has the freshness and the savouriness not to be overpowered by the food.
The acidity works well on the front palate and the leesy savouriness carries it through to the back palate; but the mid-palate sweetness and spices of the curry are just too much.
Surprisingly successful with the curry, it also just-about stands up to poppadums and onion salsa. If you drink mainly Sauvignon and must have wine with your curry, this is about as close as it gets.
This had worked well with a savoury rogan josh when chilled, but like the Negly, failed completely with a sweeter, coconut-based curry when at room temperature.
Finally, here is WineMatcher Fiona Beckett's take on curry and wine matching: What wine to pair with curry - my top 5 picks | Matching Food & Wine (matchingfoodandwine.com)