Wines for "Asian" food?

I’ve been asked to buy a bottle of red and a bottle of white for someone who eats “Asian” food. I know he does like S E Asian foods, but he’s of Indian origin so I would bet this is more often than nor Punjabi food. Max 30 quid for the two.

I’m kinda stumped by this (especially the red), only partly because I’ve been in the UK rarely and am a bit out of touch. So I thought I would tap into the (considerable) forum knowledge.

Many thanks for all replies. I don’t seem to be able to reply to community threads anymore (just get a 500 error message), so forgive me if I don’t respond.

Obviously “Asian” is a wide brief as you’ve noted, but even within that, there’s a heavy dependency on the amount of chilli heat likely to be involved in the food. Punjabi is often not super hot, but can have some hot dishes.

Assuming the intention would be to balance the heat rather than reinforce it, you’ve more options when the spice level is lower. To balance heat, wines with one or more of higher acidity, residual sugar, fruit-forwardness (is that a word?), lower tannins and lower alcohol helps.

For reds with Indian food, I’d think about Carménère, Pinot Noir (probably something fruity and New World rather than Burgundy, maybe Central Otago), or even Rioja with some bottle age. I recently was surprised how well a new world Syrah-Viognier blend worked. Of course if they want to reinforce heat, a big young tannic red will do the trick…

Whites are a bit easier, obvious answer with Indian food is Riesling, probably Kabinett level sweetness. If the food isn’t too hot, Loire Sauvignon Blanc works surprisingly well, even though it’s dry. Alsace Pinot Gris can also be good if you want more aromatics. Some people like Gewürztraminer with Indian, personally I think it’s better with the sharper heat of Thai food.

Viognier can also work with milder/creamier dishes, but it’s a bit unpredictable with the high alcohol and low acidity. I’d put Pinotage in the same “unpredictable” category for reds, it can work or not IME.

The grapes I’ve mentioned are probably a bit mainstream for your taste, but you could perhaps apply the acidity, sugar, tannin etc “rules” to your more expansive grape knowledge. As always, these are subjective broad guidelines, what the drinker likes is more important, though chilli will tend to overpower delicate (and some not so delicate) dry whites.


I would very much steer clear of high acidity wines , particularly Sauvignon blanc as the higher acidity intensifies the feeling of heat , Rosé with a medium acidity and good fruit content can work really well or as already mentioned aromatic whites with some residual sugar such as Pinot Gris or Muscat . Reds can be a little more
Difficult to balance, but again some sugar content in the wine and less acidity works well , so something like a Lodi Zinfandel even though high in alcohol , has lower levels of Tannin and acidity.


I think we’ll have to agree to disagree about the acidity. I wouldn’t go for super-high acidity wines (except perhaps when counterbalanced by high RS), but think acidity in the wine can help, especially with tomato-based Indian sauces.

I do agree that Sauvignon Blanc struggles with hotter dishes, though when I eat Indian fine dining periodically with a wine enthusiast friend (he’s American, of Indian origin), he won’t drink anything but Sancerre. The food isn’t super-hot and in fairness, I think Sancerre is the only white I’ve ever seen him drink :grinning:


I do also like acidity with more normal Indian foods. I find it cleanses the palate and the spice, and I’d throw in some basic Albariño into the ring (nothing fancy) and just off dry cheap Riesling (Shhh, It’s Riesling from Coop). For South Indian food - sambar, dosa, vadai, etc., I quite like a bit of Fino, probably because the food has less fat and no ghee in it. I’ve never had a good match with red wine due to the interaction between chilies and tannin, but some chilled Beaujolais could work.


Beaujolais is definitely my favourite red with spicy food, and it’s budget-friendly too. A bottle of that and a bottle of Kabinett should work nicely.


Might be helpful


For spicy dishes definately a Kabinett or I’ve even gone as sweet as a spatlese and found it very pleasant. Heat needs sugar or its hard to taste the wine at all and the two work to dampen eachother. I wouldnt choose a red personally but once read that the trick for reds is to pick something with a hint of ‘dust’ such as carmenere mentioned above or a Portuguese dao.


In agreement with suggestions above, I normally do a Riesling myself. A simple hearty Fiano can also work nicely in my experience.

A red sparkling Shiraz works for me, as too does the simple red Bugey-Cerdon sparkler currently on the list.

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Zinfandel worked a treat for us last Saturday with Carribean goat curry - it matched the cloves, Allspice and cumin to a tee, and the fruit mellowed the (very) spicy aspects. Other reds that worked for us before - Lagrein (a bit of a surprise, but coped well with moderate heat), and Merlot - for similar reasons to the Zin, I guess.

I believe that @peterm opens his Trusty Pinotage (to paraphrase Mr Portillo) when he has Indian curries.

Whites - the usual suspect from Alsace and Germany as noted above.


Szechuan food and mosel kabinett is probably my favourite of all combinations - not a direct answer to your question I’m aware…


My understanding that spicy food doesn’t work well with tannic or oaky reds. So Beaujolais is certainly a good shout.

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I certainly do.

Johan Kriege, owner of Kanonkop Estate, says his Pinotages are very popular in Asia.

But, IMO food & wine matching is not something to be concerned about. It’s a wine-geek upmanship thing. If one really don’t know what wine to have with a meal, then choose one that you know you like. If you think you can do better next time, then try another.

No one has your palate, and no two recipes are the same. So try things for yourself.

Also, tolerance of chillies varies. People who say that they can’t taste anything if they have a ‘spicy’ dish don’t have the tolerance that some others do.


Probably not the most helpful comment being a wine related question but it’s a cold beer every time for me. :beer:


Pinotage, Zinfandel and a fruity Beaujolais are most likely red candidates. Not sure I’d splash out on Pinot Noir unless it’s quite delicately spiced.

Gutsy rose such as Tavel would also work well I think…it can stand up to a variety of flavours.

White…I’d definitely go for higher RS. Gewurz works really well with tandoori style dishes IMO.


Thanks all.

I went for a Bojo and an Alsace Muscat in the end. Not convinced a Mosel Riesling wouldn’t have been a better bet though. I guess it just seemed like an easy option - and I have to admit that while I admire the perfect balance of the good stuff I still believe the fundamental duty of table wine is to be dry :slight_smile:

I hate Zinfandel (apart from the good stuff, ie Ridge). Could see it might work though, my prejudices apart. Ditto Pinotage.

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I’ve sometimes wondered whether the ginger/curry leaf/asafoetida notes that Savagnin from Jura often has would work well with Indian food, but the rapidly rising costs of Jura wine makes it quite a gamble …

The first four on this list are for the online curry night later this month. A couple of them surprised me a bit but it will be interesting to find out how they go.

The last two are just from my wishlist, for some other time.


I’d expect Garnacha to potentially work well, less sure about Bordeaux. Depends what the food is like, though.

Details here

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