How to Pair Wine with Ethnic Food
Your cheat sheet to the best flavor combos
It’s hard enough to figure out what wine goes best with pasta primavera. But that leftover curry? We throw our hands up. Do you go red or white? Sweet or dry? Light or full-bodied? We tapped wine expert Steve Unwin at Wine Library for the skinny on what to drink and when. Happy pairing!
Indian food--with its wildly diverse signature spice blends—is best served with low-alcohol Pinot Noirs or whites made from Rousanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Plus, since many sauces rely on dairy, you should look for something with enough body and complexity to cut through fat.
Sauvignon Blanc is a great way to match the intensity and aromatics of ingredients like lemongrass, kafir lime leaf and fish sauce. But for super-spicy meals, stick with a low-alcohol white, like a traditional Sancerre.
Try: 2013 The Neighbor Sauvignon Blanc ($15) or 2014 Hubert Brochard Sancerre Los Collines Blanches ($19)
Japanese cuisine is heavily reliant on umami ingredients like dashi, soy and mushrooms--all of which you’ll want to counter with something big and juicy, like a Malbec. (That is, if you’re forgoing the sake.)
Try: 2013 Bodegas Chakana Red ($23)
Flavors like preserved lemon, cumin and rosewater make Middle Eastern food tough to nail down. Unwin looks to Italy and grapes like Nebbiolo--which has the oomph to pair with lamb and the acidity to balance herbs like za’atar.
Try: 2009 Nino Costa Roero ($14)
Go for something fresh and light like a Vinho Verde (the low alcohol also comes in handy when the heat gets dialed up). Or, since traditional Ethiopian beverages tend to be sweet and honey-based, a juicy Shiraz works well, too.
Try: Famega Vinho Verde ($6) or 2012 Rocland Estate Chocolate Box Chocolate Cherry GSM ($14)
Potatoes. Beef. Tomatoes. Beets. These staple ingredients scream for Cabernet Sauvignon. If sauerkraut and other pickled components are on the menu, try a floral, almost candy-like Gewurtztraminer.