**This article first appeared in The Indian Scene Magazine June 2020**
There are no rules against hanging out in your backyard in the age of COVID-19. This means we will be firing up the grill more than usual this summer. While we may not be able to host big BBQ cookouts, we can still keep the tradition alive with small intimate alfresco grilling on the patio.
Indian food is spicy, rich, intricate, and diverse which makes wine pairing difficult. Your normal intuition to pair red wine with red meats or white wine with fish simply does not apply to Indian cuisine. Think more about the texture, acidity, and alcohol levels when considering wine pairings for grilled Indian dishes. A general rule of thumb, wines that are high in alcohol, oak, and tannins typically do not pair with Indian cuisine.
Indian food is one of the hardest cuisines to pair with all its spice, chili, and heat. I could share with you the cliche wine recommendations that most sommeliers share, taking the easy road and simply recommending a Riesling or Gewürztraminer. Yes, Riesling and Gewürztraminer will pair well with spicy grilled Indian fare, but thinking outside the box, or simply for a change, the following wine pairings work impressively well together.
1. Grilled Paneer Tikka
A naturally sparkling Valdobbiadene Prosecco that is Extra Dry(a tad sweeter than Brut) is perfect with paneer tikka. The acidity in Prosecco complements the creamy and rich texture of paneer. Bubbles also offer a great alternative to beer, which is the defacto pairing with Indian cuisine.
2. Tandoori Vegetables
If you are grilling zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, or eggplant with tandoori spices, consider a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, France. For tandoori mushrooms, the perfect pairing will be a Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Pinot Noir and mushrooms were made for each other both sharing earthy qualities. The fruitiness of Pinot Noir balances the spice of tandoori mushroom.
3. Kashmiri Lamb Chops
Spicy lamb chops invariably call for a glass of white wine. A demi-sec Vouvray(Chenin Blanc) from the Loire Valley would be a great choice. If you must go red, a light fruity Cote du Rhone red from Southern France would complement the spice level of the lamb.
4. Peshawari Seekh Kebabs
Rosé is a great choice with seekh kebabs. Rosés have the right balance of fruit and acidity to work well with a full-flavored seekh kebab. When choosing a rosé, think more along the lines of a full-bodied rosé, preferably from Spain, Italy, or California, versus a lighter style from Provence. A fruity rosé leaves an element of sweetness on the palate, which offsets the spiciness of the kebabs.
5. Spicy Goan Style Fish Kebabs
An aromatic Grüner Veltliner from Austria pairs well with fish. Grüner Veltliner’s freshness and spicy flavors complement spicy grilled fish. Grüner can be floral and crisp with a hint of smokiness that makes it perfect to pair with the smokiness that is imparted from grilling. Enjoy how Grüner’s zippy acidity can cut through the salt and fat of the fish, especially if you are grilling a fatty salmon.