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Dec 19, 2006 04:20 PM

Wine with Curried Lamb Shanks - Help

Got invited to dinner tonight. I said "I'll bring some wine" and then find out the main course is curried lamb shanks. I have no idea what wine would work. Hopefully some of you will have some good suggestions. Reasonable price an asset.


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  1. Go with a red Côtes du Rhône or similar wine from nearby appellations or the New World, one done in the lighter, fruitier, not heavily oaked style, and serve it slightly chilled. Certain Spanish wines that meet those criteria, especially ones with a high percentage of garnacha/grenache or tempranillo, would also fill the bill. All bets are off if the curry is fiery, however.

    4 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      I'd really disagree with using wine from warmer climates. Higher alcohol, low acid and low residual sugar don't marry well with "spicy-hot" food IMHO.

      1. re: Chinon00

        Um. You'll note I specified lighter, fruiter styled wines, suggested the wine be chilled (which lowers the perception of alcoholic heat) and added a proviso that if the dish is fiery the suggested match probably wouldn't work. I recently served a 2002 Coudoulet de Beaucastel rouge with French-style curry of wild boar and found the pairing delightful (the wine, too; so much for vintage charts). Spaniards and Portuguese don't tend to pour an Alsatian Gewurztraminer or German Riesling with their spicy-hotter non-seafood fare (think piri piri chicken, for example), but rather a supple, dry, lightly chilled red.

        1. re: carswell

          I totally missed your last note about heat. Forgive me. But as for the the Spaniards and Portuguese not pouring Gewurz or Riesling with their spicy-hotter non-seafood fare, maybe they should? ; )

        2. re: Chinon00

          Another point: the OP was looking for a recommendation for curried lamb shanks, not curry. We probably should have asked for specifics (though it sounds like he might not have been able to provide them) but I imagine that as being more a braised lamb dish flavoured with some curry powder than a full-blown Bengali curry. WRT the latter, I agree that they make a difficult pairing for red wines. My post to an eG discussion on this topic a couple of years ago: "Can only echo the advice others have given. The chiles will make big wines taste alcoholic and tannic and, in combination with the strong spice flavours, will overwhelm subtle wines. If you insist on a red, do as Katie suggests: choose a low-alcohol, not very tannic wine, nothing very old or fancy, and get the chef to tone down the heat. Another thing to bear in mind: red wines go with red meat, yes, but in Indian cooking meat is usually cooked until well done, i.e. no longer red. In France, white wine is sometimes recommended as a pairing for well-done red meat, and you shouldn't exclude that possibility here. Or compromise on a vibrant pink: last year, Bonny Doon's 2003 Vin Gris de Cigare — bursting with fruit and a bit sweeter than usual — proved a pretty good match with a rich and spicy lamb shank that had earlier stonewalled a sparkling shiraz. In the end, though, ale rules."

      2. For lamb in general I might favor a syrah. But if there's heavy curry seasoning, I'd serve a second WHITE wine with this dish... Gewurztraminer.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Chicago Mike

          I agree with the selection of a richer white but maybe not Gewurz due to the "spice" that it delivers. I wouldn't want to match spicy food with a "spicy" wine. I think that an aged riesling might work a little better.

          1. re: Chinon00

            Perhaps surprisingly, gewurztraminer is a tremendous match with spicy foods... matches hot spicy Thai food brilliantly (as does riesling) and is a great "overall" wine for Indian food.

            1. re: Chicago Mike

              I second gewurztraminer. Hunold is slightly off dry and perhaps a better match. It's about $20 to $22 a bottle.

            2. re: Chinon00

              Agree that if you were going to choose a white, something like a Savennières or a rich Pinot Gris would be better. Have never understood the knee-jerk pairing of Gewurztraminer with hot food -- is it the equation of *Gewurz* (spice in German) with spice in food? Actually the wine's flavours are seldom spicy and marry much better with rich, non-fiery fare like munster cheese and foie gras.

              1. re: carswell

                Depends how spicy the curry is. If it's too spicy, the savennieres likely won't have a finish to hold up. It just disappears. Gewurztraminer, an off-dry riesling or something like a cassis from Provence that has a slightly salty finish can hold up. Cassis is hard to find, though.
                I vote to drink as much savennieres, montlouis and vouvray as possible, though, :-)

                1. re: SteveTimko

                  >>Depends how spicy the curry is.<<
                  If we're going to talk about this intelligently, we need to start distinguishing between spicy (i.e. lots of cinnamon, coriander, clove, cumin, mustard seed, etc.) and fiery (lots of chile).

                  >>If it's too spicy, the savennieres likely won't have a finish to hold up. It just disappears.<<
                  If you mean spicy, I don't agree at all. If you mean fiery, I've never noticed this with rich Chenin Blanc. Cassis, on the other hand, I'd never serve with anything fierier than a bouillabaisse. Besides, what I said in reference to reds, also applies to whites: if the food is really fiery, all bets are off. Follow Oisin's advice and reach for a beer.

                  Forgot to mention another white that goes well with French-style curries (spicy, not fiery, and often enriched with cream): vin jaune, though I tend not to serve it with red meat, even very well-done "red" meat.

          2. Think about beer instead.

            Seriously, if the curry is hot and even if it is not but just really strongly flavoured, most wines won't stand up to it. A good Pale Ale, Indian, Japanese, or Thai beer goes really well with curried lamb dishes.

              1. Viogner. I recently had a nice bottle from washington with Indian, It was fab. Other choice would be a Gewurtztraminer, whic usually is a bit sweeter, more floral, spicy.