What wine with Indian?
What kind of wine would you pair with a "beginners" Indian menu? Think butter chicken, naan, chick pea salad, lentils....
A nice soft Riesling or Gerwurtztraminer usually does the trick. For Riesling, I would recommend the St. Urbans-Hof from Germany. The Pierre Sparr Gerwurtztraminer from Alsace, France is likewise dependable year in, year out.
If you prefer red wine, I would pick one that emphasizes the fruit flavours not tannins. A young Beaujolais such as the Louis Jadot Combe aux Jacques would do just fine. Likewise appealing would be an inexpensive, not extensively oak-aged Syrah like the La Vielle Ferme.
The wines are all around or under $20 too.
I would suggest a nice vinho verde. Lower alcohol content, a little fruity. Depending on what you're cooking, of course. This would be common ground for many dishes. I've seen a good shiraz work well with some daals, or a korma. The Indian Rice Factory is pretty good on mixing their food with wine.
If I really wanted a wine I'd go with an off-dry Gewurztraminer, a Spatlese-level German Riesling, or a Champagne.
I'm a wine guy who rarely drinks beer, but IMO a good beer is a better match for Indian food than even a great wine.
Another vote for beer here. I drink wine with everything, but some foods are just too aggressive and rob the wine of fruit leaving you with a mouth full of burning acid. Just a note, if you choose to go with Zinfandel be sure to find one with a low alcohol content. I was with a friend that paired Zin with a firey hot curry and found that the combo was akin to putting mayo on top of gravy....just too much my palate was crushed after two sips. The Zin was over 16% so it may work with a smaller Zinfandel.
Indian food calls for Indian wine. My visits to south India (where improted wine is stratospherically expensive in many places) forced me to familiarize myself with local wine, particuarly those made by Sula, which are supposed to be "California"-style but I found highly ididosyncratic and wonderful, especially their Sauvignon Blanc, which paired nicely with Indian seafood preparations (grilled prawns, tandoor fish, seafood curry). If you can get your hands on a Sula sparkler, it would pair acceptably with the dishes you mentioned.
Just today, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Section had a few articles on pairing wine with Indian food. The Chron developed its pairing rules by separating Indian food into five categories.
"1. Simple Spice. Dishes that rely on just a few spices, at most three, as seasoning.
--Wine: Let the spice suggest the wines. This is also one of the few categories where sparkling wine was a clear winner -- including a Moscato d'Asti with the cardamom cookies. Be mindful of the amount of chile or citrus used. If you're making the dish, hold back on the lemon juice and chile. For dishes with mustard seed, minerally and peppery red wines, or grassy white wines, mesh well. For turmeric, rosé, floral whites and leathery red wines go well.
--Examples: Champagne and sparkling wines, dry Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, dry Viognier, Syrah, Mourvedre.
2. Light Sauce. Lighter dishes, many of them with dried peas, beans and legumes such as lentil and garbanzo beans.
--Wine: Tomatoes require wines with plenty of acid, though not as their defining trait. Fortunately, this category lends itself to the broadest range of options. In particular, rosé shines. Reds should be fruity and relatively light. Whites should be more silky than sharp, and some sweetness can balance out high acidity.
-- Examples: Aromatic whites (Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muller-Thurgau, Sylvaner); dry Chenin Blanc; dry or late-harvest Riesling (depending on the sauce); red or white Cotes du Rhone. Young, fruity cooler-climate reds like Grenache/Garnacha, Lagrein, Zweigelt, Barbera; lighter Pinot Noir. Dry Rosé.
3. Heavy Sauce. The dishes most often called "curries," including popular cream-based picks such as tikka masala.
--Wine: With modest amounts of dairy, a lighter red can work -- even a Syrah. If the sauce is creamier, turn to a higher-acid white.
--Examples: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, sweet Riesling, Beaujolais, Syrah, red and white Cotes du Rhone or Rhone-style wines.
4. Tandoori. Marinated meats that have been roasted in a clay oven.
-- Wines: Of all the categories, this one is most dependent on the meat or fish being prepared, so traditional rules often apply. Lamb, for instance, warms itself to Pinot Noir and fish to Muscadet. Leaner white wines like Sauvignon Blanc also work to balance out the presence of acid like lemon juice, and reds should have relatively high acid.
-- Examples: Cabernet Franc, especially lighter Loire Valley wines; Pinot Blanc; red Cotes du Rhone; Barbera; Pinot Noir; Lagrein; Zweigelt; Viognier; Sauvignon Blanc; Muscadet.
5. Fresh and Green. Dishes with fresh greens or herbs as a primary ingredient, such as the spinach-based saag paneer.
-- Wine: Here's the one category where white wines work almost exclusively, regardless of the protein (fish, chicken, cheese or red meat). Look for wines with more green fruit and grassy or herbal flavors, and a leaner texture. Skip the oak. A fully dry rosé works well, too, though it can bring out any sweetness in the dish.
-- Examples: Dry Chenin Blanc; Dry Riesling; Muller-Thurgau; unoaked Chardonnay, like Chablis; Sauvignon Blanc; Albarino; Pinot Blanc; Cabernet Franc rosé."
For this menu, I'd go with Bonny Doon's Pacific Rim Dry Riesling or Columbia Estates Gewurztraminer. Both cheap, both available lots of places.
For an alternative, I'd go with Prosecco.
And for a beef curry, if you get more advanced, try a Shiraz-Viognier. The floral aromatics help to match it to the flavorful curries.
Beer is also excellent!