Pair It Up! Curry to Cut Through the Chill

I can’t help it — I live in Winnipeg, one of the coldest cities in Canada. As such, when winter comes my mind’s always on what I can consume to help but the chill.

I typically turn to heartier, spicier fare to do so — last week I grappled with wines to pair with chili, and this week I’ve not ventured too far away from that mindset.

Like chili, curry can work the same magic when the mercury plummets. Interestingly, however, the wines that pair best with curry dishes stray from the course relative to chili.

Pairing wines with curry isn’t as cut and dry as it is with chili in that there are a number of different flavours, spice levels and other factors to grapple with.

Thai curries tend to be a bit grassier/herbal in their flavour profile. If you’re having something like, say, Food Network’s Coconut Curry Thai Chicken, you might want to consider a Sauvignon Blanc to drink with your meal.

The Creekside Estate Winery 2013 Sauvignon Blanc displays the ideal freshness and citrus notes as well as intense grassy/herbal notes that tip the hat to counterparts from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. It’s also only $14, which is a steal.

Milder Indian curries, meanwhile, tend to be creamy and rich. A butter chicken dish such as the one featured by Canadian Living might need a wine with just a hint of sweetness, but that still retains some backbone and acidity to cut through the richness.

The Flat Rock Cellars 2012 Twisted is a blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay, all of which bring some helpful components to the table when pairing with curry. There’s some sweetness and acidity to this white blend that will work with richer and milder curry dishes, and plenty of stone fruit and crisp red apple flavours that impress.

Spicier curry dishes need wines that can stand up to the heat. Chana masala, for example, is a fairly spicy vegetarian curry dish that highlights chick peas, garlic, Serrano chiles and Indian spices (there’s a great recipe for said dish over at

There are many different routes you could go for wine-and-food pairing options here. On the white wine side of things, a spicy, weightier white such as Road 13’s 2012 Jackpot VRM — a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne — has enough weight and texture to stand up to chana masala. The Viognier delivers the spice and apricot notes, while the other two grapes bring complex floral and tangerine flavours and great viscosity.

If you’re leaning towards a red, the Thornhaven 2012 Pinot Meunier is a very impressive option. An important red grape in France’s Champagne region (and, to a lesser extent, the Loire valley), it’s a lighter red similar to Pinot Noir but slightly more delicate and less earthy than Pinot Noir.

Again, a lot depends on just how hot you like your curry. Those who prefer the spice level to be a bit higher will want a wine with good intensity of flavour. Experimentation is always fun — especially as it relates to matching wine and food. Crank up the heat and enjoy the ride.


Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.

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