Wine lovers would be spoilt for choice when they set foot in France. However, it can be a bit tricky when it comes to pairing French wines with Indian food. The intensity of the ingredients can overwhelm most of the wines. So, before I suggest my wine-list, I would like you to know that I have a lot of experience in drinking wine and not much expertise in studying wine!
The French have a nuanced understanding of cépage and terroir, enabling them to effortlessly conceptualise their meals. On the other hand, Indians accompany their meals with the acidity and sweetness from raitas, chutneys and buttermilk. Therefore, similar to native sauces and drinks, you need to choose wines that complement Indian dishes, without overpowering your palate.
Pairing French wine with Indian appetizers
Champagne is so often perceived as a prestigious drink that it is easy to forget that it is a wine after all. It pairs really well with greasy and salty foods, especially the brut.
If you are serving butter garlic prawns or grilled fish (mildly spiced) or grilled lobster, then your best bet would be the Taittinger Brut . The citrusy and mineral notes of the champagne offset the sweetness of the seafood, refreshing your palate with every sip.
If your menu includes chicken tandoori or vegetable cutlets or lamb kebab, then I would suggest Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut . The balance of the fruity notes with the intense vanilla aroma will contrast beautifully with the warmth of the spices.
Pairing French wine with flavourful gravies
If you love your reds, then I would highly recommend you to avoid pairing them with gravies and curries, as tannins leave an unpleasant astringency on your palate.
If you are opting for pungent gravies like vegetable kadhi or chicken stew (Kerala style) or mustard fish curry, then I would pick Alsace Pinot Blanc. The rounded characteristics of this white wine with its floral tones will enhance your taste buds, without stealing the limelight from your main course.
If you are plating creamy gravies like butter chicken or malai kofta or mutton korma, then I would recommend the Alsace Riesling. This dry wine with subtle hints of white fruits and mild spices (cumin, fennel seeds) is an ideal accompaniment to velvety sweet sauces.
Pairing French wine with Pulao or Biryani
Here, the rice soaks up the warmth of the spices and neutralises the heat from the chillies. Therefore, in this exceptional scenario, red-wine lovers can breathe a sigh of relief.
If you are doling out mutton biryani or chicken biryani or vegetable biryani, then I would suggest Côtes de Bergerac. This aromatic sweet wine with its soft texture goes incredibly well with spices and caramelised onion.
If you are going veggie and cooking vegetable pulao or pudina rice or saffron rice, then I would recommend Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux. The generous tannic structure with the strong aromas of raspberry and plum can uplift your dish.
Pairing French wine with spicy curries
Normally, to reduce strong spicy flavours, we pair spicy curries with raitas or buttermilk. Similarly, sweet white wines can also do wonders.
If you are serving rich spicy curries like pork vindaloo or coconut prawn curry or vegetarian dhansak, then I would suggest Alsace Pinot Gris. The extra touch of sweetness with hints of musky notes will counterbalance the harshness of the spices.
If your table is laden with mutton rogan josh, Mangalorean chicken curry or vegetable tikka masala, I would highly recommend Gewurztraminer. The mélange of honey notes and lychee scented aromas make this wine an ideal partner with hot curries.
Pairing French wine with Indian deserts
Indian deserts are intensely sweet. Therefore, it is important to pair them with sweeter wines, otherwise the deserts will render them exceedingly tart.
If you are wrapping up your meal with milk-based deserts like gulab jamun or mango kulfi or rice kheer, then go for Muscat de Rivesaltes. The acidity from the citrus notes and the complex aromas from ripe apricot and peaches matches perfectly with creamy deserts.
If you are ending your meal with besan barfi or mysore pak or jalebis, then go for the Clairette de Die Tradition. This pale-yellow coloured drink with bouquet of apple, pear, honey scents and floral notes is an ideal companion to these desserts.