Curry paired with red wine? Before you cringe with despair, these red wines from the Mudgee wine region in Australia just might just surprise you.
Wines with Hard to Pair Foods
This month the Wine Pairing Weekend (#winepw) writers tackle hard to pair foods with wines. These typically include foods like asparagus, artichokes, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts), and eggs that have sulfurous elements that can make wine taste off.
I will add the world of curries to this list. While I can think of many wines (sparkling, roses, orange, and whites) that will pair with the multitude of spices wafting together in a hot stew, red wines is not one of them.
Red wine with curry?
I have heard of vindaloos or rogan josh suggested with grenache wines, but I've never had any luck pairing them together without making convoluted faces.
Once you taste a big red wine with a big curry, you can never quite untaste it. It's a Clash of the Tannins you'd much rather forget.
A winemaker's recommendation
When I traveled to Australia for the Wine Media Conference in 2019 and asked the winemaker, Robert Lowe, what he would pair with his signature zinfandel, he said "Mussaman curry." My heart fluttered at the suggestion of an Indian influenced Thai dish and then quickly sank.
Really, curry with red wine?
Even though this is a suggested pairing from the winemaker, who knows the wine better than anyone else, I am very, VERY afraid.
Perhaps, that's why I've never tried the wine pairing until now. Two years after purchasing it, I'm ready to whether see if this bottle of zin will entice the spice or need better advice.
While I'm at it, I'm going to try some other curries of the world and hard to pair vegetables, along with another red wine from the Australian wine region called Mudgee.
Thai/Indian Curry Buffet
- Mushroom Mussaman Curry - yukon gold potatoes, peanuts, coconut milk, lemongrass, star anise, cinammon. Mussaman is said to be the Thai translation of "Muslim." This curry has dried spices not normally used in Thai cuisine, since most Thai curries are driven by fresh root vegetables rather than dried spices.
- Tomato Egg Curry - hardboiled eggs, ginger, garlic, garam masala
- Lentil Dahl - curry powder, black eyed peas, kidney beans, onion
- Cauliflower "Rice" - olive oil, fresh english peas
- Fresh Baked Naan - (baked by someone else of course!)
Mudgee Red Wines
The two red wines I chose are sourced from the quaint, cool, and hip region of Mudgee, a short kangaroo hop away from Sydney, Australia.
With more than 30 mostly family run wineries, the region features modern tasting rooms along with some of the oldest and highest elevation terroir in the country. Although it has the coldest winters of any growing region in the country, it is still considered a warm climate based on temperatures in January.
The draw of Mudgee is tourism and many of the tasting rooms feature beautiful on site restaurants to entice patrons to their doorstep.
In case you get to visit, there are no traffic lights in town, just roundabouts and kangaroos!
Lowe Family Wine Company - Mudgee, Australia
David Lowe of Lowe Wines has been making wine since 1978. He got his start in the industry working at the famed Ridge Winery in Sonoma County, which developed his love of zinfandels.
In 1993 he started with biodynamic wines because he tasted them from Europe and his winery is certified organic. In his words, organic tells you what you can't do, while biodynamic tells you what you must do for biodiversity.
The winery is a family business with his wife as the chef of the on site restaurant, Zin House, and his son as the sommelier.
2016 Lowe Zinfandel - Organic
Visual: Bloody red, maroon, touch of motor oil, light bodied
Aroma: bramble, olive tapenade, prune, eucalyptus
Taste: tingly, juicy blackberries, bright acidity, cocoa, sweet tarts
Pairing: SLAMMIN' with the Mussaman curry. Brings out the raisin sweetness in the wine, amplifies the blackberry and tastes like sweet mulberries. Can actually handle and enhances the dried spiced.
Phenomenal with the lentils. Not so great with the tomato egg curry, as the tomato heightens the acidity in the wine too much.
Robert Stein Winery
Jacob Stein or Robert Stein Winery is a third generation winemaker and featured as an Australian winemaker of the year.
His family came to country in 1838 as vine dressers from Germany and supervised the planting of vineyards in Sydney.
His grandfather decided on Mudgee and started with 25 acres as a hobby farm. In the 1970s, there was a big resurgence in winemaking, and the farm grew into a full fledged winery.
As a third generation winemaker, was he forced into the industry? As he explains it, he did have a choice. He wanted to be a veterinarian and winemaking was his second choice. However, his grades weren't high enough, so a winemaker he became!
2019 Robert Stein Preservative Free Shiraz
Visual: Inky, dark magenta, brooding, Spectre mysterious
Aroma: Greenhouse, damp cloths, bbq smoke, a rose garden that has yet to bloom
Taste: black tartarian cherries, loamy, velvety texture, black plums
Pairing: Delightfully surprising with the Mussaman curry! It plays up the tamarind and banana notes and made the mushrooms earthy and extra mushroomy.
Super delicious with the lentils. Smooths out the spiciness and brings out more ripe fruit flavors.
Very refreshing with the cauliflower rice and sweet peas.
Brightens the egg curry, bringing out the tomato tartness, acid.
Curry and Red Wine Pairing Takeaways
While these Mudgee red wines are unavailable for purchase in the US, there are many comparable red wines that could pair with curry just as well.
- For curry spice and red wine to make love not war, look for ones with very low tannin and light oak.
- The texture of hard boiled eggs calls for a sparkling red wine, perhaps a dark red lambrusco.
- The unexpected winner of the night = lentils! They were really beautiful with both red wines, coaxing out the sweet fruity notes hiding in the wine.
More Hard to Pair Food and Wine Pairings
Read about more adventures in difficult food and wine pairings from the Wine Pairing Weekend writers:
- Wendy at A day in the Life on the Farm asks “Difficult? Yes….Impossible? No”
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla goes for “Over the Top Taco Night: Pork Carnitas + 2012 Sokol Blosser Big Tree Block Pinot Noir”
- Andrea at The Quirky Cork is “Pairing Wine and Chocolate, Challenge Accepted!”
- Terri at Our Good Life has “Wines to Drink with Ramen”
- Deanna at Asian Test Kitchen advises “Keep Calm and Curry On with Mudgee Red Wines”
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator gives us “A+ Pairings for Asparagus, Arugula, and Artichokes with organic wines from Alsace, Australia, Austria, and Argentina”
- Linda, your host, at My Full Wine Glass offers “Three wines for three ‘difficult’ foods”
Wendy Klik says
Great article and I'm so glad that you followed the winemakers advice about the pairing. Slammin' is very high praise indeed.
Linda Whipple, CSW says
A journey full of surprises - how wonderful! Great, well-written and memorable advice from someone who's tried it herself. Let's hear it for (certain) reds and curries!
Camilla Mann says
Thanks for this post, Deanna. I don't usually pair curry with reds. I will give it a shot soon!
I love this! I've a friend who treats us to curries all the time and usually I bring a white (and often an off-dry one) but I'm excited now to try a red again. And I love your descriptions, you have such great language.