It’s Riesling with Indian!

wine wankers wine blog helm classic dry riesling 2013I received a few bottles of Riesling from Helm Wines, a winery located in Murrumbateman within the Canberra District wine region of Australia.  I decided to pair these wines with various Indian dishes to see how they fared up against the heat and spice of a good curry.

Why Riesling and curry?  Well as I’ve written before, Indian is a tough cuisine to match any wine up against because it can be quite intense and overpower the wine, or make the wine taste stringent.  Depending on the style of wine made, there are other grape varieties that can do ok, like Gewürztraminer, Viognier and even the red grape Carménère of Chilean fame.  But I had 3 different styles of Riesling so it was a good opportunity to test them out on Indian cuisine.

There were three different Indian dishes that these wine went up against; lightly spiced lamb cutlets cooked in the tandoor and drizzled with lemon and with a side of yogurt based mint sauce; a chicken korma curry; and a chicken curry done in a spinach based sauce.  Both curries were on the lighter side of medium-hot (any hotter was just asking for trouble).

First up was the 2013 Helm Classic Dry Riesling.  All three wines were from the 2013 vintage, a vintage regarded as a great year for Canberra Riesling, so I was really keen to tuck in.  A subtle but beautiful floral aroma drifted up from this one when I opened it and I got hints of apple in there too.  On the sip it was quite dry and carried a lovely gentle load of apple with a bit of citrus.  Like the aroma, it was a subtle almost delicate wine and so well-balanced.  I could have just sipped the bottle away but it had a mission to complete.  This one could go down for decades and would no doubt evolve into something special over time.

Out of all the dishes it paired best with the lamb cutlets, probably due to the citrus components combining with the drizzled lemon and the acidity also meant it sat well with the mint sauce.  Although it was still enjoyable enough with curry it was a little too dry for it.

wine wankers wine blog helm premium riesling 2013Next up was the 2013 Helm Premium Riesling. This wine is made from the best grapes selected from just one key vineyard.  It’s very pale in colour but the aromas coming out of the wine are intense and beautiful.  It’s the sort of wine that brings you in.  And on the sip it does not disappoint.  It does have a similar flavour profile to the Classic Dry but with more obvious depth of fruit flavours.  The citrus was also obvious in this one, as too was the strong acid profile but it seemed a little less dry than the Classic.  Coming back to this in a decade or two would be a pleasure.

Just like the Classic, this one paired well with the lamb cutlets but it was also a delight with the chicken korma.  The acidity seemed to cut through the creaminess of the sauce and the more intense fruit flavour seemed to sit well with the spice.

Lastly was the 2013 Helm Half Dry Riesling.  Beautiful aromas on this one too and on the sip it was obviously sweeter than the other two.  Being half dry meant that it was also going to be half sweet but it was a pleasant level of sweetness… I really liked it.  Lots of obvious fruit flavours and the slight sweetness dulled the acidity.  Well balanced and quite complex. Yum!

wine wankers wine blog helm half dry riesling 2013As a pairing for Indian this was the business.  It had the citrus and fruit of the other two plus it had a level of sweetness that challenged the spice and heat of Indian curry.  It was the all-rounder for this occasion.

What I got out of this little pairing exercise is that the acidity in Riesling cuts through the creaminess of Indian curry and that an half dry style Riesling with a bit of sweetness, combined with some decent acidity, will allow the wine to compete with the heat and spice.

These were all enjoyable wines and showed how good Riesling out of Canberra can be.  And at only 11-12% alcohol you can sit back and enjoy these without been knocked around too soon.

Author: Conrad



  1. Alcoholic citrus grape drinks and Indian food. You’re right, Indian food is intense on the palate, not to mention spicy (in terms of spices and chilli spice). There are Indian curries, then there are also Indian breads which you don’t really hear people washing down with wine (I think I spy a bit of bread in the third photo). You’re brave.

    Indian food is something I’ve not eaten too much off as I can’t handle acidity too well. A reason why I’m tiny 🙂


      • Cheese naan. I’ve never come across that in Malaysia’s Little India, nor in Singapore. Haven’t even come across it here in Melbourne :O Grapes and naan. Good combo. I take your advice, Conrad. And thanks for the new nickname. Another one to add to the collection!


  2. Thanks for this! Though North Indian food is a huge staple of my diet, I’ve never known what wine to pair – and usually just go the traditional Indian route of beer and water! Had not thought of trying Riesling.


  3. Thank you for this post. Not only did reading it cause me to realize I have not had Indian food in a while and that I would like some, but now I know exactly the style of wine to pair with it. Cheers!


  4. Mmm this post makes me want to find some late night chicken korma! Well done. I generally love Rieslings. A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending a local wine and food pairing event featuring Thai food. Riesling was by far the best choice for the heat and spice that night. Wish I been making notes back then it stands out as one of the first times I really experienced the beautiful way that wine and food enhance each other’s flavours.


    • Riesling is probably the most versatile grape of all for pairing with food. It’s probably due to the acid/fruit/sugar combination. It’s definitely the best grape I’ve had with Indian. Cheers! (Hope you got that Korma 😉


  5. I’m living in Riesling country here in Western Washington state. We get some really nice ones and a dryer Riesling is my favorite ‘go to’ sipping wine. I’ve paired it with spicy foods before, and I find the citrusy, slightly sweeter varietals are my favorites with spicy food, especially Asian foods. Since it’s July 4th here, I’ll be pairing it with dry rubbed pork ribs tomorrow along with chocolate cake, potato salad, bbq salmon and kale ceasars….ha ha there’s NOTHING it doesn’t go well with in my opinion.


  6. Great idea for a pairing! I’ll try this stateside. I’ve never thought of wine and Indian – but loved a curry shrimp pairing I recently had with a gorgeous CA Russian River Valley Chard – brought out creaminess of the curry – was not spicy so a Riesling makes perfect sense for Indian curries and vindaloos. Cheers!


    • Find yourself a mid-sweet Riesling and give it a go. Level of sweetness required probably correlates to the level of heat in the dish. I’ve tried chardonnay a few times with limited success and I think that it’s because they are usually a little too dry. You seem to have done well though so I’ll have to try again one day. Salud!


  7. Not a mad white lover but as I have Indian planned for dinner one night this coming week, I might just have to give it a go.
    Like a lot of people, I guess beer always seems the drink of choice with a curry


  8. I’ve gotta try that… wine with Indian. Sounds great. That why we need guys like you to pass along the Great ideas. 🙂


  9. Thank you for your investigation, our viticultural Poirot. My wife loves spicy food and a good drop of wine, but we haven’t had Indian in a long time due to other fussy eaters in the house. I will keep this is mind =)


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