Pairing wine with ethnic or regional cuisines can be an exciting journey, as it allows you to explore a world of flavors and enhance your dining experience.
The key to a successful pairing lies in understanding the food and wine characteristics and finding a harmonious balance between them. Here are some popular ethnic and regional cuisines and the wine varietals that pair well with them.
Pairing Popular Regional Cuisines with Wine: A Flavorful Adventure
1. Italian Cuisine
Food Type: Pasta dishes with tomato-based sauces, such as spaghetti marinara or lasagna
Wine Varietals: Sangiovese, Barbera, Chianti
Why It Works: The high acidity in these wines complements the acidity found in tomato-based sauces, while their medium-bodied nature and fruity flavors help balance the dish's richness.
Why It Works: The delicate flavors of sushi and sashimi call for wines with crisp acidity and subtle fruitiness. Riesling and Grüner Veltliner offer the perfect balance, while Champagne adds an elegant touch with its fine bubbles and minerality.
If you enjoy red wine, there are options. Pair sushi with less tannic reds with a good amount of acidity. Pinot Noir is your best bet.
3. Indian Cuisine
Food Type: Spicy curry dishes, such as chicken tikka masala or lamb rogan josh
Why It Works: The aromatic and slightly sweet nature of these wines helps to enhance the heat from spicy curries, while the lush fruit flavors complement the complex spices used in Indian cuisine.
Tannic red wines will clash with the spices in popular Indian dishes creating unpleasant bitterness. Stay away from Cabs, Bordeaux Blends, and similar wines.
4. Mexican Cuisine
Food Type: Tacos, enchiladas, and other dishes featuring bold spices and flavors
Wine Varietals: Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Malbec, Any Sparkling Wine. Lambrusco
Why It Works: The robust flavors of Mexican cuisine demand wines with bold fruitiness and moderate tannins. Tempranillo, Zinfandel, and Malbec all offer an outstanding balance of these characteristics, enhancing the taste of the dishes without overpowering them.
Lambrusco is an excellent option if you can get your hands on a bottle. The sweet, effervescent wine is an excellent foil for spicy, robust Mexican dishes.
5. French Cuisine
Food Type: Coq au vin, cassoulet, or other rich meat-based dishes
Wine Varietals: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Côtes du Rhône blends, Bordeaux Blends, really any French wine.
Why It Works: These earthy and savory wines pair well with the hearty flavors found in French cuisine. Their medium to full-bodied nature and moderate tannins help cut through the dishes' richness, creating a harmonious balance on the palate.
6. Thai Cuisine
Food Type: Green curry, pad Thai, or other dishes featuring a mix of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors
Why It Works: These wines' vibrant acidity and refreshing fruit flavors work well with Thai cuisine's complex and bold flavors. Their crispness helps to cleanse the palate between bites, making each mouthful a delight.
Exploring Obscure Wine Pairings with Unique Ethnic Cuisines
Now we move on to cuisines growing in popularity in the US. By experimenting with unique combinations of flavors, textures, and aromas, you can discover new ways to enjoy wine and food together. Here are some lesser-known cuisines and the wine varietals that pair well with them, along with a brief explanation of why these combinations work so well.
1. Ethiopian Cuisine
Food Type: Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew) or Kitfo (Ethiopian steak tartare)
Why It Works: Ethiopian cuisine is characterized by bold, spicy flavors and often features the tangy, fermented flatbread called injera. The crisp acidity and fruity notes of Chenin Blanc and Beaujolais can help to balance the heat of dishes like Doro Wat. At the same time, the effervescence of Sparkling Rosé adds a refreshing contrast to the richness of Kitfo.
2. Peruvian Cuisine
Food Type: Ceviche (raw fish marinated in citrus juices) or Lomo Saltado (Peruvian stir-fry)
Wine Varietals: Albariño, Torrontés, Carménère
Why It Works: Peruvian cuisine blends flavors from various culinary traditions and often includes a mix of sweet, sour, and spicy elements. The bright acidity and floral notes of Albariño and Torrontés pair beautifully with the citrusy zing of ceviche. The earthy and spicy characteristics of Carménère complement the savory flavors of Lomo Saltado.
3. Filipino Cuisine
Food Type: Adobo (meat braised in vinegar, soy sauce, and spices) or Sinigang (sour soup)
Why It Works: Filipino cuisine is known for its bold flavors and often features a balance of sweet, sour, and savory elements. The off-dry nature and vibrant acidity of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner can help tame the intensity of dishes like Adobo. Pinot Gris's citrus and stone fruit notes enhance the tangy flavors of Sinigang.
4. Georgian Cuisine
Food Type: Khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) or Kharcho (beef and walnut stew)
Wine Varietals: Saperavi, Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli
Why It Works: Georgian cuisine is known for its rich, hearty flavors and often incorporates walnuts and aromatic herbs. The bold, dark fruit notes and firm tannins of Saperavi provide a nice counterpoint to the richness of Khachapuri, while the floral and fruity characteristics of Mtsvane and Rkatsiteli offer a pleasing contrast to the earthy, nutty flavors of Kharcho.
5. Moroccan Cuisine
Food Type: Tagine (slow-cooked stew) or Couscous with vegetables and spices
Wine Varietals: Syrah, Viognier, Grenache Blanc
Why It Works: Moroccan cuisine is known for its complex spice blends and often features sweet and savory flavors. The smoky and spicy notes of Syrah can help to accentuate the depth of flavors in tagine dishes, while the floral and tropical fruit characteristics of Viognier and Grenache Blanc complement the exotic spices and textures of couscous dishes.