Master of Wine reveals why you should pair Rioja with curry nor beer

Put down the Kingfisher! Master of Wine reveals why you shouldn’t pair curry and beer and instead opt for a masala with Chianti or Chablis with a korma

  • Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler revealed the best wines to pair with curries
  • She said to avoid beer and that  Chianti or Rioja goes well with a masala
  • For a korma she recommends Chablis, Riesling, Sancerre, Soave and Fiana
  • Nicola is working with some of the UK’s top chef’s for the famous Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch which is taking place virtually this year 

If you often order a Kingfisher during a  curry night, you may be getting your drink pairings wrong, an expert has revealed.  

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Master of Wine Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler, who works as buyer for wholesaler Private Cellar said that Chianti or Rioja is more suited to a hot curry and that drinking beer can unpleasantly amplify spices in the mouth.

Nicola is working with the Virtual Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch for 2021, the charity event is one of the biggest in the City of London’s calendar and raises funds for veterans.

While, it’s usually based around a 1,500 guest lunch in Guildhall and attended by royals, this year it’s being held virtually, with Nicola helping to send out wine paired with curry made by some of London’s top chefs. 

2020’s lunch was virtual, while in 2019 Prince Harry attended and in 2018 his cousin Princess Eugenie went along.

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Master of Wine Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler, who works as buyer for wholesaler Private Cellar said that Chianti or Rioja is more suited to a hot curry and that drinking beer can unpleasantly amplify spices in the mouth.

‘I think the link with beer and curry goes back to the days of the British in India where wine wasn’t common and beer was the alcohol of choice (after spirits),’ she explained.

‘It is a natural thirst quencher so matches well, but I do find that if the curry is really spicy, the bubbles in the beer amplify the effect on my tongue – a bit like a thousand needles simultaneously stabbing my tongue after I have swallowed the curry! And for that reason I would never recommend sparkling wines with spicy food.

Instead, Nicola recommends looking for lower tannin wines.   

Nicola says: 

MASALA

Chianti, Rioja, Valpolicella, perhaps a Chilean Merlot, reds from Puglia or whites like Soave, Fiano, young white Burgundy – fruity types.

KORMA

Chablis, Riesling, Sancerre for the white, Pinot Noir, Merlot or New World Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. 

 VINDALOO

German Riesling, Viognier, a plump Chardonnay 

‘My rule of thumb when pairing with spicy foods is to look for lower tannin wines in reds and fruity or full bodied whites,’ she explained. 

‘Tannins and spice can turn metallic on the palate and lightweight whites are overwhelmed by the complex spices,’ she added.   

Nicola added that red wines that go well with curry include, Beaujolais, Valpolicella, Pinot Noir in all its incarnations from around the world, light Cotes du Rhone.

Meanwhile, white pairings include Picpoul de Pinet, South African whites, Chardonnay from almost anywhere – and very rarely Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.

 But she added that different curries should be paired differently depending on their levels.

‘For a masala, I would be looking at Chianti, Rioja, Valpolicella, perhaps a Chilean Merlot, reds from Puglia or whites like Soave, Fiano, young white Burgundy – fruity types,’ Nicola explained.  

‘Basic rules of thumb, tomatoes lend more towards soft red wines (think Mediterranean style foods) whilst coconut and almond flavours make it slightly sweet so the wines require a nice bite of acidity to complement the food – no acidity would leave both wine and food flat.  

‘For a korma – the coconut here makes the curry quite sweet so I would be looking to pair with a bit of acidity to counteract this.

‘Chablis, Riesling, Sancerre for the white, Pinot Noir, Merlot or New World Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. 

‘For me, copious amounts of yoghurt and no wine at all for a Vindaloo.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex is greeted by the Lord Mayor of London Peter Estlin as he attends the Lord Mayors Big Curry Lunch at the Guildhall, central London in 2020

Princess Eugenie of York given pairs of socks, saying she knows who will like them at The Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch in 2019 

What is a Master of Wine? 

Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler works for Private Cellar an independent wine merchant established 15 years ago by three friends. 

She is also a Master of Wine (MW – there are only 417 in the world, 1/3 of which approx. are female) and a prolific traveller when circumstances allow in order to get my feet on the ground and hunt out exciting new wines.

Master of Wine is a qualification issued by The Institute of Masters of Wine in the United Kingdom. The MW qualification is generally regarded in the wine industry as one of the highest standards of professional knowledge 

‘If I really wanted to pair a wine I would be looking at something with low acidity and some residual sweetness, so a German Riesling, Viognier, a plump Chardonnay. Probably not red. 

‘The hotter you go, the more difficult it is to pair a wine because of the impact of the spices on the tastebuds; in terms of mildness, I think in general lower tannins and lower acidity are a safe bet, but again, it depends on which dish you are having.’      

‘It is always worth going a little higher up the price scale – very inexpensive wines tend to be short on flavour whilst even a small step up the price ladder gives you a lot more wine for your money – if you bear in mind that the cost of duty and VAT on a bottle of wine is £2.50, before considering the cost of bottles, shipping, retail margin and VAT on the wine itself, it leaves very little for the actual wine.

‘So the more expensive the wine, a smaller percentage consists of tax and fixed costs and more goes towards the liquid itself!’

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