Wine does not have to be reserved for special occasions – or even for a home-cooked meal! It can be enjoyed with any type of food, any day. As always, the number one rule of wine pairing is to make sure you like what you’re drinking. (A famous New York City chef only drinks red Bordeaux, even with oysters.) Here are a few more guidelines to help you get started with some cuisines that are popular take-out options (although these parings work just as well if you choose to enjoy your meal in the restaurant!)
Indian, Chinese, and Thai Food
These types of cuisine are often better-associated with beers than with wines, but some of these cuisines spawn some ethereal wine pairings. A good rule-of-thumb when pairing wines with spicy foods is to select something with a hint of sweetness, to counteract the spice. Crisp, slightly sweet German Rieslings (those labeled “Kabinett”) are a perfect go-to wine for Indian, Chinese, and Thai foods. Top-quality German Rieslings are classified according to how much sugar is in the grapes when they’re harvested – so it’s good to know the words: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beernauslese, and Trokenbeernauslese. These are the ascending levels of sweetness in German Rieslings, with Kabinett being the driest (with just a hint of sweetness) and Beernauslese and Trokenbeernauslese being full-on dessert wines.
The flavor profile of German Rieslings from the Mosel region – lemon and lime, orange flowers, white peach – is perfect with the light, refreshing Thai food. If you’re eating a more full-bodied dish – like a curry, or something with a lot of spice – Riesling from the Rheingau, a warmer region that produces wines with richer flavors – like ripe golden peach and apricot – is a great option. Alsace, in France, is another region that produces stunning, full-bodied Rieslings. Alsace also makes off-dry (slightly sweet), nutty wines from Pinot Gris. These wines tend to have slightly less acidity than Riesling, and they also often feature an earthy, umami characteristic.
If you tend to like red wines, Cru Beaujolais, from France are excellent options. These wines, made from the Gamay grape, are fruit-driven, relatively low in alcohol (this is important because alcohol exacerbates spice!), and light enough in body that they won’t overpower the food.
Other great options are light red wines from cool climates, like the Jura, in France. (Poulsard is a red grape that makes delicious, elegant, and inexpensive wines from this region.) Pinot Noirs from Burgundy and New Zealand are also excellent pairings for this type of take-out cuisine.
For more tips on pairing wine with popular take-out food options, click Pairing Wine with Take-Out Part II: Mexican, Pizza, Burgers & Fries.