WHAT WINE GOES WITH INDIAN FOOD?

  A little friend, already consumed.

A little friend, already consumed.

Wine? At an Indian restaurant?

Yep! You don't have to give up the grape in order to enjoy curry.

At Agra, a cozy Indian-Pakistani restaurant in Manhattan's Upper East Side, we had to control ourselves. I wanted to eat everything in sight.

Besides the food, the service, and the warm respite from New York City's frosty winter weather, the affordability surprised us—not just the sumptuous food, but the wine selections! We ate for less than we do in California. (I know, I know, Dorothy... we don't live in Kansas. Still... a value like this in the Big Apple has to be kinda sorta rare.)

A number of wines go well with spicy Asian cuisine but this one on Agra's wonderful menu is a bright, grassy, bodacious New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We happen to know Matua but the New Zealand style is predictable and consistent.

  Lamb Vindaloo on the right; behind the wine next to the basmati rice: a wonderful Indian dish we hadn't known before: Jhalfrezi.

Lamb Vindaloo on the right; behind the wine next to the basmati rice: a wonderful Indian dish we hadn't known before: Jhalfrezi.

Not even the Lamb Vindaloo could tame the New Zealand wine. It just kept on singing!

The wine also held its own with the Jahlfrezi, a less spicy dish made with onions, tomatoes, green bell peppers, and of course, the proprietary secret chef's sauce.

Some further thoughts about the wine menu. As expected, they offer Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Rosé. In Indian restaurants the sweeter white wines pair perfectly with these same foods. So does dry Rosé. The Merlot and Cabernet on the menu are not there because they pair well—they don't—they're there because every restaurant has to cater to dingbats who don't know what they're doing.

Don't like white wine? No worries. Just aim for a Pinot. Its brightness can hold its own with the spice, but even a heavier, fruitier pinot will struggle to keep up.

We picked the Matua because we wanted a dry wine, and because it was the most reliable of the styles represented on the menu.

I feel sure Ganesha would agree.