The Ultimate Guide to Pairing Wine with Ethnic Cuisine

Let’s be honest, there is simply never a bad time for wine. And, thankfully, wine connoisseurs are becoming more and more comfortable with taking risks and being imaginative. When you picture the food you want to serve on the side of your favorite wine, ethnic cuisine might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But, It should. This somewhat unlikely pairing is what food dreams are made of. Wine and ethnic food were made to cohabitate and today you are going to find out why.

The following guide breaks down all you need to know about pairing wine with ethnic food.

A Quick Recap of the Basics:

As a general rule, wine-paired should be more acidic than the cuisine, the sweetness should be comparable as well. Heartier, intense flavorings should be paired with a glass of red wine, while white wine balances best with lighter flavors. The most prominent ingredient in any dish should be the starting point for wine pairings. Try to keep the dish and vino equal, one should never overpower the other.


Chinese food surprisingly goes quite well with certain wines – namely Riesling. If the dish is less sweet and on the spicier side, a dry Reisling would work, and if there is more sweetness in the flavors, then a semi-dry Riesling should provide the perfect balance.


As Indian cuisine is notoriously flavorful with at least a hint of spiciness, the wine paired with it should be full-bodied, with enough complexity to cut through the fat. Low-alcohol white wines work especially well such as Pinot Noir.

Middle Eastern:

Positively brimming with bold flavors like rosewater, cumin, and lemon, you will need to choose a wine that is strong enough to stand up to the food. Something like Nebbiolo would make a great pairing with most middle eastern dishes thanks to its acidic taste that can balance out the strong herbs.


African cuisine typically centers around root vegetables, plenty of spices, and cured meats. As with most intensely seasoned dishes, you need a wine that can hold its own. A fine, vibrant aged Spanish red wine would be ideal. For instance, the widely popular Rioja Gran Reserva would make a terrific accompaniment, although any rich, full-bodied wine would work nicely.


Japanese cuisine generally includes lots of umami flavors/ingredients, such as cabbage, mushrooms, dashi, and soy. To counter the sometimes intense flavors a big and juicy wine like Malbec offers the ideal wine pairing.

Eastern European:

With robust and hearty ingredients like tomatoes, potatoes, beets, and beef, not any wine will do. You need one that can compete with the dish without taking center stage. Cabernet Sauvignon complements the flavors very well without having an overpowering aroma.


Tacos and wine? Yes, please. While many wouldn’t dream of pairing their Mexican cuisine with anything other than a cold beer or soft drink – certain wines work incredibly well, too. The key is to pair the wine with the meat of the dish:

Chicken: White wine is almost always a good option for chicken-based dishes, however, you should avoid Chardonnay as its bitterness might not mesh well with the Mexican flavors.

Beef: An oldie but goodie, red wine is the best for red meat (beef, steak, etc.).

Pork/Carnitas: Rose has the right acidity to provide an excellent balance.

Southeast Asian:

Due to the bold, intense, and aromatic ingredients typically used in Southeast Asian dishes, you can not go wrong with a quality Sauvignon Blanc. If the dish is extra spicy then you need to opt for a lower-alcohol white wine.

Trying new stuff can be scary, no argument there, but it can also introduce you to a whole new world of possibilities. Think about it, if someone hadn’t figured out that fermenting grapes could result in a beloved beverage, we wouldn’t be having this particular conversation. Preference plays a huge role in the wine world and what works for some might not necessarily work for you. Have fun and experiment with your wine and ethnic food pairings. Remember the golden rule of wine – any wine is better than no wine and food in itself is its perfect life partner. In fact, they should get married (okay, maybe I’ve been ‘experimenting’ a wee bit too much)!.


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