A Perfect Match
Think South Asian cuisine, and words like spicy, tangy, aromatic, complex come to one’s mind. Pairing South Asian cuisine with wine has been a knotty affair. I was recently dining at an Indian restaurant with a few of my friends. When it came to ordering beverages, my friend opted for a beer, as he claimed that it goes well with Indian food. Another friend, a connoisseur of wine, wanted her favourite Gewürztraminer. A novice to the world of wine, I opted for a highly dry, high alcohol content wine only to realize that it did not pair well with the dishes I had ordered. The high alcohol content did not suit the palate. I realized that a fine wine that pairs well with the food sets the mood. So, if you are eating at a restaurant or sipping and chatting or even preparing a weeknight meal, it is important to pick the right wine that pairs with your favourite Saouth Asian dish.
Riesling:One of the most popular white wines, Riesling pairs beautifully with Indian red meat curries like goat or lamb dishes. The German Rieslings, available in different varieties from dry to super sweet dessert wines, has good acidity and is low in alcohol. It is a must try for wine lovers who prefer hot Indian cuisine.
My local LCBO store recommended the 2010 Moselland Riesling – Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay. It’s a great choice for spicy Indian dishes.
Gewürztraminer:The word “ Gewurz” means spicy in German and “Traminer” is the grape originating from a village in Italy. This wine is a great match for hot spices and herbs. A dry Gewürztraminer marries well with foods rich in masala, example Tandoori dishes. For best effects, always chill the wine before serving, as it will enhance the flavor.
The recommended wine is 2010. Alsace – Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer.
Sauvignon Blanc:Originating from the Bordeaux region of France, this wine has a greenskinned grape variety, and flavors like grapefruit, fresh grass and lemon. Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with earthly flavours like daal, moderately spicy Indian dishes and rich cuisines like Masala Dosa.
The recommended wine is Jackson Triggs Sauvignon Blanc.
Chardonnay:Chardonnay is the king in the world of wines. This white wine has a wide range of flavours from buttered oak overtones to the fresh citrus and tropical fruit flavours. Unoaked Chardonnay is a great pair for Indian curries like Butter Chicken and Grilled Shrimps.
The recommended wine is Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay.
Pinot Noir:For red wine lovers, Pinot Noir is the most versatile and food-friendly option. Available in fruity flavours, this wine easily breaks the old saying that white wine must go with seafood, and red wine with red meats. For someone new to wines, Pinot Noir is a great choice. This wine pairs well with dishes like Tandoori Chicken, Fish Curry and Palak Paneer.
The recommended wine is Bourgogne Pinot Noir.
There are other wines too that pair well with Indian food: Torrontes, Malbec, White Zinfandel, Dry Rose, Pinot Gris, Muscadet and sparkling wine. So, it begs the question, is there a rule of thumb for selecting wines to pair with South Asian cuisines?
If you are in the mood for trying some exclusive wines that are not available at your local liquor store, there are other choices. Indian wines such as the Sula Dindori Reserve Shiraz and Grover’s La Reserve are popular in the Indian subcontinent.
Peter Gour, owner of Chutney's FIne Indian Cuisine in Toronto, has some exclusive wines. “Our wines such as the Kamasutra Chardonnay and the Kamasutra Cabernet cannot be found elsewhere and is a favourite among our regular customers”
I was curious to know if ice wines, a dessert wine, could be paired with Indian desserts that are usually rich is sugar. “It is a myth that ice wines are only dessert wines. Our wines are highly compatible with Indian curries, cheese, lighter red meats and Indian desserts. Ice wines such as Vidal, Riesling and Cab Franc would be the top choices,” Lockwood says.
Wine is a great complement with a meal but pairing wine with food is largely driven by personal preferences. What works for one might not suit the other. Take these inputs as pointers to figure out the wine that builds your mood and matches your palate as you try your favorite Indian cuisines. So, explore, raise a toast and enjoy your wine as a glass or two is always good for your heart!
BY SMRUTI DAS / PUBLISHED IN THE HEALTH & WELLNESS ISSUE, JULY 2012
IMAGES OF WINE BOTTLES (COURTESY OF PELLAR ESTATES); WINE BARRELS (FOTOLIA.COM)