Pairing Wines with Indian Food
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Gauging from the success of the last All Things Nice wine dinner at Neel, I think we pretty much have put the matter to rest on whether or not Indian food and wine can be enjoyed together.
To begin with, let's not generalise Indian food; we have a diverse range of flavours as we travel from north to south and east to west.
On a recent biryani binge, we drank some wonderful rosé and the amalgamation of aroma and flavor was worth a third helping! We say, try any rosé style wine, perhaps one produced by E Guigal in the Southern Rhone Valley in France. You could also pair biryani with a lighter red like Framingham Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand as long as you keep the biryani spice levels low. I personally really like Barolo as an option as well, especially for its hedonistic perfumed nose. Prunotto and Ceretto are fantastic producers and so is Vietti.
A couple of things we should keep in mind while pairing: One, these pairings are only suggestions; they may not work for you and if they not, don't worry about it, pour another wine and experiment. Two, we assume that the spice levels are kept very, very low. Spice and tannin in red wine do not go well; however a small amount of spice and certain whites do work. Three, pay attention to the wine style and not necessarily the brand. Four, don't over-analyse, have fun with this.
Kebabs like paneer tikka or fish tikka would be great with a zippy white like a Woodstock Semillon Sauvignon Blanc from Mclaren Vale, Australia or even a super premium Chardonnay like Louis Jadot Puligny Montrachet from Burgundy. You could even try a lighter styled red here. Poultry and meat kebabs do better with fuller-bodied reds, we recommend the Montes Alpha Merlot from Chile.
As I write this article, I'm sitting on the patio of my hotel villa in Goa taking a break between paragraphs, for yet another spoonful of my fabulous Tiger Prawn curry and rice followed by a sip of my refreshingly cold limey Aussie Riesling. I am having much too good of a time to not share this with you.
With all these seafood anecdotes, I have made a mental note to eat some Patra Ni Machi soon. If you crave some as well, get a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer from France Alsace region. Hugel and Trimbach are super producers and so is Domaine Schlumberger. You could even pair it with Stags' Leap Viognier from the Napa Valley in California.
My north Indian side urges me to touch upon what goes best with that succulent mutton rogan josh and creamy dal makhani. I have many preferences - all full-bodied reds - and I suggest you should try them all; you can never eat enough of rogan josh and black dal! A Spanish red Rioja like Roda 1, Kevin Arnold Shiraz from Stellenbosch, South Africa or a Malbec from Argentina (Bodegas Cantena Zapata) will work fabulously. Antinori's Pian Delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino could be experimented with as well as Albert Bichot's Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Prestige.
To satiate my wife's south Indian side, we often pair her favorite dishes - the legendary avial and erachi ularthiyathu with a Neethlingsh of Gewürztraminer from South Africa or an acidic German Riesling with a little residual sugar, try Dr Loosen. We also often cook fish Bengali- style and pair it with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre. Henri Bourgeois as a producer comes to mind.
For the Sweet Tooth
We have talked much about pairing wines with Indian food, now how about thinking of wine and mithai? Outrageous combination? Absolutely not! On top of any Indian dessert list are the quintessential ras malais, gulab jamuns and phirni. You must try this with a Sauternes from France, Tokaji from Hungary or even a sweet Chenin Blanc from the Vouvray region in the Loire Valley.
And so in conclusion, pairing really has everything to do with what suits your personal palate. Try it all out and remember the experience you favored the most, soon you will be pairing away to glory in no time.
Nikhil Agarwal is sommelier and director at All Things Nice a platform for knowledge, networking and indulgent experiences for wine, luxury spirits and gourmet food aficionados.
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