Thursday, July 9, 2009

Indian Food with Wine

Indian food and wine pairing - it can be done. Your natural inclination when choosing a beverage to accompany Indian food may be a lager style of beer, which has a clean, simple taste and immediately quenches thirst. Or you if ordered your dish Vindaloo style (basically, mouth-on-fire-hot), you may urgently reach for a pitcher of water. But the right wine can elevate your meal, keeping in mind the complexity of flavors – spicy, sweet, salty - and layering of flavors – in an Indian dish makes food and wine pairing challenging, but certainly not impossible.

Fiery dishes beg for a wine to balance the heat, not add to it. You want to stay away from anything too high in alcohol because it intensifies the spice. You also want to avoid highly tannic wines (like a bold Barolo or a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon) which can add a bitter taste to highly flavorful, pungent dishes. For spicy vegetable dishes, my “go-to” recommendation is a Gewürztraminer from Germany. Its lychee and rose aromas hint at sweetness that makes it a natural fit. Another great pairing is a Kabinett style Riesling from Germany. The slightest off-dry taste and racy acidity really works. Other options for searing hot dishes slightly heavier in texture include a Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France or, for the more adventurous wine drinker, try the up-and-coming white varietal of Torrontes from Argentina. It has a gorgeous, aromatic nose but doesn’t have a ton of complexity that would be lost with a more complex or subtle dish. A Pinot Gris from Oregon also makes a nice choice. If you have a salty or fried dish like aloo ki tikki (potato patties), cut through it with a highly acidic white wine also based on Sauvignon Blanc grapes such as a Pouilly-Fume or Sancerre.

White wines aren’t the only choices for Indian meals. Meaty, gamey dishes like lamb that have intense, heavier flavors including chile and garlic sauces or smokiness can stand up to red where crisp, delicate white wines would falter. One of the least known but most worthy picks is a Chinon, a light bodied, savory and earthy red wine composed of Cabernet Franc grapes with distinct violet aromas from the Loire Valley of France. Another great option is a Burgundian-style Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon or Central Otago, New Zealand. Smokier flavors are complemented by medium bodied spicy, flinty Shiraz. On the more adventurous side, try a Valpolicella from Italy or a slightly chilled Beaujolais Cru from France; both are perfect with pork dishes.

When in doubt, you can’t go wrong pairing Indian food with Champagne, whose effervescence steadily matches the multi-layered flavor present in most Indian dishes. The hi/low combination of Champagne and Indian street food makes for a hip party theme whose sense of kitsch won’t be lost on fashionable friends.


Anonymous said...

One thing that I have found that really works is a nice dry cider, especially for non-sweet wine drinkers. Something from Julien Fremont in Calvados or perhaps Wandering Aengus in Oregon.


There are of course, The Old World Wine Rule which Red wine to be had with red meat and white wine to be had white meat, seafood.and whatever happend with vegetarian???? But indian food is popular with vegetarian??? Infact, Indian food good for many kind of wine. Vegetarians is low on the spice and My recommendation for wine is Hardys VR Sauvignon blanc. This wine is usually slightly sweet and yet has balanced acidity, good structure and fruity notes which also make a good marriage with Fish Tikkas, Lamb Sheek Kebabs, and Chicken Tikkas and Tandoori Chicken.

How to Pick a Summer Wine: The Gentler, Lighter Side of Wine

Summer’s soaring temps beg you to step away from heavy Cabernets and check out the gentler, lighter side of wine. When choosing the perfect summer wine for your outdoor engagement party or wedding, think light, crisp, refreshing--and because people tend to drink more in the heat--lower in alcohol. Nothing more prettily suggests summer than a dry (i.e. not sweet) rose. Avoid the simple, syrupy versions and try French roses from the Mourvèdre grape or roses made using the Saignee method for more complexity. Pick wines from countries where you imagine the locals sipping leisurely at sidewalk cafés while basking in the sun, like Spain. A Spanish fave is Albarino from the Rias Baixas region. Made to drink young, Albarino is a crisp, white wine with intense fruit, lively acidity and generally a lower level of alcohol. It pairs perfectly with summer foods from seafood to grilled vegetables. But you don’t need to swear off red wine for summer. Look for light bodied wines like Pinot Noir from Oregon or a Valpolicella from Italy, both capable of standing up to barbequed foods. And don’t be afraid to put a slight chill on your red wine. It is summer after all!

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain, “Exceptional with Everything” Oh Really?

There's nothing we love more than a challenge. It's in our makeup. We're two women, thirties. One Indian. One Filipina. The first, founder and CEO of a business in the arguably male-dominated wine world. The second, building experience to be a future proprietess of a wine store. Add to this: In New York City. So when presented with the opportunity to play wine and food critic for a night—to pair Rías Baixas Albariño wines, proclaimed to be "exceptional with everything" with Mercat’s offerings —it is impossible and simply against every ounce of who we are, to refuse.

Mercat means “market” in Catalan, the language of the northern Spanish region where owner, Jaime Reixach, is from and where the restaurant’s menu draws its inspiration. The albariños we’ll be drinking also originate from the northern region, and so we’re already anticipating more perfect wine pairings than tragic mismatches.

It’s a beautiful warm Thursday night—and we are tasting two Albariño wines: Alba Rosa from Martinez Serrantes and Pazo San Mauro, both 2006 vintages. We take our time with each wine—assessing them alone and then side by side. At the end, we agree that both are delightful: the Alba Rosa is sparkling with surprising depth while the Pazo San Mauro would bring life to our springtime picnic. Further, we imagine that if each wine were to be personified, they might just be these two ladies, described as such:

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"
This golden blonde hued wine gives an almost effervescent quality that shoots racy brightness into your mouth. It has the usual grassiness and citrus qualities one expects from this wine. The reason why this wine fits Scarlett most is because it has the quality of lightness but comes with surprising depth of character and fullness in body. The comparison would be perfect were the wine to show great legs, but its light-bodied, lower alcohol nature doesn’t allow it.

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”
Cameron would be a fun addition to any springtime outing. Her lightheartedness would make everyone smile and this wine does the same. The light yellow straw color gives way to granny smith apples, peaches, melon, and citrus scents that jump at your nose, smelling like springtime in a glass. This wine begs to be explored further. The crisp and pleasantly tart apple is balanced with pear and makes it the perfect brunch wine.
Now, we move on to the heart of our challenge: Exceptional with everything? Oh really? How do these two beauties handle themselves in company? After the three and a half hours of glorious sipping, chewing, and chatting, among ourselves and the restaurant staff, here are our findings:

No surprise, our lovely wines get along splendidly with their classic and traditional partners: we have raves for the nicely seasoned patatas bravas—not too spicy, not too garlicky—and the padrones/blistered shishito peppers, the char and oil offset by the tartness of the wines. One of us goes wild for the Canelons de Verdura/eggplant wrapped spring vegetables, manchego, and cranberry reduction. And then Chef Lowder sends over Trencat d’Ous/mushroom with salsa verde topped with a fried egg, which again, goes splendidly with our wines. Even the suckling pig/Cochinillo, which we think will surely clash, in fact becomes the surprise of the evening. Like the beauty and the beast, our wines and the pig make an unlikely but harmonious pair.

We ask ourselves for the last time: Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with Everything?

If not for being the gluttonous bottomless pits that we are, we would certainly have answered YES with an exclamation point. But since we order those two desserts—Torrades Sta. Teresa/fried bread with lemon yogurt and Pa Amb Oli Xocolata/bread, olive oil, and chocolate, our answer must be: Almost. These two desserts with our two Albariños — are disastrous.

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with almost Everything.

--Anu Karwa and Marie Estrada

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