On cloud wine

Not many know how to pair wine with Indian food. Abhay Kewadkar suggests the perfect wine for every desi meal...

One of the biggest myths is that white wine should be paired with white meat and red wines with red meats.

When it comes to pairing of wine and food, there are those who stick to the rules and those who like to experiment to try and balance the pairing. I’ve been tasting wine for as long as I can remember and have worked with numerous connoisseurs and varying consumer groups across the globe. One of the things that I have learnt over the years is wine and food pairing can be very subjective to individual choices and can vary from region to region.

The basics

One of the biggest myths is that white wine should be paired with white meat and red wines with red meats. This is a very antiquated way to look at food and wine pairing harmony. I am not saying that all food and wine pairing rules are baseless, but the simple rule is, what grows together goes together.

To give an example, fish and chicken are white meats but when the cuisine has some spiciness in it, one has to go for off-dry-style Rose or medium-bodied red wine, depending on the level of spice.

There is some science involved behind the flavour profiles that need to be considered while pairing wine and food to enhance them both. For those who are new to this, here are some basic rules to follow while pairing:

Match fatty foods with higher tannic wines.
Match fatty foods with higher tannic wines.

* Compare structure to structure and flavour to flavour.

* Pair heavy food with heavy wine; light dishes with light wine.

* Match fatty foods with higher tannic wines.

* Pair acidic dishes with acidic wines.

* Spicy foods require a semi-sweet wine (contrast pairing).

* Consider the level of salt in the dish.

* Pair sweet dishes to wines that are little sweeter than the cuisine.

To simplify things further, here are a few suggestions for food and wine pairing: 

Andhra Pradesh &Telangana

Andhra Pradesh is famous for its hot and spicy cuisine along with its rich cultural heritage. This cuisine includes both the Andhra cuisine and the Hyderabadi cuisine which has a Mughal influence. Traditional Andhra dishes are absolutely mouth-watering, thanks to a liberal use of spices.

Vankai Pachanga Pappu: This is a dish that is made from thick strips of country brinjal cooked with split chickpeas and tomatoes. It is a very light and simple dish, so it’s best paired with a medium-bodied aromatic wine like Viognier.

Gongura Chicken: A medium-spicy chicken curry with the distinctive taste of its main ingredient — gongura or sorrel leaves. This is best paired with an off-dry-style Rose; the spiciness will be toned down due to slight sweetness in the wine, and the acidity of wine will help to bring out the gentle flavours of gongura leaves.

Nawabi Biryani: Biryani is cooked by the process of dum pukht (slow cooking). As a result, every grain of rice is flavoured with spices and meat. It, thus, requires a medium-bodied fruity style red wine like Zynfandel or a Merlot. Dum pukht is one that has an unusual smoky flavour, so wines with some Oak Barrel ageing will go better. If the level of spice is high, go for a Shiraz.

Goa

The major attractions of this cuisine are seafood, pork and local beverages like feny, to name a few. Although Goan food is simple, it can also be very hot and spicy. The food is a perfect blend of diverse cultures ­ — the Konkan, the Portuguese, and the Bahamani Nawabi traditions. 

Vindaloo: It a spiced pork dish. Pork is a lean meat so it requires a soft and medium-bodied red wine like a Merlot. Intense fruitiness in the wine will help tone the level of spice down.

Chicken Xacuti: This popular dish is best paired with Shiraz. The spices that complement the meat will be best matched with similar characters of the wine. Rich and intensely flavoured meat goes well with Shiraz.

Pomfret Recheado: This Goan fish fry is a must-eat for any food lover. Since this dish contains an array of Indian spices, it will go well with an aromatic and off-dry-styled wine like a Viognier. This would help tone down the spices and elevate the flavours of the fish.

Maharashtra

It is well known that Maharashtrians consider their food as ‘anna he poornabrahma’ meaning they consider anna, or food, equal to Brahma, or the creator of the universe. The cuisine of Maharashtra has its own distinctive flavours and tastes. It can be divided into two major sections — the coastal and the interior.
Coconut, in various forms, adds to the flavour of many a dish, but coconut oil is not widely used as a cooking medium. Peanuts are widely used in vegetables and peanut oil is the main cooking medium. Another key ingredient used is kokum, a deep purple berry that has a pleasing sweet and sour taste.

Mutton Kolhapuri: Spicy mutton Kolhapuri is intensely spiced, so people who prefer a spicy dish with a peppery touch, Shiraz is the right choice.

Pav Bhaji: This dish has a high intensity due to slow cooking and the specific pav bhaji masala used, so it will be well paired with an off-dry-style Rose.

Rajasthan

Rajasthan has a rich tradition of cuisines. For this land of the princes, scarcity of water, as well as fresh green vegetables, have had a significant impact on their art of cooking. In the desert belt of Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner, cooks use minimum water and prefer, instead, to use more milk, buttermilk and clarified butter. Generally, Rajasthani curries are brilliant red but not as spicy as they look.

Daal Baati: This dish has a fine texture with a simple base sauce, so it requires a wine that will add more tropical flavour on the palate. This dish goes well with Viognier.

Laal Maas: Medium-spiced goat meat curry can be matched with a full body plumier Shiraz. Concentrate velvety tannins will help to match the proteins in the meat.

Laal maas goes well with Shiraz.
Laal maas goes well with Shiraz.

Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu food has a great demand among the connoisseurs of cuisines. Tourists coming from every part of the globe want to experience the exquisite taste of the various dishes of Tamil Nadu that are available in numerous eateries and restaurants of the place. Chettinad cuisine is a speciality of Tamil Nadu and will be a delight for those who like hot and spicy non-vegetarian food. This variety has several variations of fish, mutton and chicken dishes of which the Chettinad pepper chicken is a traditional favourite.

Chicken Chettinad: Since the dish is spicy, an off-dry-style of Blush rose is the best match as that has hints of a bouquet of roses, strawberry and sweet spices.

Masala Dosa: India’s popular breakfast and one of the most popular street dishes is masala dosa. This fermented pancake with potato, fried onion and spices goes well with Sauvignon Blanc.

(The author is MD, Tetrad Global Beverage) 

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