‘Wine’ and ‘fashion’ have something in common…although they are both personal choices; there is a world of experts in both these fields, ready to tell you how to handle your wine and your wardrobe.
While fashion is not the subject at hand today…I say, don’t let the wine experts or ‘oenophiles’ throw you off your wine game…because wine is really about your palate, your taste and your preferences.
India and its ‘Wine’ Journey
Hotmail…and world-class wines became accessible to a wider Indian population around the same time; in the 90s with the liberalization of the Indian economy. Until then, wines had been the domain of luxury hotel clientele and the privileged few that traveled abroad.
Notwithstanding, wine references have been a part of the history and culture of the Indian subcontinent, with ancient Persian influences and references to ‘fermented beverages’ in the north of India, to the much later introduction of fortified wines by the Portuguese in the west coast of India.
The 90s was an exciting ‘wine’ decade with everyone wanting to learn more about the Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Shiraz & Pinots.
Easily accessible were well known French and Italian wines like Pouilly Fuisse, Chablis, Chianti and Gewurztraminer. One could play with the crisp zest of a New Zealand Cloudy Bay which pairs amazingly well with Indian food…and even celebrate with the much respected Chateau Mouton Rothschild (I’d hold on to their label.)
Even the Indian wine industry (great article on ‘The Best of Indian Wines’) which started in the 80s was finally blooming with decent local servings like Chantilli and Riviera…Today you will find award-winning Indian wines from Indage, Sula, Grovers and other wine players in India.
The Indian appetite for wines had been whetted…the pairings had just begun.
Indian food and the ‘Wine’ Connection
While all food is based on visual appeal, which means ‘we eat with our eyes’; cooking and eating an Indian meal is a complete sensory experience…based on visual and olfactory perceptions before taste comes into play. Every layer of flavor-filled ingredients in an Indian meal entices your senses and urges you to go one step further…
Now doesn’t that sound a lot like wine?
One wine lover’s ‘fruity’ is ‘too sweet’ to another…’woody’ to some is ‘piney’ to others…your ‘opaque’ is a wine aficionado’s ‘deep red’…honestly, the only undoubtedly true wine analysis is that of a ‘corked’ wine.
Indian food offers complex flavors and clearly, so does wine…there really is no traditional pairing formula for wine with Indian food.
My Tips to Choosing Wines that Complement Indian Food
- Though well-known and often-skipped, the steps involved in choosing the right wine might seem facetious, but going through them makes for a better wine-drinking experience…So go ahead: ‘Swirl, Sniff, Swig and Swish’ away with your glass of wine before you make a selection.
- Indian food aromas are pretty strong already. Blend the flavors of the wine with the aromas of the food in your nose first; if they smell right together, the wine will pair well with your spicy fare.
- Wines which are heavy on the tongue don’t go too well with spicy food. Red or white; you want to go one step lighter than the flavors of the meal you are eating. Choose wines that don’t fight for attention with the food; let the food take center stage and let the wine complement its flavors; not the other way around.
- With Indian meals, I recommend the fruitier texture of whites like Pinot Grigio, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc…Red favorites include lighter Tuscan wines, Zinfandels, Merlots or the simple youth of a Beaujolais Nouveau. Although heavier, Argentine Malbecs’ work surprisingly well with spicy meat.
For all those like me, who won’t compromise between their spicy food and their glass of wine; finding the right wine experience with Indian food is a challenge worth taking on.