Spicy Pairings

| September 19, 2012

As we spend the month of March “demystifying” Indian cuisine, we are fascinated by the possibilities of pairing wines with fare knownglass of wine for it’s diverse combinations of spices and seasonings.

The role of a good wine pairing is to elevate the pleasure of the meal   by “marrying” the complexity of the food’s unique flavors with the complementary notes in the wine.  With the intense flavors in Indian cooking, finding the right pairing is often a challenge.

A myriad of questions surface when pairing  wine and Indian food; How do you balance a fiery dish to enhance it’s flavor without raising the “heat”? What wine would highlight a pungent dish without adding a bitter flavor? How fruity should a wine be to stand up well to a highly seasoned dish without spoiling it’s savory flavor? What wines work best with dishes containing yogurt or cream?

We will explore the best choices and make recommendations, but first  the “what not to do’s.”

Avoid oaky and/or buttery wines since they overpower the flavors of the food. Wines that are too acidic often compromise  spicy flavors. Red wines require great selectivity when being paired with Indian cuisine and only work with heavier seasoning. Check alcohol content especially in sparkling wines like Champagne which tends to have a high alcohol content.  That will  intensify the heat in fiery dishes and can make them inedible.

What does work!

Aromatic whites such as Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer work with milder dishes such as seafood and vegetarian dishes. Both German and Alsace Riesling are also a wonderful complement to lighter Indian fare. I personally love the Dr. Loosen  2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese  from Germany with a delicious apricot and pineapple flavor profile.  The finish is sweet and refreshing, and will complement Indian spices.

Gewurztraminer is Alsace’s signature grape. It is easy to  pick out and is unmistakable with a strong aroma of lychee nuts and roses and the richer it gets, the harder it is to match with food. The Alsatian riesling is  a dry wine and consequently, a great  food wine.

2008 Luss Riesling, a delicately fruity riesling from producer Léon Boesch, pairs well with foods prepared with yogurt and cream, and conversely, the perfectly balanced: 2008 Boxler Sommerberg “E,” is an excellent wine that combines intense mineral and fruit flavors and will temper spicier fods.

There are many other choices, however stay away from red wines that are highly tannic since they will distort spices and seasonings and although sparkling whites such as Proscecco and Champagne have a pleasing neutral quality, watch the alcohol content.  Sparkling Rose is also worth trying.  Mainly, let the Spice dictate the wine and enjoy!

Email comments and suggestions to cgoldblatt@dailyfoodandwine.com