Perfect Pairings – Which wines go best with Indian food?

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It’s a question which crops up in discussions among Indian wine aficionados regularly, says Ruma Singh. A select group of invitees were happy to discover some very interesting options at a wine tasting of Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Riesling and Gewurztraminer wines held at Ista’s Indian fine dining restuarant, Zaman, in Bangalore. pairing1a.jpg

Guests at the dinner, including Vishwapreet Cheema, Michelle Sebastian of Ista, Rishad Minocher and Ruma Singh at the far end.


An unusual menu was put together by Chef Subroto Goswami at a sit down dinner which saw four courses paired with fine wines from the Alsace region of France.
To introduce the wines to the guests, was Schlumber’s Directeur Commercial, Jean-Marie Winter, who peppered his introduction with some interesting insights into the region in general and the wines in particular. Alsace, being so close to the border of France and Germany, has switched nationality no less than five times, he said! He also shared some insights from a rare vertical tasting that he had overseen some time ago — 27 vintages of Domaines Sclumberger wines from 1945 to the present day — a rare treat. “We discovered the most impressive vintages were 1962, 1983 and 1985,” he said. Now Riesling and gewurtztraminer fans know which vintages to look out for!

The dinner started with fried soft shell crabs marinated with Indian spices, combined with a Grand Cru Saering Riesling 2006, a delightful, perfectly balanced wine with floral and fruity overtones. It went on with pomfret crusted with cumin, coriander and sea salt served with mustard oil charred asparagus, which combined well with the Grand Cru Kitterle 2001, a rich yet subtle wine, with mineral tones and distinctly fruity perfume. pairing2a.jpg
Sclumberger’s Jean-Marie Winter raises a toast with Kripal Amanna and Sudeep Gurtu.

The classic Gewurtztraminer Grand Cru Kessler was impossible to fault with the braised chicken breast with lotus stem fritters/ morels stuffed with figs, raisins and herbs served with saffron pilaf and mooli salad, while the Grand Cru Spiegel Pinot Gris set off the pineapple carpaccio and Indian dessert selection to a treat.
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Getting set for a fine dining experience wines from Domaines Schlumberger.
The guests, thoroughly appreciatiative of the innovative combinations, pronounced the wines perfectly capable of handling Indian food of an even greater spice content! All the while, Mr Winter kept feeding the fascinated gathering with nuggests of wine-related information, like the history of the Gewurtztraminer, and how Alsace was the only region under AOC which named the wines by the grape!

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  1. Avininder Singh on

    Hi Ruma – a very enjoyable article.
    While the Menu that was served was certainly a match made in Heaven for GEWURTZTRAMINER & RIESLING it was not a Menu that we understand as being “TYPICALLY INDIAN” – more FUSION really.But that is fine;after all the stars of the show were the WINES!!
    For the benefit of SI readers – who might want to think of wines other than Gewurtztraminer, Reisling and Syrah or, God Forbid, BEER – I would like to refer to probably the most fascinating insight that I have read on pairing INDIAN FOODS WITH WINE.This is an article,datelined 8th June, 2007 in the San Francisco Chronicle,written by JON BONNE & OLIVIA WU.They have collaborated with RUTA KAHATE (an Indian culinary teacher & author living in East Bay) and LACHU MOORJANI (Owner-Chef,Ajanta,an Indian Restaurant in Berkley).
    They started by listing the 11 most crucial spices for Indian Cookery which,according to them,are – in no particular order – Mustard seeds,Cardamom,Turmeric, Cummin,Black Pepper,Mace/Nutmeg,Ginger/Garlic,Bay Leaves,Cloves,Cinnamon and,of course,Chilly Powder – both spicy and for color.
    They have not forgotten to mention the importance of fresh onions,ginger, garlic, tomatoes and green chilly.Nor have they neglected the REGIONAL DIVIDE emphasizing, for instance, the importance of YOGHURT & CREAM in the NORTH and COCONUT MILK in the SOUTH.
    They have then gone on to demarcate Indian Food into what they call “FLAVOR FAMILIES” & have understood the difference between GHAR KA KHANA & RESTAURANT FOOD.Their PAIRINGS are:
    1.SIMPLE SPICE:Dishes that rely on just a few spices, at most 2 or 3, as seasoning e.g. SAMOSAS,PAKORAS,CABBAGE TADKA,PULLAO RICE, NANKHATAI – Sparkling Wines,dry Chenin Blanc,dry Viognier,Sauv. Blanc, Albarino, Mourvedre,Syrah.
    2.LIGHT SAUCE:Lighter Dishes, many of them with dried peas,beans or legumes e.g. Ghar Ki Daal,Channa Masala,Kadhai Gosht,Bhindi DoPiaza – Aromatic Whites (Pinot Blanc,Pinot Gris,Muller-Thurgau,Sylvaner), dry or late harvest Riesling. Young,fruity cooler climate Reds (Grenache,Zweigelt,Barbera), lighter Pinot Noir, Dry Roses.
    3.HEARTY SPICE:This is what the world understands as “CURRIES” and which now tend to be RESTAURANT FOOD e.g. Gosht Badam Pasanda, Murg Makhanvalla,Chicken Tikka Masala, Pork Vindaloo, Chicken Chettinad – Where there is modest use of DAIRY PRODUCTS a LIGHTER RED will work; for CREAMIER FOOD opt for a HIGHER ACID WHITE – Pinot Blanc,Pinot Gris,sweet Riesling,Beaujolais,Syrah, Cotes du Rhone or Rhone style wines.
    4.TANDOORI:Marinated foods that have been roasted in the Tandoor and which are,again, more Restauranty in nature e.g. Tandoori Chicken, Fish Tikka, Mutton Burra, Paneer Tikka, Tandoori Gobhi – Cabernet Franc specially lighter Loire Valley wines,Muscadet, Pinot Blanc,Viognier,Sauv. Blanc, red Cotes du Rhone,Barbera,Pinot Noir,Lagrein, Zweigelt.
    5.FRESH & GREEN:Dishes with fresh greens or herbs as a primary ingredient e.g. Saag Paneer,Methi Mattar Malai,Murg Methi, Saag Gosht – Dry Chenin Blanc,dry Riesling, Muller-Thurgau,unoaked Chardonnay,Chablis,Albarino, Cabernet Franc Roses.
    The one area that they did not venture into was INDIAN DESSERTS.
    One might well say that there is still a preponderance of NORTH INDIAN CUISINE in their choices but I, for one, would give them FULL MARKS FOR EFFORT and a JOB DONE WITH LOVE & UNDERSTANDING.Thank You, Jon & Olivia.
    For those who would like to read the FULL ARTICLE, which also gives Recepies and Specific Wine Pairings, I will be happy to mail it to you.
    CHAK DE INDIA!!

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