As the weather is getting hotter by the day and the spirit freer, it is time to see our wines with a whole new perspective. I am sure by now you must have figured out that those lovely woollens you wore these past months actually served only to hide accumulated layers of flab. Okay, maybe in some cases a little less than the others. Kulpreet Yadav shares his thoughts on how salads go with wines.
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
Wrote T.S. Eliot in ‘The Waste Land’ (1922). But for us here in India, April already seems like the middle of summer. Spring of 2009 is history and summer is right here at our doorstep.
In fact, those coats, jackets and pullovers had hidden our indulgences not just from the eyes of those who looked at us, but also from us ourselves. What a pity, many of us now can’t fit in the summer clothes we liked so much last summer.
That said, isn’t it a good idea to suddenly become calorie conscious and choose to go for lighter food options, like salads? But what about our romance with wines? Since dieting does not necessarily mean we should stay away from our favourite indulgences, why stay away from wines. Fair enough! I am sure by now you must have been able to see the point.
Salad dressings and wine
Let’s talk about ‘Salads and Wines’: Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? But, believe me, it can actually be quite a challenge. Mainly because, in most cases the dressing in salads can be too overwhelming even for the most robust of wines: Vinegar being the worst culprit of all. Pairing with a salad that has been drenched with vinaigrette is actually a big no-no. One way to go about it is to make the dressing milder. Replace vinegar with Balsamic or rice wine. Better still replace vinegar with lime juice or any other fruit squash concentrate. Even better, a splash of your favourite wine can work very well too.
Indian salads and wine
Coming to the Indian way of eating salads, where it is the accompaniment of the main course, it seems far too easy. But is it? A helping of salad serves, in most cases, as a good way of cleansing the mouth in between chicken, fish or paneer. Also, for us Indians, the salad dressing concept is fairly simpler. A gentle squeeze of lime or a herb paste in most cases peps it up to the required degree. That brings us to sambals that many of us here in India or elsewhere, particularly the Far East, like to add to our portion of sautéed or boiled vegetables. Since sambals are preferably added to partially cooked vegetables where the juices have concentrated in the chopped seasonal vegetables to make these sweeter, it goes well with wines with good herbal notes, like Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Yogurt is another base on which many of the Indian salads are built. But sadly, wine with yogurt also doesn’t go well. That leaves us with overpoweringly-smitten-with chili type of Indian salads. Now, chili and tannins also are difficult to pair. If you must, try Merlot or Pinot Noir. So, I am sure by now you must be able to see the restrictions.
Simple thumb rules…
Follow these simple rules of the thumb when you decide to pair home made salad or even a salad from a salad bar.
Raw greens vegetables – Zinfandel or Syrah. Syrah from warmer areas posses mellower flavours like plum and pepper that goes well with vegetables. Similarly, in Zin from warmer areas too the blackberry, pepper and anise notes sing well with the crunchiness of raw vegetables.
Vegetables – Roasted vegetables with Zinfandel or barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc. Grilled vegetables certainly with Chardonnay with woody flavors and Mushrooms with a Pinot Noir.
Fruits – Since most fruit flavors are present in the wines we drink we just need to get the two together. We know that pear, melon and tropical fruit flavors are common in Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Ripe berries, plum, tomatoes and cherries dominate many Pinot Noirs and Beaujolais. Grenache for nuts due to its black currant and blackberries flavors.
Cheese – Wine and cheese have always been married in an eternal bliss. It’s easy to see why – milk proteins in cheeses brave the tannins and acidity turning the pair friendlier. Dry aged cheeses, like Parmesan or Asiago, with their toasty and silky flavors go well with barrel-fermented and aged Chardonnays. Blue cheese pairs well with sweet wines.
Grilled meats and tikkas and kebabs – Barolo, Chianti classico, Riesling or full bodied syrah. Barolo, the robust king of wines, allows its excessive tannic character to rub well on the meat chunks in a manner that it comes across softer on the palate. Chianti for its right robustness and acidity cuts across nicely with meats and tikkas. Dry Riesling for its acidity and strong flavours goes well with spiced up kebabs and tikkas.