A Feast for the Senses – Italian wines with Indian Food


hotel_leela.jpgIf the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the proof of the wine is in the tasting. Keeping this simple adage in mind, The Next Quality Experience seminar organised in Delhi by the Italian Association of Wine Producers (UVI) took wine lovers through the entire experience of wine consumption – tasting, food pairing and enjoying wine, writes Soni Sangwan. Left: Leela Palace Kempinski New Delhi, venue of the event

The emphasis was on the entire sensory experience associated with wine – visual, olphactive and taste. The sensory analysis workshop took participants through the gamut of experiences that a single sip of wine can evoke. Is it fruity and light-bodied or is it woody, toasty and full-bodied; does it leave an acidic after-taste or is it a palate-cleansing wine – these are some of the questions put to participants as they tasted five wines with the professional taster.
While the actual tasting was emphasised, the theoretical aspect was also not neglected. Participants were given a quick backgrounder on the wine producing regions of Italy and also the various factors that govern the quality of a wine – the grape varietal, the geographical location, the microclimate, soil, year, technique of harvesting, duration of maturation and the most important – the manner in which the wine is stored and served.
With all this information, the participants were well prepared to put their new-found knowledge to the test – identifying the various taste nuances at the wine game. The Sensory Book handed out at the beginning proved to be a bible with its listing of all the possible taste categories – fruity, floral, spicy, sugary, toasty and vegetal. Two further levels of subcategorisation showed how each nuance and subtlety of a wine can be measured.
Food played an even greater role in the two-day seminar with special menus being created to show the matching of Italian wines with Indian food as also Italian Olive Oil with Indian food.
Glenn B Eastman, executive chef at the Leela Palace hotel, has spent five months in India and stuck to traditional preparation methods for the Indian food, but chose to use a dash of olive oil just before serving to enhance the aromas. From Rogan Josh to Goan Fish Curry, the dash of olive oil at the end complemented the food. On the first day the menu consisted of Murgh Hyderabadi Korma, Paneer Khurchan and Akhrot Anjeer Kofta among others, and was served with wines suggested by the chef. 

The second day’s menu was even better with Kumbh Methi Chaman and Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani teamed with European wines. The only concession made was in terms of toning down the spices a bit to match the mild-bodied wines paired with the food. The pairings included Hara Chana Chaat with a red Regolo Rosso Veronese Sartori – the dry wine going well with the chaat masala. The Safed Maas was served with a still red, Piluna Castello Monaci. The raita went well with a Le Rime Banfi white. 

The simple rule to follow is to take the wine from light to full-bodied; from the youngest to the most aged; from white to red; from the lowest alcohol content to the highest when serving different wines with different courses.

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