Marsala after being declared the Pantone colour of the year is already in vogue for the upcoming spring collection. What’s more to Marsala than its allure?? Did you know you know the colour got its name from Marsala a fortified wine made in the city of Marsala in Sicily, Italy? It is used in a lot of Italian cooking and it’s famous for its use in the popular Zabaglione. However Marsala is not the first colour inspired by an alcoholic beverage, with Holi, the festival of colors coming up let us look at some more colours that are just not warm to the eyes but can also get you the happy high.
Mimosa: It was the 2009 colour of the year from Pantone, was inspired from the flowers of the Mimosa and the sparkle of the cocktail Mimosa. The cocktail is as fresh as the colour, with Triple Sec and orange Juice topped with Champagne.
Nasik, Maharashtra, India
“ Give me a sweet wine’ asked a seemingly well heeled customer at a prominent South Mumbai wine store and the store associate handed him a bottle of ‘port no X’ without even a blink. The customer left happy but not before confirming, ‘Pakka meethi hai na’ he said. Well sweetness could be one of the factors that influences and perhaps the reason why a group of mid-management executives whom I ringed in the New Year with, drank sweet fizzy wine worth 350 a bottle and also declared their love for port. Is it that simple when it comes to people’s buying behavior in the country which consumes around 10 ml of wine per capita as opposed to France’ 40 litres!
I was in Bengaluru recently and met a finance honcho at his home. Knowing my background, he instantly let me see his collection of wine bottles, all Indian which he had bought at a ‘shut down’ sale. The collection included everything from a shiraz to a merlot to a cabernet sauvignon, all grape varieties and even a Goan port wine which is overwhelmingly sweet unlike all others which were dry (not sweet).I asked him his favorites and he said he like them all, his said his work involved a lot of stress and the customary glass of wine with dinner gave him a good night sleep and he also cited the health benefits from the red. In this case the wine was more therapeutic and the finance man he was, he just spent wisely!!
Another therapeutic use of a wine I stumbled upon with good evidence was when businessman at a plush Delhi hotel ordered a 12 liter bottle of sparkling wine. This therapy was psychological, he asked the server to get the bottle with all pomp and show to his table and then take it to his car, yeah he did not open it since he knew he couldn’t finish it between two of them, all he got was the eyeballs from fellow diners and he left a happy man after paying close to a million rupees in cash!!
As most of you would think, I am trying to pass some judgement about the people in contention above!! No, what I am trying to do here is to demystify wines and want to tell you that people won’t be passing judgments about you when you did not know your wines!! Did you know about hops in a beer when you had your first or did you know about peat when you really liked your first Scotch whisky, you perhaps still do not know about them; then why does wine come with such a halo that people almost take wine drinking like an examination!!! Please stop believing that people around are sitting to test you on wine jargons, they are there to enjoy their tipples and so are you.
Your wine drinking should start with a random bottle of wine; the price would depend on your propensity to pay but ideally; start lower. Savour the wine and pass your judgement, you liked it or you didn’t; to begin with and as you gain more experience with them; you can create your own scale. Wine becomes complex as there are close to 5000 grape varieties and all are distinct in their flavor profiles, the more you taste the more you know. Hence making small notes of the wine you have had becomes imperative as it is easy to forget and you could someday go back and pick the same bottle of wine you did not like!! Wine expert reviews are only good to begin with as you would eventually understand if or not your tastes match. Lastly try to pick up a short course on wines, well it surely can help you impress people if that’s your agenda but importantly it will help you drink better. Like someone has said, life is too short to drink bad wine..
‘Economy forced me to become a vegetarian, but I finally starting liking it.’ admitted Mr. A P J Abdul Kalam, ex-president of India, John Cleese the famous British author once questioned ‘If God did not intend for us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?’ and Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles fame declared ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.’ Well I am not here to debate about food choices but this topic of vegetarianism or consumption of meat is in contention many a times, with both parties trying to convert each other with the odd Vegan scorning at both of them. I am a vegetarian and strongly believe in eat and let eat.
We vegetarians would inadvertently choose a paneer or a mushroom considering them being ‘celebratory’ or ‘ exotic’ from a menu and when it comes to choosing a wine from a list to match with our vegetarian food, you memory goes for a spin as nothing much is spoken about vegetarian food and wine pairing. Well it is difficult to pair specific vegetables to specific wines but we shall some broad principles for food and wine pairing whilst witnessing some pairings done by the Sommelier and Chefs from leading hotels in the country.
Rich and Oily:
Any food preparation which is creamy or fried will require a wine high in acidity, the acidity helps to wash down the fat on your palate to make the food experience better. For e.g.: the humble Indian samosa could be paired well with an Indian Chenin Blanc, a grape which is naturally high in acidity. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Burgundy Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Dolcetto are some wine grapes known for its refreshing acidity.
Tangy and tart:
Tomato, tamarind, vinegar etc are ingredients which bring the acidity in your food and when pairing a wine with food high in acidity like a tomato pasta or a salad with lemon dressing one should pair it with wines with good acidity, the ones which an stand and shine through the food. Sparkling wines like Champagne, Prosecco or even local produce have mouth watering acidity. Note: Acidity should not be confused with the medical term; it refers to the mouth-watering element in food and beverage.
Chef Debdash Balaga and Sommelier Madhu Sudhanan from Jamavar – Signature Indian restaurant at the Leela Palace, Chennai with their pairing
Gucchi Makkai Mushrooms: Kashmiri morels with golden corn and mushrooms in a creamy tomato sauce
Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Morgeot, Louis Jadot, 1999: The heavy duty Chardonnay from Burgundy, France
Why does the pairing go well? This golden Chardonnay laden with ripe apple and almond aromas and juicy acidity, complements the opulent sauce and the earthy mushrooms very well whilst allowing one another to unleash themselves to the end. Truly a Royal affair!
Sweets and desserts:
The thumb rule is that the wine should be at least as sweet as the food. Indian gulab jamuns, considering their sweetness are a difficult bet however to put a figure to sweetness in wines, it could be as low as 50 gms of sugar per litre and can go as high as 400. I am sure the jamuns have their soul mate somewhere. The easiest available sweet/dessert wines in India are from local producers like Reveilo, they label it as the ‘late harvest’. Also in contrast; a salt and sweet pairing works well too, a salty cheese and a sweet wine, it pairs just like goat cheese and honey, like it; don’t you!! Lastly, people also say when in doubt, crack open a bottle of sparkling, see if it works for you!!!
Spicy and hot:
Spice in the food flares up our palate and the wine has to refresh it with every sip. In my opinion for the wine to do its job well, it has to either be sweet on the palate or at least smell sweet. Grapes like Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Merlot do good justice, also bold juicy reds like Shiraz from hot climates like India, Chile or California fit in well. Albeit when we are speaking of very hot Indian Cuisine, it is very difficult to pair a wine, I would go with a glass of water.
Chef Deepak Dange and Sommelier Manoj Jangid from Tuskers the pure vegetarian Indian restaurant at Sofitel, BKC, Mumbai with their pairing
Sangri ke kofte: Cottage cheese dumpling, stuffed with pickled Ker Sangri cooked in tomato and yogurt gravy
Nobilo Icon, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand: A wine with good body, oak nuances and excellent finish.
Why does the pairing work well? Sangri ke Kofte in sharp and mildly spiced gravy receives the refreshing element in the pairing from Nobilo Pinot Noir, bursting with dark berry fruits and spice from the oak, it is well rounded with soft tannins only to leave one amazed after every morsel.
Proteins and Soya:
Dishes high in protein should be matched with wines high in tannins. Tannins which dry your mouth out and are only present in red wines soften the proteins and thus making both the wine and food more enjoyable. Aged cheeses like Cheddar work very well with heavy red wines. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Barolos are example of some heavy red.
The fifth sensory element, which really heightens one’s gourmet experience and one, cannot really stop at one!! Mono Sodium Glutamate also called ajinomoto is the artificial form but there are natural glutamates which are not harmful present in fermented products like Soya sauce, aged products like parmesan cheese, also in ripe tomatoes, mushrooms etc. Care must be taken while paring a wine high in tannins as the combination feels only bitter and less fruity. Crisp and juicy aromatic white varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Arneis etc work very well.
Chef Ramandeep Kukreja and Sommelier Manu Manikandan from Riwaz, the Indian restaurant at the Ritz Carlton, Bengaluru with their pairing
Subz aur Gucchi di Galouti (Galouti kebab): Cardamom and saffron scented ‘melt in mouth’ dumplings prepared with seasonal vegetables and morels, pan seared.
Dr. Burklin-Wolf , Riesling, Germany: A perfectly balanced wine with fresh pineapple, pear and spicy aromas rounded off with balanced mouthwatering acidity.
Why does the pairing work well? The vegetarian Galouti kebab is made with seasonal vegetables and edible mushrooms, morels. In this preparation the mushrooms dominate the flavour of the kebab. A dry Riesling wine balances the rich flavours and goes well with Indian cuisine.
Last but not the least, every palate is different and food pairing principles are for giving you a head start into the intriguing world of wine and food. Sooner than later you should call the shots, you make your rules, remember you are the consumer!