It also helped that I was at a tasting in Ananda restaurant in Dundrum, Dublin, recently conducted by Fiona Beckett — a UK-based wine writer who has virtually cornered the area of food and wine matching with her books, blog and website www.matchingfoodandwine.com
As you will gather from this week’s restaurant review Ananda has a new hand in the kitchen and thankfully the cooking is just as assured as under the previous chef with fine subtle spicing and creative use of ingredients.
Many people will immediately think of cold lager to match Indian food but this is entirely the wrong approach given lager’s lack of flavour.
Yes, it will quench your thirst but add little or nothing to the complexity of the food — and remember that Indian food never has simple flavours.
If you must have beer go for ales — Pale Ales, IPAs and ESBs in particular, but I still believe wine is the best match for quality Indian cooking.
Whites often work better than reds but fruity reds such as Beaujolais or Portuguese reds can work well too — especially if served a little cooler than normal.
Tannic wines are more difficult but a touch of extra salt in the dish can surprisingly soften the effect of the tannins.
Rosé is an excellent all-rounder but fragrant white wines probably match best of all — gruner veltliner, gewurztraminer, chenin blanc, riesling, and viognier.
Some good advice we got from Fiona included focusing on whether the spice in the dish is an accent or the point of the dish — if cardamom and cinnamon are dominant flavours for example then think about what would match those spices (eg, gewurztraminer or torrontes) rather than simply coping with the chilli.
A touch of sweetness in a wine also helps as it balances the heat and always consider some fizz — particularly with fried dishes — anyone for bollinger and bhajis?
JJ O’Driscolls, 1601 Kinsale, Ardkeen Waterford, Vintry Rathgar, Redmonds Ranelagh, Martins Fairview From the co-operative in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg in the centre of Chenin Blanc-Cabernet Franc Loire.
This straw and sweet lemon peel scented wine has a nice touch of richness on the front palate and steely balanced acidity on the finish – try with chicken or veg curries.
World Wide Wines Waterford, Selected Independents
The Languedoc is a warm place but Picpoul’s searing lemon (bad-ass) acidity always shines strongly in this wine — this has some floral aromas but is citrus fresh and dry with a pleasing lingering dried citrus peel character.
This will also work well with Chinese food, particularly spicy dishes from Sichuan or Hunan Province.
Curious Wines Cork and Naas www.curiouswines.ie
This is on special offer in Curious Wines at the moment at a ridiculously cheap price of just over a tenner (down from €13).
The violet scented Touriga Nacional grape is blended with other local varieties to give some extra depth and richness but those scents are still there – ripe and elegant with a hint of structure.
Serve cooler than normal (c 12-14C) if your curry is spicy.
O’Donovans Cork, Scallys Carry-Out, Bradleys
Champagne goes with everything of course but I find it matches well with spicy food, particularly vegetable and fish curries but also dishes with paneer (cheese).
Ananda served this with a delicious goat cheese and potato dish and the fragrant lemon and underlying yeasty character of this elegant Deutz NV notched in perfectly.
One for Easter celebrations.
This is an unusual blend of riesling (29%), sauvignon blanc (28%), rousanne (27%) and marsanne (16%) and had a good hit of richness that balanced the spices well.
In addition the floral and fragrant elements here worked well with the fish and crab ball with mango and caraway seeds and the dry mineral and lemon-scented finish was an apt punctuation.
O’Donovans, Ardkeen Stores, Molloys, www.wineonline.ie , Independents
Lawsons is a fine old family-run estate in Marlborough and all its wines are supremely balanced. Also watch for its pinot noir, riesling and gewurztraminer.
The tropical passion fruit and ripe apple notes allied to the bright acidity allows this to work well with any spicy food, particular fried dishes.