and food matching at Benares
high-end Indian food work with wine?
is a seriously upmarket, Michelin-starred Indian restaurant run by
celebrity chef Atul Kochhar. Together with his head sommelier,
Costanzo Scala, he hosted a press dinner to demonstrate how well
serious Indian food can pair with wine.
a common misconception that Indian food doesn’t go with wine’,
says Atul Kochhar. Too true: it’s one that I think I’ve shared
in the past. But Costanzo has been working hard with customers to
try to persuade them this isn’t the case. ‘When I started here
everyone wanted beer or water with their food’, he recalls.
‘After two months I began to wonder about the point of being a
sommelier here’. Fortunately for him, this has changed.
thinks that with Indian food, you really need a good sommelier to
guide you. ‘There’s very little margin for error when you try to
match Indian food and wine. Any ingredient could respond in a
different way to the wine’.
previous appointments include China Tang at The Dorchester, so he
has experience of working with Asian flavours than can be
challenging for wine. ‘Indian food takes it to another
dimension’, he says. ‘There are so many things to consider. The
sequence of dishes is a challenge, as is the build up of spice on
the palate’. He finds that it’s just not possible to stick with
one wine through a multicourse Indian menu, so going by the glass is
the best option. ‘Indian food has lots of personality, so you
don’t want anything too powerful’.
details three different approaches for pairing wine with Indian
you like Indian spices? The Indian palate often wants a wine
that is mineralic and acidic, which adds to the spices and
brings them out.
western palate tends to prefer combinations of flavour. Creamy
wines coat the palate. Buttery whites combines with the flavours
of Indian food quite well.
to calm down the spice: go for something sweet such as Pinot
Gris or Riesling or Gewürztraminer that have some residual
are the full notes on the wines tried, and my impression of how well
the pairings went.
Roussanne 2005 Central Coast, California
Really intense, nutty and broad with notes of vanilla and toast.
Thick textured and bold – a bit oily even? Viscous, rich and
was a magical match with Mallayetti Kachipeu, a curry leaf and
tarragon infused lobster rillet. The intensity and oiliness of the
wine made for a brilliant, synergistic combination.
Water Pinot Noir 2006 Waipara, New Zealand
Cherry and berry fruit nose with some herbiness. Bright but
intense, with some attractive meaty depth on the palate. Fruit
driven and nicely balanced with good acidity and texture. 91/100
with Tandoor Paneer, a Tandoori grilled Indian cottage cheese, which
is wild, smoky and spicy: the Pinot is a bit overwhelmed but with
its rich texture works well. A solid match.
Delamotte Brut Rosé NV
Lovely lively, grapey fizz with good acid and toasty notes under
the subtle strawberry fruit. Quite delicate and really attractive.
Kedka, a soft-shell crab with squid salad, doesn’t have too much
flavour, and the wine’s acidity cuts through well. Good match.
Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Nashik, India
Fresh green herby nose with minerally methoxypyrazine nose. The
palate has nice bright fruit. Herby and minerally with good acidity.
Crisp, fresh and very stylish. 88/100
with Tandoori Machchi (tandoor grilled monkfish tail with coconut
rice), the crisp minerality and gentle herbiness of the wine work
really well with gently sweet-spiced food.
Melton Rose of Virginia 2008 Barossa, Australia
Deep pink/red colour. Sweet, vivid raspberry and cherry fruit
with a nice rich texture and bold, sweet juicy character. Very
smooth and pure. 90/100
with Gosht Ke Shammi (ground lamb patties served with cucumber
yoghurt). The richness of texture and sweet fruit of the rose put up
a good fight against the spice and yoghurt. An OK match.
de Toit 2003 Wellington, South Africa
A red blend from the Cape showing rich, bold sweet blackcurrant
fruit. Quite lush and pure with a slightly green herby edge. Smooth
with real personality – a ripe yet sophisticated wine. 91/100
interesting combination here: the dish was Tawa Jhinga, which is
pan-griddled tiger prawns with curry leaf, onion and tomato sauce.
It’s a rich, spicy dish but the sweet bold fruit of the red has
the texture to match the flavours. There’s a degree of synergy,
with the subtle herbiness of the wine matching the subtle herbiness
of the dish. Good combination.
Escolha 2004 Minho, Portugal
Savoury and blackcurranty with some minerality and raspberry
freshness. Very fruit focused, and showing good acidity. A lovely
bit brave to pair this red with Meen Molly (pan-seared sea bass with
coconut and ginger), and the focused fruit of the wine holds up well
against the high-toned spiciness accompanying the sea bass. A weird
combination, but not bad.
Montebello Chardonnay 2004 Sonoma, California
Nutty, smooth, toasty and intense with smooth creamy character.
Nicely integrated oak with lovely balance and a hint of minerality.
Sophisticated stuff. 92/100
creamy Chardonnay is quite rich and accompanies the Murg Makhani
(chicken tikka simmered in mild tomato and fenugreek sauce) alright,
but it’s not a great match: there’s just so much flavour in the
Cabidos Cuvée St Clément Petit Manseng 2004 Vin de
Pays du Comté Tolosan, France
Bright, grapey, herby and sweet with a nice texture. Lemony fresh
with a really bright character. Lovely sweet wine. 90/100
sort of worked with the Marsalae Aur Santrae Ki Chocolate (five
spice chocolate pudding with tarragon and blood orange), as much as
these sorts of dessert pairings work at all.
Conclusions? First, I really enjoyed the food and wine
combination. It was a great meal, but not inexpensive - if we had
been paying, the bill would have been £65 for the tasting menu
alone, or £95 with matched wines, or £159 for the prestige wine
and food combination. Second, I think some of the wines did work
very well with the dishes they were paired with, although you
have to shift your mentality a bit and instead of choosing wine
s you love, you have to think quite carefully about which ones would
work with the food - in this sense, there's far less margin for
error when you are trying to match with Indian food.
Wines tasted 09/08
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