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Wine for spice
The quest to find a wine match for curries

Warren Edwardes (pictured below) is the man behind a rather unusual set of wines. Titled ‘Wine for Spice’, his range of two whites and a rosé is designed with spicy Asian food in mind. I caught up with him for a meal at upmarket curry house Masala Zone (www.masalazone.com). Warren has an interesting background. He’s from Dehli, but has Goan roots. He went to a Jesuit boarding school in Rajistan, where he had his first experience of wine at the 5.30 am mass that started each day. And his current venture follows a career in investment banking.

Since I last saw his wines, they’ve changed their look a bit. The new labels are ‘a lot more feminine’, Warren claims. ‘We’re also aiming at the summer market: the key word is “refreshing”; anything that works in summer should also work with curry’. That means acidity, no oak and not tannin. Low temperature, sparkling, and not too high alcohol. This is Warren’s equation for a successful match with spice.

The most distinctive feature of the Wine for Spice range is that these wines are fizzy, but not as fizzy as Champagne. Champagne typically has a pressure of 6 bars, whereas these wines come in at 2.4 bars. This semi-sparlking style is produced by the charmant method. His wines all have some residual sugar, too, rising with the spiciness of the dish. Thermometer images are used on the label to indicate this.

Warren used to drink Torres’ Vina Esmerelda at home, a blend of Muscat and Gewürztraminer with 11 g/l residual sugar. (Viceroy Gold is 19 g/l residual sugar.) ‘I find Gewürztraminer/Muscat a bit cloying after the first glass: it’s a bit too much’, says Warren. He experimented and mixed the Esmerelda half and half with Muscadet, which was much more refreshing, and then mixed it with Cava, which led to the semi-sparkling idea. ‘You lose a lot of the nuances with spice’, says Warren, ‘and you’re left with the textural and acid characteristics.’

Clearly, these are wines with a function in mind. ‘They are not terroir wines’, admits Warren. ‘They are good gluggers: these wines can be produced anywhere because the key is vinification, not viticulture’. In fact, the wines all come from northeast Spain.

Wines for Spice Viceroy White NV
Made from the same grape varieties used to make Cava. Very dry with good acid and a bit of a sparkle. Fresh, pure and fruity. Works very well with mild curries – in this case a chicken samosa was a good pairing. A bit neutral on its own. 2 g/litre residual sugar.

Wines for Spice Raja Rosé NV
70% Garnacha and 30% Tempranillo. Sweet strawberry fruit dominates here, with a nice acid tang and some spritz. It’s off dry but refreshing. Works well with spicier food, cutting through nicely. 7 g/litre residual sugar.

Wines for Spice Rani Gold NV
A mix of 50% Muscat and 50% Cava grape varieties, this is the most distinctive of the three wines: more refreshing than a pure Muscat because of the acid and fizz. Nice aromatic grapey nose but it avoids being at all sickly sweet. Off-dry but still refreshing. Nice rich texture. 19 g/litre residual sugar.

These wines are available from some branches of Waitrose, as well as directly from the Wine for Spice company.

Website: http://wineforspice.com/

wines tasted: August 2007

[Earlier report from a few years back]
Warren Edwardes is a brave man: he’s built a business that aims to find the right wine to match with curry. It’s called Wine for spice. I’ve always been one of those rather sceptical types who were of the belief that the best match for curry is a cold beer, but I’m an open minded sort of guy so I agreed to give Warren’s wines a go. I matched them with several typical curry dishes.

The wines themselves are sourced from Cavas del Ampurdas, Perelada, in Spain’s Costa Brava. They are all made in a rarely seen semi-sparkling style, and there’s a dry white, a semi-sweet white and a semi-sweet rosé. Below are my notes on the wines and how they faired with the curries. Surprisingly, the fizziness and sweetness in tandem work very well in the two sweeter wines.

Viceroy White Dry NV
Very crisp and fizzy with tart appley lemony fruit. Quite neutral and needs food because of the acidity. Very good 83/100
Overwhelmed by the curry: you just get the acidity and tartness. It cuts through the flavour well, but there’s nothing left of it once it has emerged.

Raja Rosé Medium Dry NV
Sweet strawberry fruit on the nose. The palate is fizzy with sweet fruit, but the high acidity leaves it feeling rather dry despite the residual sugar. Very good 82/100
A surprisingly good match: the weight of flavour and residual sugar cut through well.

Rani Gold Medium Dry NV
Grapey, aromatic sweet nose. The palate is fizzy, sweet and grapey with good acidity. The sweetness and acidity counter each other well. Very good 83/100
The residual sugar really works well here. A good match, with the fizziness and acid countering the sweetness, and buffering the curry flavours to good effect.

So, the crunch question: if I was dining in a curry house and saw Warren’s wines on the list, would I opt for them or stick with my beer? In all honesty, I’d go for the beer. Habits are hard to break. But if I was with someone who wanted wine, I’d probably give the Rani Gold a go in preference to a more conventional selection. 

Contact details:

wine for spice ltd
3 hyde park steps
st. george's fields
london W2 2YQ, UK
t: +44 (0) 20 7724 4606
m: +44 (0) 794 191 6328
f: +44 (0) 870 132 0055

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