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Sommeliers, Syrahs, & Sonoma County….three words seldom heard in an Indian restaurant, used in the right context. Well, not anymore. If you read my previous post about beer, the stigma remains the same. Nothing has really changed, other than my own personal vendetta against Indian Restaurant stereotypes. So here’s how it went- I took a wine class, realized that although beer still reigns supreme- wine is a real, and a very close second in terms of pairing. So here are the obstacles I set out to defeat:
1. Indian food cannot be paired with wine
2. Wine lovers do not enjoy off dry, or sweet wines
3. Indian restaurants do not have good wine selections
Here’s the thing, unless you are a special kind of wine drinker, old world vs new world, blends vs non blends(which usually have another grape varietal in them anyway), and the fancy words like jam, terroir, medium, full, juicy, round, are not going to be your concern. A good sommelier will find you a bottle of wine that your specific taste buds will enjoy, will pair well with your food, and will fit in your budget.
The typical thought with Indian cuisine is that due to the heavy amount of potent spices(that is flavor, not heat spices), is that you must combat spice with higher than typically accepted amounts of sugar, in other words- sweetness. This idea is entirely correct! Now that leads to the elimination entirely of red wine other than Cote Du Rhone/Syrah/Shiraz/Dessert Wines.(who has a dessert wine for dinner?) It also assumed that one cannot have a light, crisp Pinot Grigio, or a full, creamy Chardonnay.(forget a floral or citrus powered Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc) It’s Riesling or bust. All true, and accepted, right? WRONG. Everyone forgets one thing, newer vineyards understand the consumer’s tastes have changed. Look around you, Indian restaurants, Thai restaurants, Mexican Restaurants- all robust flavored cuisines. The newer vineyards and wineries understand what this generation of taste buds want! Therefore, you CAN find a Sonoma Cabernet, with enough residual sugars, and low enough alcohol to not burn your tongue off in combination with a spicy vindaloo! You CAN find a wonderful German Riesling that is higher in alcohol, but still retains a little of the late harvest grape to give it a touch of sugar. They are out there, and I set out to find them.
Oh gosh, a sweet wine? What are you? A 19 year old sorority girl? No, I am a 27 year old restaurateur who happens to enjoy how this South African Chenin Blanc(sweeter than usual) has paired with a flavorful curried chickpeas dish. The spices in the chickpeas are strong, but the light sugar and cold temperature of the wine makes my taste buds come alive, and suddenly everything tastes that much better. Sweet wines are not the mark of a novice vino, although they are the easiest to start with. It’s like that with anything right? No one is going to give you a Guinness Stout as your first beer and expect you to say it’s delicious? Similarly, if you respect the pairing, and the fact that certain wines will pair better with certain foods, making the entire experience better- you will have more respect for the wine you are drinking. Also, just to put it out there, not every Riesling is sweet, nor is every Syrah or Shiraz. It is so heavily dependent on the region and craft, that you have to hope the restaurant has variety, and someone who can explain the differences.
Which brings me to my final obstacle- all it takes for an Indian restaurant to have a good wine selection is a restaurateur who enjoys and understands wine, is willing to invest in good wine, is willing to hire a sommelier to help, is in a town that will appreciate the list and pricing, is trendy & forward thinking, understands markets, and isn’t going to gouge you on the list price. Easy right? Good thing you have Coriander and you are reading this. Problem solved.
Check out our new and improved Wine list(it’s even on a menu made of cork!), full of whites ranging from sweet Estate Rieslings, to bone dry Merlot’s from the old country. I hope you enjoy them, as much as I enjoyed tasting each and every one of them- the things I do for my clients, poor me.
P.S. Wine List can be viewed HERE
Shawn Nagpal, Newly Realized Wine Snob.