Vinotherapy for Indian cuisine

Jun 20, 2012, 09:00 IST | Ruchika Kher

Wine is typically known to be a spirit that is enjoyed with international cuisines. But an increasing number of Indian sommeliers and food experts think otherwise, and are trying to create an awareness that Indian food pairs with red and white wines

Imagine yourself tilting a glass of red wine as you sink your teeth into a portion of tangy Chicken Tikka. This would be tough to visualise in the heads of several foodies, particularly those who have enjoyed wines only with French, Italian or Mediterranean cuisine. It’s a myth and a false belief that wine and Indian food cannot make for a combination. Now, Indian sommeliers and food experts have come up with several options and theories to disprove the naysayers.

Eat Indian, drink wine
“Of all the different aspects of wine and food matching that I have experienced, wine and Indian food is the most controversial. What type of wine works best, and whether you should drink wine at all, with Indian food, is the subject of endless debate. From all the flavours and styles to choose from — surely there are wines that go with different styles of Indian cuisine,” says Nikhil Agarwal, sommelier and director, All Things Nice, a company that educates consumers about the food and drinks sector.

Chicken on rice with white sparkling wine

The most important aspect while in selecting wine is to pair with a particular cuisine would be the flavour of both. It’s all about balance and contrast in flavours. “It’s a misconception that Indian food doesn’t pair with wine. What doesn’t pair with wine, is chilly spice. Indian food is very flavoured, so if you can avoid the chilly spice, there is no problem pairing it with wine,” reveals Rahul Akerkar, director cuisine at deGustibus Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

Adding to this, Agarwal reveals that India has diverse flavours from North to the South. Hence, there is always the kind of wine that you can pair well with a certain Indian cuisine. “A few changes can be introduced to the preparation of Indian food, when wanted to be paired with wine. For example, it can be made less spicy. Otherwise, no other major change is required,” he adds.

Experiment, the key
Although pairing Indian food with wine is no rocket science and can be done by anyone by experimenting more and more, most Indians are hesitant to do it because they are still not very comfortable with wine drinking, experts feel. “Wine is not ingrained in our society. There are certain sections who are opening up to it but that’s a section of the society who are willing to trying out new things.

That’s still not the majority. Wine is still a bit of an acquired taste; it’s not fundamentally ingrained in our culture. There is a certain complexity in the aura around wine. It’s all about the right thing to say, and the right way to drink. It can be a very fussy topic of debate. That’s why most people still don’t consider it a comfort drink here and hence, are not even aware that Indian food can go with it,” reveals Kalyan Karmakar, a hugely followed food blogger. However, Agarwal is quick to suggest that it’s just a matter of time when wine will enjoy the same attention as other drinks in the city. 

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