I still love Indian food today, but I also love wine, and pairing wine with Indian food is an exercise fraught with difficulty. The cuisine of the country is widely varied based on geography, history, religion, and social customs. The diversity of foodstuffs that can appear on just one plate complicates the matter, add to this the heat of a little spice, and you've got some rough terrain for your palate to navigate.
At its essence, pairing wine and food falls into two basic categories: complimentary, or contrasting. Complimentary means things like an Ontario ice wine with that pear galette, or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc with that salad doused in lemon vinaigrette. Contrasting means pairing something like a fresh sparkling wine with a hunk of double cream Brie. With all the complexities that mark an Indian plate, no wonder most Indian food restaurants don't bother with much of a wine list; usually one can find a Gewurztraminer, maybe a Riesling, and a generous selection of beer to slake the post-heat thirst of a good curry.
Anish follows a few simple rules when pairing Indian food with wine:
1. Select a wine with strong fruit to match the power of the food.
2. Good acidity in the wine is necessary to cleanse the palate.
3. Less tannin is better with spicy food.
We started with a potato pattie topped with an assortment of sauces, paired with a fruity, simple Viognier; next was a dish of paneer bathed in spices and tomatoes with a glass of (one of my absolute favourite Ontario wineries) Coyote's Run Five Mile which is a blend of Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer. We had a spicy beef dish with a likewise spicy Zinfandel and finally, a glass of Port with a chai crème brûlée, the spices of which made the port dance in my mouth.
As pictured above, this is what we tasted:
Cono Sur Vigoner (Chile) - the deep fruit and simplicity of the wine allowed the complexity of sauces on the potato patty to shine.Coyote's Run Five Mile Blend (Niagara) - the hint of sweetness and round body was a nice texture match with the paneer.
Folie a Deux Ménage à Trois Zinfandel (California) - the deep fruit and spice of the red wine complimented the spice in the beef dish.
Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port (Portugal) - the richness of the wine stood up well to the dessert, and the chai spices brought out the mocha flavours in the port.
If you are like me and ALWAYS prefer a glass of wine hovering over your plate of food, spicy or not, then the East India Company restaurant on Somerset is a great place to get an impromptu education in pairing what is one of the world's most diverse cuisines with wine, wine, and more wine, and it won't break your budget.