Now I must confess that I have never been convinced about wine with Indian food. I’ve been to no end of press events where a top sommelier hired by a fancy Indian restaurant has introduced a wine and food pairing menu. Some have been fun, all have been interesting, but throughout I have been unable to rid myself of one cynical thought – they want to convince us to drink wine with Indian because there’s a bigger mark up on wine than on lager. There I’ve said it.
So an invitation from Brown Brothers to sample some of their newest wines and to explore them with spiced food at Mint Leaf Lounge at Bank is viewed with a bit of suspicion. However they are suggesting a rather more structured taste test with, for example, a chicken dish done at three levels of heat accompanied by three different wines to see how the wines change character and style as the heat goes up. Hosting the event is Brown Brothers’ ‘Wine Educator’ Steve Kline, a rather pompous title that fortunately has been applied to a charming man who has none of the pomposity such a moniker might indicate.
Brown Brothers are big in wine with vineyards located right across the state of Victoria in Australia. Here climatic conditions range from cool alpine areas to lush temperate valleys to sun drenched plains and each of the vineyards has been selected on the basis of its suitability for a variety or wine style. In fact Brown Brothers produces the widest varietal range in the world. As you might expect from an Aussie winemaker they also have no hesitation about producing wine that breaks the rules and in this case Steve has brought along their Dolcetto & Syrah, a red wine with a bit of fizz and that is undeniably really rather sweet indeed. It’s designed to be drunk chilled.
Three degrees of seperation
So to kick off, we have a homestyle chicken curry done three ways. With the mildest versions, Brown Brothers’ Pinot Grigio and Chenin Blanc are good matches, while the sweet, almost too sweet, Dolcetto &Syrah is like drinking a kids’ drink and not at all the thing. As the spice level goes up though, the Dolcetto &Syrah comes alive until it is easily the best accompaniment of all.
Then come four more dishes, a pan fried Dover sole with pickled shallots and a mustard arugula, paired with a dry Muscat, then a delicious Grouper with garlic, mint and lemon and a Tarrango, a monkfish and pepper skewer with that Chenin Blanc and finally baby peppers stuffed with spiced lamb and served with the Dolcetto &Syrah again. With this dish chef has sent out a small bowl of diced fresh chilli for us to add at will to see what happens.
The Muscat is unusual for being dry, but the flavours are all tropical fruits and that and the acidity means the delicate Dover Sole gets to shine through with the arugula just pricking the palate. The Tarrango is another red wine best served chilled and it’s a very light wine, which goes well with the meaty Grouper and its lemon vibrancy.
The Chenin Blanc is as fruity as Frankie Howard and as fresh too. It lifts what was probably the least interesting dish up a notch. Then that Dolcetto &Syrah with the richly spiced stuffed peppers. The natural grape sweetness is still a surprise as is the fizz but once again it proves itself a natural match as the chilli marches up a notch. Even when I covered a whole mouthful in extra chillies the Dolcetto & Syrah took it on with ease and actually soothed the burn.
So I’m a bit of a convert to wine with Indian and it’s probably no surprise it took the Aussies to do it. All of these Brown Brothers’ wines are light and drinkable, very much styled towards bars. The French probably wouldn’t approve at all, but they don’t eat curry do they?