Winter invites warm and hearty aromas and we all like to indulge a little more to conquer the cold.
I find wine and curry combinations both exciting and challenging. Consumers should feel free to explore and experiment, but there are some golden rules when pairing wine with curry. Remember that you can tweak the dish but not the wine, so be mindful of the wine you choose. Secondly, honour the time you spend in developing those intricate flavours of your curry to make sure that both the food and wine give the other a platform to perform at its best.
South Africans have sweet palates, but it is up to you to evolve that by introducing balanced flavours of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Before you spoon a dollop of chutney onto your plate to add sweetness, let the wine do that for you. That being said, not all wines need to be sweet to go with a curry. Aromatic wines do a great job to create that perceived sweetness and tricking your brain into believing you have mastered the balance. The fifth element when enjoying food and wine will always be the place and and company in which they are consumed so be sure to make an occasion of any food and wine experience, no matter how small.
Guidelines for all you curry and wine lovers
Sweetness: Off-dry wines are a go to for a great curry experience. Riesling is a good example and offers both sweetness and lovely aromatics. For more intense curries, more luscious wines like muscadel and bukettraube can be ideal to temper the heat and the spice. Ripeness: Big and bold CheninBlancs are favourites to pair with warm curries as the higher alcohol (and the texture the glycerol provides), can balance the experience without the heat dominating the wine. Intensity: Wines with great intensity that lingers in your mouth like a well made Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are great curry partners. Just be mindful of rich tomato sauces that can make these wines taste steely. A riper Cabernet Sauvignon could do the trick. But yes, good intensity and concentration allows the wine to have the final say and linger longer than the taste of the curry itself.
Temperature: Wines can be served at a cooler temperature which will also relieve your palate. Aromatics: The wine will always be the more gently partner when it comes to texture, but its intensity and aromas can never be underestimated. Viognier’s alluring perfume of florals, peach and spice adds finesse to your curry experience and elevate it to a different level. Spice: Gewürztraminer can be dry or off dry but its nuances of rose petals and Turkish delight makes it a fond partner for any curry. Light: Believe it or not but light white wines low in alcohol, serve a purpose here. They can serve as a cooler, quench your thirst and certainly beats beer!
Samarie Smith is a certified taster and committed to spreading the wine gospel where she goes, albeit on wine judging panels, educational tastings or sharing the love while cooking for friends and family. She is also Brand Business Manager at Benguela Cove. Follow her on instagram @SamarieSmith.