I remember the time when nobody took the pairing of wine with Indian cuisine seriously. The most common reason being the stereotypical perception that the spices in Indian food are too strong for any wine to handle. Naturally the ‘pundits’ only stuck to the usual recommendations involving wines with spicy characters like Gewurztraminer (and sometimes Riesling) with almost all kinds of Indian cuisine. Where even these wines could not be matched, it was commonplace to fall back on beer to ‘tackle the heat’. The entire approach was too simplistic in my view. 

We are in a different era now – when the pairing of food and wine has gone through a quantum shift, with our traditional cuisines romancing a range of wines from across the world. The more consumers are gaining awareness about wine and its finer nuances, in addition to understanding the individual components which constitute a dish, the more acceptable is the idea of marrying wine and Indian food. So, is it safe to claim that the tables have really been turned and we have left all our apprehensions about Indian food and wine pairing behind? 

That seems just the case if we go by the wine consumption pattern at our branded restaurants – Dum Pukht and Bukhara (Peshawri). A recent dinner held at ITC Maurya involving the choicest of our grand cuisine offerings from Dum Pukht and a handpicked selection of Austrian wines reinforced the idea. An esteemed guest list known for their abilities in gastronomic analysis as well as wine knowledge were almost in unison in their approval. 

That the relatively light and not-so-concentrated wines that Austria is known for were thoroughly enjoyed with the dishes involving a complex medley of exotic Indian spices used in the signature cuisine of Dum Pukht, sufficiently demonstrates the potential of wine and Indian food partnership. The trick lies in the meticulous pairing of wines with the dishes based on the understanding of the spices used, their effects on the senses, texture and the overall weight on the palate. 

The selection of wines for the dinner represented almost all Austrian wine regions and Gruner Veltliner ( ‘Gru-Vee’ for short), the country’s national speciality with its typical ripe stone fruit (nectarine and apricots, mainly) aromas, subtle peppery spice and plenty of citrus elements, deservedly attracted the most attention. Other whites included floral and minerally Rieslings, austere and somewhat introvert Weissburgunders (Pinot Blanc), a well-balanced and expressive Chardonnay (Morillon in Austrian) and a light but aromatic Welschriesling (no relation to the more famous Riesling). 

The red wines ranged from the country’s very own Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch, both soft on tannins and easily approachable with their attractive sour cherry-like characters, to the bolder and more unique blend of Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. A tantalisingly sweet dessert wine made from Gruner Veltliner of Trockenbeerenauslese level (highest categorisation of sweet wines from Germany and Austria) rounded off the elaborate dinner. 

A long leisurely affair with eight courses and more than 20 wines, it was an experience worth cherishing. Not only was it a first-of-its-kind attempt at pairing classic Indian cuisine with such unconventional wines (at least in the Indian context), but it also ] served as a firm reminder that traditional Indian cuisine can be as wine-friendly as any other cuisine in the world. 

If you wish to know more about the dinner, especially the dishes served and the wines paired with them, please contact us at niladri.dhar@itchotels.in or visit my blog http://wineideas.wordpress.com/