HYDERABAD: Uma Chigurupati, wine connoisseur and owner of KRSMA wines, shares her advice on how we can successfully pair hot Andhra curries with wines. She suggests people to try new wine pairings for traditional Andhra curries. “With hot Indian curries, stick to beer,” the expert declares.
Indian food is not one dish but a marvellously rich, regionally diverse cuisine that merits more options. So let’s tackle the rule which says that spicy Indian curries are impossible to match with wine. “I wish there were generally less fuss about matching wine with spicy dishes. The old rule of pairing meat with red wine and fish with white wine is being challenged daily. And it certainly doesn’t even remotely cover the wide of range of cuisines the cosmopolitan Indian cooks and eats nowadays. Chillies (which Andhra cuisine is famous for), ginger, cumin, turmeric - none of these is remotely at war with wine and there is a perfectly familiar style of wine that can be enjoyed with it,” says Uma.
As wines from around the globe enter the marketplace, the task of pairing wine and food becomes increasingly complicated. “When it comes to the robust flavors of Andhra cuisine, I am quite unafraid to pair dishes with powerful wines. I remember that when I began tasting different wines from around the world, I was always told that curries don’t go well with wine - especially spicy Indian curries. This is true from a historical standpoint - there is no tradition of wine-drinking in Indian culture so our cuisine didn’t develop to be paired to wine. It’s a similar case with other Asian cuisines, and yet we now often pair spicy white wines such as gewürztraminer with Vietnamese or Thai dishes,” she adds. Why then, do we rarely hear of a wine recommended to complement Indian food? “The challenge with teaming a wine with curry is the acidic flavour of vinegar and yogurt, common to many curries, which is difficult to pair with wine. Young red wines high on tannins (the flavour of over-steeped tea) can taste bitter when confronted with chillies and seasonings. The curries tend to mask the fruit flavours from the wine, leaving it a bit too acerbic,” she says. So what should you pair with something like Andhra food, with its complex mix of spices and sauces? “Before I began experimenting with different wines and food, I would have asked you to avoid wine altogether. But after trying different wines and consulting sommeliers and chefs, I have found several pairings that worked beautifully with Andhra food,” she adds while giving some pairings that regularly find their way into our dinners at home:
Andhra Karivepaku Chicken and a crisp KRSMA Sauvignon Blanc: This dry chicken dish spiced with curry leaves, green chilies and coriander is accentuated by the rich acidity of Sauvignon Blanc wine that is more citrusy, refreshing and zesty.
Andhra Lamb Curry and a fruity Cabernet Sauvignon: The full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon balances the intensity and richness of the curry and succulent lamb.
Chepala Pulusu with Chardonnay: The crisp acidity of Chardonnay pairs beautifully well with seer fish cooked in mild tamarind gravy with chillies and jaggery.
Kobbari Royyalu with Sauvignon Blanc: The delicate dish of prawns cooked in dry coconut masala is best savoured with a Sauvignon Blanc that subtly matches the flavor profile of the dish.
Keema Mutilu with Sangiovese: This dish of minced lamb is flavoured with rich Indian spices and marries the subtly oak profile and fruitiness of the Sangiovese.
What we’re for pairing with Andhra dishes would be a low-tannin wine with generous fruit. Remember that when trying to pair any food with wine, your goal should be to attain a perfect balance between the two. The two should have similar weight or presence. Keeping this basic principle in mind, you can experiment with different wines and cuisines. The thumb rule is to keep an open mind and try new combinations as often as possible!