Marrying wine with food from non-wine cultures

| April 3, 2018 | 0 Comments
Gray Monk Estate Winery makes a Gewûrztraminer that is huge, lush, palate-coating and perfect with Indian cuisine. (Photo: GRAY MONK ESTATE WINERY)

Gray Monk Estate Winery makes a Gewûrztraminer that is huge, lush, palate-coating and perfect with Indian cuisine. (Photo: GRAY MONK ESTATE WINERY)

As their palates develop and knowledge grows, wine drinkers aren’t always content to drink the same wine with whatever they eat. A few start to dabble in the sometimes-elusive joy of food and wine pairing. Others jump right in. They search for a perfect combination; one in which the combined sensory pleasure of the two is greater than the enjoyment of them separately. For some, it can become a bit of an obsession.
Yet pairing can be a tricky enterprise, and wine drinkers fret about getting it right. If you don’t happen to have easy access to a sommelier, there’s an old trick that usually pays off: Drink the wine from the region of your dish. It can be as general as coastal wines with seafood, or as specific as red Burgundy with boeuf bourguignon. Despite the significant waves of influence and change that have always rolled through cuisines, there is much food and wine pairing success that can still be had in this way. Sure, one can pair wines with the standard principles in mind: The weights of the food and wine, matching acidity and sweetness, accounting for oak influence, and so on, but, unfortunately, what can seem like a simple calculation can quickly became complex and tangled. So, regional wines can often quickly save the day.
For the most part, it is European cuisine and wine culture that form the foundation of this food-and-wine-pairing concept. However, Canadians now have many more cuisines that influence our cooking and they often have no historic relationship with wine. That said, there are some familiar styles of wines that are particularly suited to making such a leap.
As a civilization, China has been home to well-loved gastronomy for more than 2,000 years. Given the milleniums and the diversity of regions and cultures, modern Chinese cuisine is complex and geographically varied.
DIPLOMAT_2018-04-01_0065For a specific Chinese dish involving pork, shrimp and vegetables such as lo mein, Sauvignon Blanc can be delicious. In particular, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a fine fit, with a fruit profile that leans towards the tropical side. One such wine is the 2015 Mohua Sauvignon Blanc. Mohua Winery is family-owned and operated, and the fruit for its bright and fresh wine is sourced from three excellent sites in the Wairau Valley of the South Island’s Marlborough region. Flavours of mango, pineapple and lime, with a little fresh herb, give way to a crisp, fresh finish. This is excellent value for $19 and is available through Vintages.
Indian cuisine is also composed of a huge number of regional influences and traditions and countless dishes have been exported and become favourites around the world. A powerful and often fiery dish, such as vindaloo, can often present a formidable challenge to a wine, but the 2015 Gray Monk Gewürztraminer is the perfect solution. Huge, lush and palate-coating (and certainly not dry), this spiced and sweet citrus-laden wine will be a match for such a spicy, intense and flavourful dish. Not only will the weight of the wine match the weight of the dish, but the wine’s sweetness will soothe your palate. This dense wine is available through Vintages for $22.
While it has a long history, dating back to early Mesoamerica (1200-400 BC), much of what we consider Mexican cuisine is relatively modern. In particular, street food made with corn or wheat — items such as tacos, gorditas and burritos — has found great popularity outside of Mexico. Antojitos, which means “little cravings,” is a broad category of street food often prepared by vendors at small markets. The combination of flavourful meat, spice and fresh greenery pairs beautifully with elegant, fresh and flavourful reds such as Gamay. An excellent example of Gamay is Stratus’ 2014 version. Intense aromatics of pepper and red fruit lead to a fresh, mouth-watering wine with flavours of spice, smoke and more red fruit. This vigorous, crushable wine is available for $29 directly from Stratus.

Pieter Van den Weghe is the sommelier at Beckta Dining & Wine.

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Pieter Van den Weghe is general manager and wine director at Beckta dining & wine.

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