June 13, 2014
Iconic Affair – An Indian Wine night
By Aisha Bhattacharya
Who drinks Wine with Indian food? We drink Rum, Whiskey, Vodka and Beer on most occasions and far too much to ever really taste the food afterwards. Even then, in Delhi, most restaurant managers know that after a night of drinking, people want Dal Makhni, Butter Chicken and Naan. Which, I have discovered is the leading cause of confused multi-cuisine menus in many outlets across the Capital.
So naturally, I think like a Delhi person when invited to a wine pairing session unlike any other – Indian food and Indian Wine. My first thoughts were – why isn’t it a wine & cheese event if they want to increase the visibility of their wines? Why Indian food? Does it even go with wine? With a bundle of questions in my bag, I reached 27 Icon in Lodhi Colony Main Market at 7:40 pm on the 11th of June, to be greeted by the organisers and an otherwise empty restaurant. Yes, first to arrive, again. But, my time was well spent, speaking to the Trade Marketing Manager for Grover Zampa – Rohit Arora. Rohit told me that the merger between Grover (Nandi Hills, Karnataka) and Zampa (Nasik, Maharashtra) – took place last year to bring together a wider selection for the customer under one umbrella Grover Zampa. Also, Michael Rolland one of the foremost wine consultants in the world has been consulting for Grover since 1995 and has contributed hugely to the modernization of the wine making facility, vineyard management using more efficient and natural methods as well as reducing yield to levels similar to the best estates in Bordeaux with focus on quality and concentration of grapes.
I was fortunate enough to get time to chat with the host Mr. Avininder Singh, better known as the Foodie Surdie. I have to say that his take on the entire event was rather refreshing. He said, “You don’t have to like a wine that has scored 94.6 in an international challenge. All that matters is if you like the wine. And if you like the pairings that we have come up with, great! If not, we’ll try and make it better.”
The event was essentially to showcase 4 Grover wines and their pairings with Indian food, albeit the traditional way – white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat. A concept many people have considered and shied away from. But the owner of 27 Icon – Mr Rabi Ghosh rose to the challenge and created wonderful dishes that not only paired well with the wines but stood out on their own as well. He also explained to us the history of The Lodhi Colony Market, taking us back in time to when it was built in 1942 as Barracks for the British where Officers stayed on the first floor and soldiers on the ground floor. It was later converted to cloth and ration shops. Over the last few years there are now approximately 750 outlets in Khanna Market, Merchand market and Lodhi Colony market combined. Mr. Rabi Ghosh has opened restaurants like Haveli and Handi at Taj and now 27 Icon to give some of the best Indian restaurants like Bukhara a run for their money.
The wines on offer for the evening were paired as given below (this is the order we ate and drank in):
1. Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc was served with Hazarvi Murg Malai Tikka (the quintessential chicken malai tikka) and Tandoori Paneer Masala Tikka (V). This combination was my favourite pairing of the evening – An acidic, fruity and delicate white wine that cut the creaminess of the chicken and went well with the spicy, soft paneer. Refreshing on the palette because the taste of the chicken and paneer were distinct, not melding into one another as tends to usually happen. Strangely, this is a wine I normally pass over and don’t drink. But, I’ve been convinced otherwise.
2. Art Collection Cabernet Shiraz was served with Galouti Kebab and Saleena Kebab (V). My least favourite pairing because the Galouti kebab wasn’t as spicy as I expected and the Saleena kebab was a little dry and heavy for me (Dahi ka kebab with a stuffing of mint, cashews and raisins). This pairing was done keeping in mind the dry nature of the two kebabs and the juicy, ripe flavour of the wine. A rather rich red with a fruity character that should have gone well with the barbeque flavour of the meat. But, that’s only my opinion.
3. Art Collection Viognier was served with Methi Murg , Subz Miloni (V) and Tandoori Paneer in Kasuri Methi Makhani Sauce (V) (aka Paneer makhani). This refreshing, rich and fruity white wine paired very well with the Methi Murg. The chicken was succulent and the gravy was finger-licking good. The wine was good enough to drink by itself.
4. La Réserve was served with Gosht Roganjosh and Dal Ifshan (aka Dal makhani). The roganjosh again, wasn’t spicy enough and for a roomful of Indians I don’t think the need to tone it down was really necessary. The Dal Makhani on the other hand was very good. The basic flavours of these two went well with the smooth, slightly spicy and robust full-bodied red wine that La Réserve is. Hand harvested and aged in Oak barrels for a minimum of 6 months, this wine has a powerful bouquet and lends itself well to red meats.
5. Dessert was Gulab Jamun that had White wine in the mix and syrup, served with Vanilla ice cream. The shape was not the conventional round but an elongated cylindrical shape. Soft and delicious.
The evening was organised and hosted by THNK MKT and their Director/Founder Kartikya Arora kept us well informed and entertained. He asked questions after each pairing and the prizes were bottles of wine, of course. Narinder Kaur and Faraz Ahmed, the Co-founders of THNK MKT were checking everything and making sure everyone had a good time with refills of wine and unending servings of food. Not once did I have to ask for even water.
The Business Head of Grover Zampa for North & East India – Malay Rout had to be coaxed to say a few words in the end and all he said was, “I like to let the wine speak for itself.” He truly believes in the world class quality of his wines and who can blame him? With almost all the wines under their banner getting awards and commendations at wine competitions, award functions and international challenges, he has every right to feel that way.
I managed to win myself a bottle of La Réserve that night. I don’t remember the question or the answer because I think I got it for sheer enthusiasm. Either which way, the belly of this beast was full and happy! At the end of the evening, I could safely say that Indian food does pair well with wine. A little thought should go into it and you can produce a fantastic meal experience like the one I had at 27 Icon. When it comes to wine, don’t be snooty. Just go with what you like and start traditional – white with white meat and red with red meat. Take it from there and you too could discover brilliant pairings of wine with Indian food.