We’ve been resting our cooking muscles (between these end of the year eat-fests) with a weekly takeout night on the couch. It’s been far from a concession. Chinese, pizza, Thai and Mexican all delivered far more than usual when we paired them with American-made, globally-inspired indie wines. For our final installment (guess we ought to get back to our kitchens), we’re breaking out the stemware and ordering Indian.
Even as widely as Indian food varies, most dishes offer a modicum of spice. And most people grab a beer to tame the flames. But just as we learned with Thai food, searing heat’s best antidote is not just something cold and chuggable, but cold, chuggable and ever so slightly sweet.
Wait, hear us out! We’re not talking about Boone’s Farm, but a brilliantly balanced, sprightly white with a touch of residual sugar. (Remember, that’s when a winemaker stops fermentation before all the grapes’ sugars have converted to alcohol.) The acidity (or that lip-smacking pucker) saves an off-dry wine from being cloyingly sweet. Ever notice how all the different colored chutneys offered with Indian food are an even mix of sweet and sour? It’s all about balance.
Our go-to with everything from samosas swiped through chutney to pork vindaloo? That’d be Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery Sémillon from Calistoga, California. A percentage of these grapes (with tony Bordeaux origins) gets fermented with their skins still on, lending body and complexity to the finished product. Even those that don’t sit with their skins spend time in a concrete egg that allows for the same character-building exchange of oxygen that oak offers without adding any of oak’s flavors. This is key since oak-aging imparts some tannin (that astringent sensation you feel on the roof of your mouth) and Indian spices like cardamom, turmeric and clove are tannin-heavy. Instead, the wine offers cleansing acidity, fleshy tropical fruit and just enough sweetness to maintain a titillating smoulder on your tongue. Good thing we’re not out in public for all this, right?
When things do get five-alarm fiery, there’s always the cool, yogurt-based raita to calm the blaze. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re loyal to standbys or experiment with different dishes every order, most dishes on an Indian menu – creamy kormas, southern Indian masala dosa, ghee-enriched daal, heady rogan josh, comforting saag paneer – will sing with a sip of Sémillon. And if you only have eyes for reds? Well, at least give this a try before turning to beer (or a lassi).
Now you’ve got a roster of well-matched wines that’ll make ordering in the far more appealing option (and not just because you don’t have to put on real pants).
Wine delivery, food delivery, comfy quarters, on-demand entertainment, chosen company, minimal cleanup...this is how you win at life.