RICHARD ESLING: The perfect wines for Curry Week

Wines to curry favour

Another of the ever-increasing number of food awareness days is upon us. National Curry Week runs from Monday to Sunday, October 9-15.

Just another marketing ploy? Well, possibly, but these events do give us the opportunity to try something different and give restaurateurs and grocers the chance to tempt us with a tasty dish or two.

According to most sauces – sorry, sources – the origin of the word comes from the Tamil word ‘kari’ and it originates from India.

What we British understand as curry nowadays, is something quite different to the original.

Over the centuries, curry has changed from a spiced sauce to accompany rice, to a type of ‘stew’ containing meat, chicken or seafood, accompanied possibly by some rice on the side. The original curry had many spices, but it was only later that chilli became one of the ingredients, once it was introduced to Asia from Central and South America.

Curry has been adopted by Britain almost as one of its National dishes, so it is wholly appropriate that a week should be designated to sing its praises.

There are some 9,000 Indian curry restaurants in the UK and it is one of the most popular meals on a night out, worth several billion pounds per year.

It appears that the first English recipe for curry dates from the middle of the 18th century and with development of tastes over the centuries, there are certain curry dishes which are British born, their equivalent not featuring in India, the country of origin.

There are a great many different types of curry, with its quality varying according to the skill, or otherwise, of the cook.

Recipes for curry can be found around the world and it is extremely popular in Japan, where it was first introduced by the British in the late 19th century. Curry can be very mild or fiery with plenty of chilli heat.

When it comes to choosing wine to drink with a curry, my advice is to steer clear of wine altogether if the dish contains elevated levels of hot chilli. The flavours of the wine will be over-powered and it will taste less fruity, more acidic and harsh. But with the milder versions, certain wines are perfect matches to the different spices and other ingredients. Here are a few suggested pairings.

For the vast majority of curry dishes – Indian, Thai, Japanese or other – a white wine is the order of the day.

The Alsatian grape varieties, such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer with their full body and definite flavours are great curry wines, and if grown in hotter climes, they have even more tropical notes and distinctive flavours. Robert Oatley Signature Riesling 2015 from Australia, crisp, dry with lemon-lime flavours, pairs well with chicken and vegetable curries with a coconut based sauce, while a New Zealand Gewurztraminer 2016 from Villa Maria (£11.45 from Waitrose or Majestic) off-dry, with notes of rose petal, spice and lychees is heavenly with a seafood based Thai Red Curry.

For a prawn curry, try the Cune Barrel fermented Blanco 2016 (Waitrose or Co-op at £10.15).

The gentle and harmonious oak treatment, gives flavours of banana and pineapple to this Spanish wine, balancing the flavours of the prawn dish.

With a classic chicken Korma, the toasty, vanilla and tropical fruit flavours of the Errazuriz Estate Chardonnay 2016 from Chile (a steal at £10.45 from Asda or Majestic) are a tremendous match. If you choose carefully, a fruity, spicy red wine can fit the bill. The South African Zalze 2016 from Stellenbosch, made from a blend of Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Viognier, with its savoury, spicy, blackberry and forest fruits character, is the perfect match for the full flavours of a Lamb Rogan Josh.

Have a go at your own curry and try out some of these pairings during National Curry Week.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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