Pair­ing wines with cur­ries is a thing

Post - - LIFESTYLE - ERICA PLAT­TER ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

WINE with curry? Dif­fi­cult. Beer with curry, much eas­ier.

With dou­ble brandy and coke? Very rowdy.

The beauty of a curry, in a posey wine world, is its un­sacra­men­tal re­la­tion­ship to drink.

We can keep things ami­ably reck­less. You should not open your finest, or ex­pen­sive wines for curry.

Even molec­u­lar som­me­liers – the foamy folks pair­ing mol­e­cules in wine and food – throw up their hands. One of the iron laws of drinks and curry

– ice cold –needn’t ap­ply ei­ther, though in Durban’s glo­ri­ously warm cli­mate it ob­vi­ously does.

First con­sid­er­a­tions are the main in­gre­di­ents. Any­thing from crab, to beans, to mut­ton – they present a kalei­do­scopic ar­ray of flavours, each sug­gest­ing a dif­fer­ent wine. But more than in most cuisines, curry lay­ers these un­der and over an even greater ar­ray of de­li­cious, spicy emul­sions.

Im­pe­ri­ously dif­fer­ent to or dom­i­nant over liq­uid re­fresh­ments, sam­bals, chut­ney, pop­padoms, ro­tis, onion and tumeric-in­fused rice add to the or­gan­ised chaos. And that’s be­fore the chilli-heat mag­ni­fi­ca­tion bit, where mild to hot is a slip­pery vari­able on an of­ten ver­tig­i­nous gra­di­ent.

There’s the rub – the cap­saicin in the chill­ies – the heart rate booster that alerts the en­dor­phins and brings the feel good sweats. Which is why we love curry and per­haps why many en­dow it with aphro­disiac pow­ers and are happy to bear the price of what we all know af­ter­wards.

In this melee, al­co­hol is a fin­ish­ing turbo-charger. It in­ten­si­fies chilli and spice ef­fects. What can a del­i­cate lit­tle low al­co­hol Pinot Gris (Gri­gio) of­fer in this riot? Not much more than dis­tant piped mu­sic squeak. Who would sub­ject a fine old claret – or any great wine – to such ex­plo­sive treat­ment?

This is no rea­son to give up en­tirely, though:

Sparkies, prefer­ably Meth­ode Cap Clas­sique (MCC) are less bloat­ing than beer. Both white and pink, dry and even slightly off-dry, are fair fail-safe choices – served icy. They're lower in al­co­hol and higher in acid­ity than most wines. Here we can in­clude Ital­ian Prosecco, the fainter sparkies in Por­tuguese Vinho Verdes, and some bet­ter "Perle" Cape whites. All part­ner fiery peri-peri well.

A touch of sweet­ness in wines – a bit like fight­ing fire with fire – an off-dry Chenin, for ex­am­ple, han­dles the toma­toand-onion based sauces of clas­sic Durban curry well. It tones down chilli and com­ple­ments sweet crab and prawn meat, as well as tak­ing on ac­com­pa­ni­ments like ba­nana sam­bals and chut­neys.

Good Ries­lings have su­perb, di­rect, pen­e­trat­ing fruity fresh­ness: think fish and other seafood, veg and paneer cur­ries. If your curry fea­tures tamarind, how­ever, be­ware. A good Ries­ling will take care of its bit­ter sweet­ness, but tamarind bru­talises most frag­ile whites and el­e­gant reds. Go for a more ro­bust white.

Viog­nier’s ripe-peac­hand apri­cot nu­ances, and its in­nate palate weight, is usu­ally up for a match with shell­fish cur­ries. Viog­nier blends, too. A sub­tly-wooded Chardon­nay (a rare beast) is fine if your curry is only mildly hot, but again it is no match for tamarind.

A well-padded (not too thin and acid) Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, one which com­bines steely flinti­ness with gen­er­ous fruity goose­berry is per­haps a safer all-rounder.

Rose, dry, and berry-fresh, prefer­ably made from slightly more mus­cu­lar, tan­niny Caber­net or Caber­net Franc, is a handy curry all-rounder. Chilled.

Pino­tage – light, young and fresh is an­other op­tion, its punchy fruiti­ness not eas­ily bow­ing to a rich mut­ton curry.

A spicy pep­pery Shi­raz keeps up with a lamb or mut­ton curry.

Pinot Noir’s rel­a­tive del­i­cacy per­haps shouldn’t or­di­nar­ily be sub­jected to an oily caul­dron of chilli-fire, but it’s per­fumed aro­mas and ripe berry flavours work well with chicken dishes.

Erica Plat­ter shared this edited ex­tract from “Durban Curry”, co-au­thored with Clin­ton Fried­man and on sale at Ex­clu­sive Books.

‘The beauty of a curry, in a posey wine world, is its un­sacra­men­tal re­la­tion­ship to drink.’

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