In recent decades Britain has undergone a culinary explosion as exotic cuisine has been introduced to our High Streets, firstly through restaurants and finally in the ready food and ingredients available to us through the supermarkets. From China to India, Thailand to Japan we can now enjoy culinary culture from all over the world.
The British have embraced all sorts of flavours, presentation styles, levels of spice heat and aromatics.
So why-oh-why do we ‘stick to what we know’ when it comes to wine?
Often matching bland wine flavours like Pinot Grigio to strongly flavoured food or having our favourite comfort wine Aussie Shiraz with a highly spiced dish.
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Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Pinot Grigio and Aussie Shiraz but when it comes to Asian food their place is elsewhere.
My problem with Pinot Grigio is that it is light and fruity, but has very little else to offer an Asian dish like Pad Thai. The flavours of the food will simply overwhelm the wine and it will taste of little more than a hint of citrus until your palate
recovers after the meal. Try something with more flavour and more ‘bite’ to match the ‘bite’ in the dish.
Now if I say ‘Riesling’ to you, you’ll probably think of German wine, a sweet wine and you may even make an association with some of the awful wines that were so popular in Britain in the 1970’s.
However on the other side of the world the descendants of some German immigrants in Australia have been developing a style of Riesling that is outstanding.
The Germanic Barossa Valley is famous for great Shiraz but in nearby places like Eden Valley and Clare Valley a dry style of Riesling has emerged. With a zingy mouth-watering succulence and zesty lime flavours Dry Riesling is a perfect match for the exotic spices in Asian food, and by no coincidence The Barossa is home to some great Asian food restaurants.
If you really want a red wine Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon or any full bodies red wine tannin levels and alcohol levels tend to be higher. Alcohol emphasises the heat in the spice, while bitterness in tannins can be emphasised by the spice so the experience may not be so great. Look for something with low tannins and not too high alcohol.
Beaujolais, Valpolicella, a light Pinot Noir perhaps should all cope reasonably well.
I heartily recommend a look at Australian Riesling which is readily available in from most wine outlets and supermarkets. Look particularly for the regions of Eden Valley and Clare Valley in South Australia or Great Southern in Western Australia on the label. These cooler parts of Australia are better suited to rearing this cool climate grape. Look for producers like Jim Barry, Grossett, Peter Lehman or Tim Adams.
Don’t be put off by the high acidity when the wine is tasted on its own, judge it when paired with your curry or Pad Thai, although a great way to experience this is to try the wine, then try the food and try the wine again to see how it differs. Enjoy.