What does one have with a bottle of wine? If there’s one existential question that has been eluding easy answers, it is this. Wine critics, being the snobs that they are, invariably recommend unpronounceable names as accompaniments to a perfect bottle of wine. Why doesn’t anyone, I’ve often wondered, ever suggest wines that can go with a McDonald’s burger or a Keema Do Pyaaza Pizza? I hadn’t looked hard enough for an answer, for I came across some really valuable leads in Fiona Beckett’s entertainingly informative website, Matchingfoodandwine. com.
I was quite taken aback, though, when Fiona recommended a Pontet-Canet 2001, a superior Bordeaux red produced with lots of loving care by an affable Frenchman, with a gourmet hamburger served with lots of salad and relish. I’d happily have a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, though, with a classic hamburger—the kind we don’t get to eat in India—or even the Nirula’s Big Boy Burger and the Maharaja Mac. Avoid ketchup, onions and processed cheese slices when you’re pairing a burger with wine—they’ll kill the taste of wine.
This brings me to the question asked most often of me. Are we condemned to eating pizzas with beer? Well, the Italians don’t do it, so why should we? The traditional all-time favourite accompaniment to a pizza is a Chianti Classico, an uncomplicated red wine from Tuscany, Italy, whose acidity cuts through the cooked cheese. Now, most Italian pizzas have a thin crust and sparse toppings, which makes our pairing exercise somewhat complicated.
What wine goes best with a Domino’s Keema Do Pyaaza Pizza or a Chicken Tikka Makhani Pizza from Pizza Hut? Fiona can’t answer this one because her advice is to avoid curried meat pizzas. I love the pizzas I have mentioned, so I’ll do anything to enjoy a decent bottle of wine with them, despite the lingering spiciness.
For the Keema Do Pyaaza, I’ll go for a Sula Chenin Blanc (whose sweetish notes balance the spiciness), or a Rioja Reserva from Spain’s bestknown wine region bordering Bilbao. The second wine is a no-brainer accompaniment when you’re also having mutton roghan josh. For the Chicken Tikka Makhani, I’d have a Riesling from Clare Valley, Australia, or maybe a Sula Sauvignon Blanc. I’ll says sayonara with an admission. I have written a book on the Japanese kitchen, but I have never figured out what wine goes best with sushi. With home-delivered sushi becoming a reality, it ceases to be an idle question. The Japanese hotelier who steered my book insisted that a Pinot Noir (the light-bodied red wine that became big after the Paul Giamatti-starrer Sideways,) pairs best with sushi.
My doubts about the theory were laid to rest after I had Nigiri Sushi (the ones with the sliver of fish on top) with a Burgundy red. But now I have a better idea, borrowed from Fiona, of course.
The next time you have sushi, order a champagne. It effortlessly balances the oiliness of raw salmon and the match remains as strong as ever even when you dunk your sushi in soy, or add a modest amount of wasabi (not a good thing to do in front of a chef, for each sushi comes with the right quantity of wasabi in it).
Moral of the story: open a bottle of wine the next time you order pizza.
Sourish Bhattacharyya is Executive Editor, Mail Today