For many in the developing world, drinking wine is a complicated process. For most here in India, the complication borders on being even scary due to the sheer expanse of the perceived fears about its mismatch with Indian food. This keeps many away, besides being unusually judgmental, while considering a wine trial.
Easily put: People are skeptical that the culture is only western and incapable of indianisation. But this is fast becoming history, particularly in most of the so called tier one Indian cities. And others too are not far behind.
Some might even argue that the stickiness bordering the Indian food and wine issue is still very much intact, there are others who have long shun the dilemma. I belong to the latter. And I have no dearth of like-minded friends in media, wine enthusiasts and wine educationists who are outspokenly on my side. They are doing their bit, clearing clouds of misunderstanding, reaching to the conscious of people with the right kind of advice. For me this journey of educating people must continue.
The bhite bhine (white wine) and Rhed bhine (Red wine)
Sticking to the debate about matching Indian food with wine that is fast becoming the favorite topic of discussion at restaurants let me try and piece together my experience. The amount of willingness that I have noticed of late, quite frankly, has surprised me. Here is why... you go to a neighbourhood just-opened-restaurant in Delhi suburbs (where I live) and the steward, complete with a smile and that slight bow, begins suggesting wine. This when you are thinking about beer... Fish and Chicken bith bhite bhine (with white wine) and mutton bith rhed bhine (with red wine), sir. Who gave you this idea? You ask, startled? And the manager appears who assures you that the man is right and repeats the same sommelier advice but with a better pronunciation. It's pretty much the same at most of the diner restaurants where the cost of a meal for two is upwards of INR 1500 (USD 38 Approx).
Is Mark Twain's statement really wrong when applied to Indian wine scene?
So let the fact be told: Mark Twain, for once, was wrong when he famously popularized the Benjamin Disraeli semi-ironic statement that there are three types of lies, lies: dammed lies and statistics. For, in the case of the Indian wine consumption, it is not just the statistics that are swelling; the lifestyle too is fast adapting and evolving itself around the world of this new found fascination called wine. The Indians may not be still fully prepared to love the culture like they love their Hindi cinema or Indian food, but hey they seem damn serious about it. And the wave is spreading to the untouched before areas. Don't still believe me, try going to any of the restaurants and ask for their wine menu and a surprise awaits you in the form of variety, and cost. Racks are full with Indian wines that are laid neatly across the imported ones, dressed up in trendy stickers and labels.
Indian food and wine pairing: Is it really mumbo-jumbo of opinions?
Matching food with fine has always been a topic of much debate and discussions even in regions where wine has been consumed for centuries. It is just that the Indian boys and girls are just waking up to it. And in India, due to the staggering variance in the types of cuisine from region to region, the exercise is seemingly more arduous. Add to that the vast difference between home cooked food and restaurant ones. Then there is this street food, now fashionably attired and dressed up on pristine white plates and given fancy names. These are some of the factors which, I feel, sometimes end up confusing the foodie to an extent that a shot of vodka or a beer looks simpler and with much lees fuss. How long before we tumble across this tiny tumble block is then anybody's guess?
While time, as always, remains the best hope to demystify all the lives problems, the complexity, I am sure, will get drowned to a large extent soon enough. Until then, let me proffer my take but with a disclaimer that these are original and work for me and my friend and family, and may not work exactly the same way with others. If latter is the case, be rest assured that you are right, because wine, after all, is the experience of enhancing the pleasure of food and mood.
Kebabs, Kormas and Aromatic Biryanis - Medium to full bodied Shiraz, Medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc, full bodied Merlot or Sweet Rose
Chicken Tikka, Sheekh kebabs and Rumali rotis Semi sweet Riesling, Sweet Rose Zinfandel preferably, medium bodied Traminer
Vegetable Fritters, Panner dishes, Vegetable koftas and Nan Sparkling wines, any red or white that is decidedly crisp and fruity with a sharp acid finish.
Indian fast food like Momos, Samosas, Pav-bhaji and Vadas - dry and fruity sparkling wines.