The end is in sight: one more week until we are released back into the wild. While we all brace ourselves to get back into our favourite restaurants and bars across, I have been thinking about my favourite wines to pair with takeaway food for one last lockdown binge.
If like me you find yourself planning what you are going to order for your weekend curry from around noon on Monday, then this suggestion is for you. Regularly crowned Britain’s favourite cuisine, the great Indian takeaway is most often eaten alongside a cold beer.
However, wines can also be a rewarding accompaniment if you fancy a change. The challenge with Indian food is finding a wine that can stand up to – and complement – the heat and spice.
For this reason there are two things to rule out straight away: high alcohol wine and high tannins. High alcohol makes hot foods taste even hotter and high tannins fight the food and often present as quite bitter and astringent alongside heavy spice.
Sweetness, on the other hand, can help with the overall mouthfeel, softening some of the heat while the taste can still be appreciated through slightly numbed tastebuds. For this reason I look to Alsace when pairing wine with Indian food. Josmeyer is a wonderful producer from the region, practising biodynamic methods and producing a range of top Rieslings and Pinot Gris.
But it is the Gewürztraminer that gets my pick for Indian food. It’s an off-dry wine, naturally very aromatic, and the rose petal and peach notes are particularly pleasant alongside Indian spicing.
The takeaway: Motu Indian kitchen
Fish and Chips
It’s a British favourite, always popular at The Running Horse and Fitzdares Club. There are many wines that work with such a simple dish: a salacious Albariño, a crisp Chablis or a dry Muscadet, but I find that sparkling is the way forward – and after all, it’s nearly Christmas.
Aside from needing every possible opportunity to pop open a bottle this year, there are many qualities that make sparkling wine the perfect partner for fish and chips. The acidity helps to cut through the batter and the body of the fizz, along with the bubbles, enhance the flavour and elegance of the white fish. Uber-prestige Champagne producer Salon in fact launched its 1999 vintage with fish and chips, as did Krug with a pop-up in Covent Garden.
A Chardonnay-driven fizz is my recommendation, and while I could pick many Champagnes that do the job spectacularly, I’m going to give credit to one of our great British producers. Langham wine estate in Dorset has been producing wines since 2009 and this week announced that they have won the coveted ‘sparkling wine producer’ of the year award and the Oscars of the wine world, the IWSC, beating over 700 producers worldwide. Their blanc de blancs is of particular note and I think it’s the ultimate way to toast the end of what we hope will be our final lockdown.
The takeaway: Fischer’s fish and chips
The wine: Langham Estate blanc de blancs
On those hungover Sundays, there’s nothing better than a naughty hamburger. The problem is, the mix of sweetness, salt and fat makes for a unique and tricky wine pairing.
It really needs a red wine to stand up to the bold flavours, and fruit is important to work with the sweetness of the bun and sauces. We also need generous acidity to cut through the fat and cheese, and have to take the flavour of the charred beef into account.
To tick all these boxes I find myself looking towards the home of the hamburger, the USA. California is the capital of Cabernet Sauvignon but also produces excellent Zinfandel which I think is the best partner for a burger for all the above reasons.
Gnarly Head produces an Old Vine Zinfandel, which has dark cherry and plum notes, a touch of vanilla from the oak and oodles of juicy acidity to wash down those hungover Sunday blues.
The takeaway: Patty and Bun Arigold
The wine: Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel
There are some wines that go surprisingly well with pizza. Obviously the toppings change the flavour quite considerably, but the standard dough, tomato and mozzarella give us a solid platform to build from.
Sparkling rosé works especially well. In Italy a recent trend for pizza bollicine (pizza and bubbles) sees people gathering to guzzle slices of pizza and bottomless fizz, rather like our bottomless brunches.
Far from its general perception, pink fizz is often deep and full bodied and can present as quite masculine. That said, I prefer to drink Sangiovese with pizza. It is Italy’s most widely grown variety, most at home in the central region. Quality varies dramatically but an area I love is Umbria.
Montefalco is a village that produces some tremendous wines made using the unique Sagrentino grape. It displays extraordinary lip-smacking qualities, with incredibly muscular tannins.
This Montefalco Rosso: Ziggurat from Tenuta Castelbuono is made using 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrentino and 15% Cabernet/Merlot. It is a wonderful combination,with the luscious fruit from the Sangiovese backed up by gripping tannins and a kick from the Sagrentino. A dream pizza pairing.
The takeaway: Santa Maria – Santa Caterina
The wine: Ziggurat, Tenuta Castelbuono