Austrian Wines step up to the Indian Table

DSC_9303a.jpgITC Maurya’s Dum Pukht restaurant in New Delhi was the venue chosen by SI editor, Reva K. Singh for a Sommelier India Wine Dinner on Wednesday, November 19th to pair Austrian wine with Indian food. Dum Pukht is a speciality Indian restaurant known for its traditional cuisine. This was no ordinary dinner, however. It stretched over 12 courses, each paired with two different wines, writes Gaurav Anand who was present.

In India’s burgeoning market for imported wine, Austria is one country that is still on the periphery. Only a few Indian importers carry Austrian wines in their portfolios and Austrian wines are rarely, if ever, seen on hotel and restaurant wine lists. Nevertheless, the press that Austrian wine has managed to garner in India (including in this magazine) is a testament to the wines’ ability to make an impression.
This comes as no surprise because Austria makes some of the finest white wines in the world, especially from Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. It has interesting red wines too, from native varieties such as Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt, as well as international varieties like Merlot. How do Austrian wines pair with Indian food? The dinner at Dum Pukht put the wines to the test.
DSC_9301a.jpgThe select group of 12 guests at the dinner comprised wine and food journalists as well as the Austrian Ambassador to India, Dr Ferdinand Maultasch, Mrs Maultasch, the Austrian Trade Commissioner, Mr Hans Hoertnagl and the General Manager of ITC Maurya, Mr Anand Rao. While opinions on each pairing were mixed, the consensus was clear – Austrian wines are an excellent match for Indian food. Pictured: Ambassador Ferdinand Maultasch and General Manager Anand Rao
This was not a surprise because these wines are well known for being versatile and will match a number of cuisines. Apart from their expected acidity, what helped these wines hold their own with Indian food, was their weight. Several whites came in at between 12.5% and 13.5% abv while some of the reds clocked in at over 14.5% and even 15% abv. None of the wines were overblown. They had delicacy and minerality and were not light, by and large, but had enough body to stand up to the food.
The dinner itself was unique in its length – 12 courses were paired with 24 wines. This does not include the two aperitif wines before the meal! The ITC Hotel Beverage Manager for Wines, Niladri Dhar, oversaw the wine service, stepping in periodically to comment on the food, the wines and the pairings.
DSC_9369a.jpgDum Pukht specializes in the cuisine of the nawabs of Awadh and Chef Ghulam Qureshi, a descendant of the court cooks of Lucknow made an appearance towards the end of the meal. While the food was very good for the most part, the Kakori Kabab I thought was particularly excellent. Left: Vir Sanghvi and Reva Singh. Standing: Chef Qureshi, Arun and Niladri Dhar
The wines, which were courtesy the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, represented the main regions of Austria, covering the best known appellations. The whites included wines from Grüner Veltliner, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Several styles were represented including some outstanding Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) dessert wines. The reds included blends and single-varietal wines from Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Grüner Veltliner with its full, balanced body and its power and finesse, is perhaps the most universal of food wines, but some of Austria’s regional white wines also fared well. Not to be left behind, Austrian red wines demonstrated how they, in turn, can enhance an Indian menu when the dishes demand more fruit and light tannins.
As more Austrian wines begin to appear on Indian wine lists, there will be much to rejoice about, especially with ITC chefs more than equal to the occasion to pair the wines with fabulous Indian food, if this dinner is anything to go by.
For more specific pairing suggestions, write to us for a free copy of the Austrian Wine and Indian Cuisine booklet.

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