Heading to SulaFest this February? Here’s our wine and Indian food pairing cheat-sheet to see you through the festival.

I remember attending a food pairing class a long time ago. That’s all I remember, attending. The rest went by in a blur of fish tikka, some excellent vindaloo, and a cheese plate- go figure, and lots, and lots, of very good wine. That’s the problem with pairing dinners. We nod eagerly while the sommelier holds fort, and our attention, but who can think when your senses are being tantalized by a particularly pleasant pinot noir.

That’s why its best to read the rules before you get there. Now I know you’re all rearing to attend the 11th edition of SulaFest 2018, India’s one and only wine, food and music festival. While we all know the SulaFest lineup features some of the best world music artists, and that they obviously serve up some of the best wine in the country- the vineyards house India’s first tasting room, a beautiful space overlooking their vineyards, the festival is also known for its array of gourmet food. While some of you might head to their in house restaurant, Soma, that pairs wine and food beautifully, we’re going to help you with a few tips that will hopefully help you get the best out of both, even if you don’t have your own personal sommelier guiding you through the stalls.

The first thing you need to do is to start looking at wine as an additional ingredient on your plate. And just like you don’t mix chicken tikka and tomato sauce on your plate, there should be no space for red Chianti with your baked pomfret.

Basic characteristics of wine

The wine palate is made up of five main elements. Sweetness, Acidity, Tannin, Fruit, and body.

A sweet wine, or a dry wine, is one that creates a tingly feeling on the tip of your tongue.  

An acidic wine is one that feels quite light and tart on the tongue. Wines grown in cooler regions tend to be more acidic and a great indicator is if you feel like you just bit into a juicy apple.

Tannins are what, in my opinion, give the wine its yumminess. That herbaceous bitter organic taste that underscores its long history and majesty. It’s what, in my opinion, distinguishes it from hard liquor.

Fruitiness is not about sweetness. It is about the various notes in different varietals where some wines are reminiscent of strawberries another can be a blueberry.

Body is quite simply weight. A high alcohol wine will be more full bodied than a low alcohol wine and the finish lingers longer on the tongue.

Rules of pairing wine and food

Now that you know the basics, let’s set out the rules. It’s quite simple. Match the food characteristic with the wine characteristic.

Match acidic food with acidic wine – A chianti works best with a tomato sauce or a vindaloo, and the Sula Sauvignon blanc will work best with a fish or chicken malai kebab, both of which will be served with lemon.

Tannin with fatty foods: You need something to break down that bitter pucker in your mouth. So nothing works better with a Butter Chicken or a Pork Belly than a nice bold Sula Rasa Shiraz.

Fish goes with acidic wines and since the acidity level of whites tend to be much higher than the reds, and since we’re new at this, let’s just stick to Fish and White for now and perhaps serve Sula’s lovely Riesling with those butter garlic prawns.

Heat needs sugar, so don’t serve that Montepulciano with that Chicken Chettinad, not unless you want to completely intensify the experience. Try Sula’s Zinfandel instead.

Sweet needs sweeter, which is probably why your desert wines can sometimes feel like you’re drinking cough syrup. My favorite paring is an almond biscotti with a moscato. You’re in food heaven right there.

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