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The diyas are ready, the sparklers are set. The blue sky appears to be a shade darker; the breeze comes with a whiff of joy buzzing with tinkling of laughter. The homes are getting a makeover and pals and relatives are never tired of making plans for celebrations. As the holiday season sets in and the festive mood of Deepavali takes over the mundaneness of life, our hearts too aglow with a new spirit of festivity and cheer. It is once again the time of the year when ‘indulgence’ is the main theme of our life. All self or otherwise imposed restrictions are now passé and eating and drinking and merry making are the mantra of the season.
However, it is not only Deepavali. India has a rich culture of colourful festivals all round the year and invariably all of them repeat the same story of eating and drinking one’s heart out. Be it some sort of traditional festivals like Dussera or Holi, or social occasions like marriage or celebrations like Christmas and New Year’s eve, the centre-stage is taken by delicious food and intoxicating drinks. In fact, no Indian festival is complete with sumptuous food and drinks. And as our habits are gradually changing thanks to foreign influence, many are shying away from hard liquor. Wine, therefore, gladly filling the vacant space with all its positive health aspects and social status are fast becoming this section of people’s number one choice.
And why it should not be? India has already created a niche for itself in the map of wine world and many Indian wines can jolly well compete with top class imported wines in terms of quality. Besides Indian wines pair up beautifully with Indian food. The hot and spicy flavour of chicken tikka masala, tanduri prawns, kadhai paneer and reshmi kabab that make the nucleus of Indian festivals are wonderfully, almost magically, complemented by highly acidic Sauvignon Blanc from the house of Sula. A Sula Sauvignon Blanc, herbaceous, all crisp and dry with ting of green pepper and a hint of spice at the finish is ideal to accompany spicy Indian food, especially prawns. Since spicy food is best enjoyed in a cooler environment, it’s better to serve the wine chilled at 8-10 degree Celsius.
Cabernet Shiraz is another match made in heaven for Indian spicy dishes. A Smooth and medium bodied wine with captivating aroma of black pepper and fruity notes of plum and cherries, Cabernet Shiraz is a perfect wine to go with mildly spiced Indian curries as well as the tandoori dishes. If you are serving lamb or for that matter, mutton biryani, go by all means for a La Réserve from the house of Grover. Produced from a handpicked selection of oldest Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grapes, La Réserve has a powerful bouquet of luscious ripe red and black fruits with an exquisite hint of spice. With touch of chocolate, coffee beans and vanilla flavours, this is an elegant wine to pair with refined cuisine.
Talk about tandoori dishes and nothing could be up to the mark than some outstanding white wines. Since tandoori dishes are less on the spice and yet have lots of flavours and aroma, a light white wine will be just the perfect one to enhance the taste of the dish. A Viognier from Black Buck wines produced by Karnataka's Heritage Winery will be an ideal choice to pair with tandoories. Viognier is a fruity aromatic wine with hints of late season peaches, apricots, orange blossoms and honey and its sugar and acidity quotient is nicely balanced. A slightly sweet rosé wine made of zinfandel is another choice to opt for. If you don't get Black Buck Viognier at your nearby store, try for Four Season's Viognier. It's bright and clear gold with hints of dried apricots and peaches with a lingering finish. Four Season’s Blush wine is another good match for tandoori dishes. It has a lovely floral bouquet with flavours of freshly crushed strawberries and hints of sweet spice. Its off dry (slightly sweet) taste with balanced acidity matches up nicely with tandoories and other mildly spiced Indian dishes.
No Indian celebration is complete without its usual “muh mitha”. Indian sweets are usually laden with sugar and made of cottage cheese, ghee and other rich items. Sula’s Late Harvest Chenin Blanc can pair beautifully with desserts, cheese, cakes, cookies and fruit and nut platters. It is a golden nectar with aromas of lemon, pear, honey and tropical fruits.
We haven’t yet mentioned the wine that is intrinsically related with festivals and celebrations. Yes, you are right… we are talking about champagne. If you don’t get original champagne, any Indian sparkling wine will easily substitute that. Sparkling wines are perfect as aperitif, though they can as well be paired with tandoori dishes, biryani and lighter Asian dishes. A Zampa Soiree 2010 Brut Rosé sparkling would be an ideal choice. The wine is salmon pink with aromas of berry and fruity flavours of strawberry. It's fresh and refreshing and the fizz lasts much longer as if in tune with the mood of celebration. Sip the bubbly on their own or match them up with finger foods, the choices are yours.
Perhaps all those intoxicating talk of wine has prompted us to think a bit out of the box. Who says you need to go by calendar dates to know it is festive season? Decorate your home with flowers or candles, jazz up yourself and call some pals over, and you know, it’s your very own celebration. So what you’re waiting for? Go on and pop that bottle!
Happy celebrations and happy wining!