It’s Curry Week and some like it hot

A selection of wines and spices for Curry Week
A selection of wines and spices for Curry Week

Yes, it’s here again – National Curry Week.

In this country, it has become part of the British culture to have a curry from time to time and the latest statistics show that at least half the population regularly eat curry.

There are so many variations that few people avoid the dish altogether.

Tolerance to heat, however, is a different matter. In the words of the 1959 film starring Marilyn Monroe: “Some like it hot”. Others don’t.

When it comes to pairing wine with your curry, if it’s hot, really hot, don’t bother. Just drink beer. Hot chilli will kill the flavours of just about any wine, so, unless its very inexpensive, wine is a bit of a waste. Not true, though, for the milder types of curry, with their, intricate, delicate flavours and complexity of aroma and palate.

Originating in India, curry has become a standard part of the cuisine in many countries, including Thailand, which can produce more gentle, full flavoured, yet spicy dishes.

As with all food and wine pairing, it’s all about the sauce and mild to medium curries have sauce with a great variety of ingredients and spices involved. There is thus a great deal of scope when it comes to choosing the matching wine. The basic principle is to try to make an equal match when it comes to the power of the flavours, so that one is not dominated by the other.

Korma curries are relatively mild, with delicate flavours from ginger, coriander, cumin and other spices in a creamy base. A delicate, unoaked chardonnay such as Louis Jadot Macon Villages 2017 (Tesco £13) has enough body and depth to match well. With curries that have more complex and fruitier flavours, such as Thai Green curry, a more complex and fruitier wine is called for. A perfect match is an unusual white from Western Australia with the equally unusual name of Apostrophe Stone’s Throw, made by Larry Cherubino. It is a blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc and is delicious. Surprisingly delicate, there is a great complexity of fruit flavours with a just off-dry finish. Imported by Hallgarten, it’s worth tracking down. (£13.62, Strictly Wine).

Another hugely popular dish is Chicken Tikka Masala. With ginger, paprika and chilli among the ingredients, although still with medium heat, a flavoursome red can be a good match, standing up to the stronger tastes. The South African company Zalze, produces a fruity and spicy wine from Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Viognier grapes (the 2016 available from Morrison’s and Asda at £10). Blackberry and Mulberry flavours, with integrated French oak and a long fruit finish, balance well with the creamy, medium-hot tikka masala sauce.

Rogan Josh, a dish based normally on either lamb or goat, is one of the signature dishes of Kashmiri cuisine. Satisfyingly hot without being overpowering, it contains chillies, cardamom, garam masala and a whole host of other spices and ingredients. A red wine packed with flavour and body is a great accompaniment to this dish and Chilean Carmenère from Errazuriz hits the spot. The 2017 has deep black fruit flavours, with aromas of black peppercorns, tobacco and chocolate, with rich, ripe tannins and a lingering spice finish. Great value at £10.50 from Majestic.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

Click here to read last week’s wine column.