What goes with Masala Bhindi? Burgundy?

By Premlata Venkataraman
The flowery overblown descriptions of wines amuse me; I guess I just am not the type to go overboard over a glass of wine. While living in the Bay Area decades ago it was chic to go to wine-and-cheese tastings. Also at their peak of popularity were fondue parties — but that is another story for another day.
Recently, Palate Partners, a specialty wine retailer at the Strip run by Deb Mortillaro and Mike Gonze, held an open house to demystify all the verbiage — body, bouquet, aroma, vintage— in the wine vocabulary. Their simple message: learn to enjoy wines by experimenting with different types. They do this through their affordable ($12/person) wine appreciation classes with six wines to explore.
The teaser in their e-mail was: Do you know which wine to serve with special foods? This has been a sore point with me, as I am sure it is with most readers. How do you pick wines to go with spicy Indian dishes? Even though wine is not routinely served during Indian dinners, we would still like to know which wines go with our spicy dishes for those rare events. Seeking some enlightenment on this, I went.

To my pleasant surprise, Mike and Deb, our wine gurus, were practical, friendly and helpful. Emphasizingthat there is nothing objective in matching food with wines, they offered a few broad general ideas:

l Opposites attract. Spicy food needs fruity wines. Textures should match. Light foods with light wines and heavy foods with heavier wines
l Popular wines don’t always match with spicy food.
l Try a new wine even if it isn’t the most popular du jour. It’s fun to try new wines and see what you like.
Mike says, “Get a wine that tastes good to your palate. Do not worry too much about the year of vintage simply because it only tells you the vineyard and year in which the grapes were harvested. Many other factors influence the character of the wine.” After such a straight approach, he touched on several pointers for choosing wines, and on the wines available from traditional places like France, Italy, Germany, and California, and also from South Africa, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia. Of course the evening also included blind tasting.
For spicy Indian food Mike and Deb recommend Rieslings, Gewurztraminer, Gamay, Pinot Noir… … When asked them for more specifics, their reply:
California Chardonnay with prawn curry,l German Riesling Spatlese for samosas,

l Shiraz with spicy eggplant,

l Zinfandel with tandoori chicken, and so on.Obviously, Mike and Deb know about desi food too

California Chardonnay with prawn curry,

l German Riesling Spatlese for samosas,

l Shiraz with spicy eggplant,

l Zinfandel with tandoori chicken, and so on.Obviously, Mike and Deb know about desi food too



In addition, their store is chock full of gadgets you probably didn’t even know you need to complement your wine collection.



Contact details:Palate Partners
2013 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA, 15222

, in the Strip District.

For class details and other information, call (412) 391-8502 or visit http://www.palatepartners.com





So the next time you feel the need to polish up your wine information while having fun sampling wines, try one of Deb and Mike’s wine appreciation classes. You will enjoy the experience.

But remember this: When you have good company and engage in good conversations with repartees and banter, the verbiage around the wine is, well, ephemeral, relevant only during the first two sips. And once you’re slightly inebriated, the wine’s pedigree may not matter at all.

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