I received a few bottles of Riesling from Helm Wines, a winery located in Murrumbateman within the Canberra District wine region of Australia. I decided to pair these wines with various Indian dishes to see how they fared up against the heat and spice of a good curry.
Why Riesling and curry? Well as I’ve written before, Indian is a tough cuisine to match any wine up against because it can be quite intense and overpower the wine, or make the wine taste stringent. Depending on the style of wine made, there are other grape varieties that can do ok, like Gewürztraminer, Viognier and even the red grape Carménère of Chilean fame. But I had 3 different styles of Riesling so it was a good opportunity to test them out on Indian cuisine.
There were three different Indian dishes that these wine went up against; lightly spiced lamb cutlets cooked in the tandoor and drizzled with lemon and with a side of yogurt based mint sauce; a chicken korma curry; and a chicken curry done in a spinach based sauce. Both curries were on the lighter side of medium-hot (any hotter was just asking for trouble).
First up was the 2013 Helm Classic Dry Riesling. All three wines were from the 2013 vintage, a vintage regarded as a great year for Canberra Riesling, so I was really keen to tuck in. A subtle but beautiful floral aroma drifted up from this one when I opened it and I got hints of apple in there too. On the sip it was quite dry and carried a lovely gentle load of apple with a bit of citrus. Like the aroma, it was a subtle almost delicate wine and so well-balanced. I could have just sipped the bottle away but it had a mission to complete. This one could go down for decades and would no doubt evolve into something special over time.
Out of all the dishes it paired best with the lamb cutlets, probably due to the citrus components combining with the drizzled lemon and the acidity also meant it sat well with the mint sauce. Although it was still enjoyable enough with curry it was a little too dry for it.
Next up was the 2013 Helm Premium Riesling. This wine is made from the best grapes selected from just one key vineyard. It’s very pale in colour but the aromas coming out of the wine are intense and beautiful. It’s the sort of wine that brings you in. And on the sip it does not disappoint. It does have a similar flavour profile to the Classic Dry but with more obvious depth of fruit flavours. The citrus was also obvious in this one, as too was the strong acid profile but it seemed a little less dry than the Classic. Coming back to this in a decade or two would be a pleasure.
Just like the Classic, this one paired well with the lamb cutlets but it was also a delight with the chicken korma. The acidity seemed to cut through the creaminess of the sauce and the more intense fruit flavour seemed to sit well with the spice.
Lastly was the 2013 Helm Half Dry Riesling. Beautiful aromas on this one too and on the sip it was obviously sweeter than the other two. Being half dry meant that it was also going to be half sweet but it was a pleasant level of sweetness… I really liked it. Lots of obvious fruit flavours and the slight sweetness dulled the acidity. Well balanced and quite complex. Yum!
As a pairing for Indian this was the business. It had the citrus and fruit of the other two plus it had a level of sweetness that challenged the spice and heat of Indian curry. It was the all-rounder for this occasion.
What I got out of this little pairing exercise is that the acidity in Riesling cuts through the creaminess of Indian curry and that an half dry style Riesling with a bit of sweetness, combined with some decent acidity, will allow the wine to compete with the heat and spice.
These were all enjoyable wines and showed how good Riesling out of Canberra can be. And at only 11-12% alcohol you can sit back and enjoy these without been knocked around too soon.