RICHARD ESLING: Would anyone like some turkey curry?

Wines for the turkey curry
Wines for the turkey curry

Turkey curry anyone? Perhaps not.

The festivities are over and most of the excessive amount of food has been consumed, but there may still be those of us that hanker after a little further taste of that delicious once-a-year bird.

Using up those final leftovers, fresh or frozen, in a curry has almost become a New Year tradition for many people, as fans of Bridget Jones’ Diary will no doubt remember.

It’s a bit like marmite – you love it or you hate it, but done properly it can produce a rather tasty dish.

The question then is what wine to choose. If it is a very hot curry, don’t choose a wine at all, but reach for the beer.

But with something a little subtler, such as Thai curry, which can work particularly well with turkey, there is a range of wines to choose from. As with almost all food pairing, it’s important to match the wine with the sauce, not necessarily the main ingredient, such as meat, poultry or fish. Thus, with spicy, flavoursome, aromatic curry sauces, you need to choose flavoursome, aromatic wines.

Most of the time, white wines are the better choice with curry dishes, although some light reds with low tannins can work well, such as French Pinot Noir or Gamay from Beaujolais. The aromatic whites from the Alsace can work perfectly. Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer really come into their own, particularly if there is some fruit involved in the dish, such as mango, sultanas or apricots. Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir from this same Northerly wine region of France are also excellent food wines. They are dry, subtle and complex, yet have great depth of flavour and aroma, thus pairing well with many Asian dishes.

Riesling is a wonderful ‘foodie’ wine, since it is strongly aromatic, yet has good acidity, body and depth. Apart from Alsace and Germany, there are some great wines made from this grape variety in the New World. Clare Valley in Australia produces some top-notch wines, together with some from New Zealand such as Pegasus Bay. Yet another grape variety which now produces wines all round the globe is Viognier. Wines made from this variety in Chile are very aromatic and have many tropical fruit characteristics, again perfect with Asian cuisine. It is now also starting to be planted in New Zealand, making fruity, aromatic, characterful wines.

Viognier, in fact, is a relatively new varietal outside France. In the 1980’s, it was confined almost entirely to the Northern Rhone region in France, but now it is widely planted though Europe and many countries in the New World. It does very well in California and Washington State and is firmly established in both Chile and Argentina.

These can be big wines in both body and alcohol, sometimes reaching 15% vol.

Great with big flavours, but hold back on the chillies!

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.

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