01 April 2007

Pinotage & Vindaloo? No Problem!

Wine and food writer Fiona Beckett has tried matching a curries with various beverages, and recounts the experience on her Food & Wine Matching website in an article titled Can any Wine survive a Vindaloo?

Armed with a "can of supermarket lager, a bottle of Greene King IPA (Indian Pale Ale), an Alsace Gewurztraminer, a full bodied, fruity red Stormhoek Pinotage from South Africa and a mango lassi - all served chilled, even the Pinotage" she started with a medium hot Chicken Rogan Josh, moving on to a supermarket vindaloo and finishing with a "vindaloo from the takeaway, which was hotter still. The Gewurztraminer really couldn’t cope with this unless you added some raita and dal but the Pinotage still kept going"

She concludes that "the big surprise - although I’d had an inkling it would work because South Africans regard it as the best match for curry - was the Pinotage, welcome news to those who prefer drinking red wine to white. But don’t drink it at room temperature, chill it first!"

That Pinotage is a good match for spicy foods is no surprise to Pinotage lovers, but it is good to hear the word is spreading.


  1. Excellent Blog Peter.

    I saw this article by Fiona too - and added my comments on her site.

    In terms of wine to drink with curries and spicy food it is less the grape itself as to how it is vinified.

    My own formula to replicate the refreshing lager / curry concept is:

    Chilled down to beer cold

    Sparkling but semi-sparkling is better to avoid gaseous overload

    Very low tannin. Tannin is mouth drying and I want mouth watering. So an off the shelf standard Pinotage is not quite appropriate unless you want to exaggerate the chilli effect through mouth drying. But with a meaty curry a Pinotage Rosé or low tannin Pinotage can be great. Another problem is that at low temperatures any tannin is exaggerated.

    Good to high mouth-watering acidity. Think lemon juice which gets the saliva going.

    Moderate but not low alcohol. High alcohol is also mouth drying. And the impact on a chilli is mouth burning. Try a swig of vodka before and after a chilli and see the burning net effect. But a good (approx 12%) level of alcohol is appropriate to provide body.

    No oak which leads to abitter after-taste with cumin, coriander and ginger.

    And finally, fruitiness & sweetness rise in relation to chilli heat. Bite into a chiili and then drink something sweet - like a cola. You will see how the sweetness locks into the chilli and vice versa. My Goan granny used to add sugar to a Vindaloo if it was coming out just too hot. But sweetness offsets tannins so an off dry Sparkling Pinotage is great. I recall trying a Graham Beck Sparkling Pinotage with you.

    (For readers that don't know, Vindaloo, seemingly a British dish, was interestingly invented by Portuguese sailors who marinated their meat in wine barrels and added Indian spices, chillies newly brought over from South America, and Garlic. Vinho D'Alho - a garlicky wine marinade sauce.)

    So given your knowledge of all things Pinotage can you list the low tannin Pintoges that you know. And all the sparkling ones.


    Warren Edwardes
    ceo Wine for Spice

  2. Hi Warren

    I think that peoples experiences of the effect of chillis differ so much that you can't have a hard and fast rule. Re tannins, we each to his own. Pinotage goes well, but my local curry house doesn't have it on their list so we drink Bordeaux - St Emilion which the label says is aged in wood. No problem for me.

    But you could try comparing the tow Pinotages from Simonsig. They make a completely un-oaked one,(just called Simonsig Pinotage) , plus a well oaked one (named Simonsig Redhill Pinotage) -- be interesting to compare the two over a ruby one day