Here’s four white wines to go with a kick of heat to celebrate all things spice

white wines with national curry week

I’m told it is National Curry Week this week, the 20th one. You could visit one of several Indian restaurants marking the occasion or cook a good curry at home. With that in mind I’ve realised how many dishes I cook with a kick of heat. Here’s some white wines I’ve enjoyed with all things spice.

Four wines for National Curry Week

Villa Maria Private Bin Gewurztraminer 2016 (RRP, £11.45, stockists include Waitrose, Majestic and Wine Rack, 13.5% abv) I was once described as like gewurztraminer wine, mysterious, a bit spicy, but with feminine touches. I think the jury is out on that one. However, as for the wine, I love it; with a gewurtz you’ll get rose petal notes (think Turkish delight) and lychee, and in this example, a flirt with sweet spice. I cooked chicken Thai green curry with a scattering of finely chopped chilli on the top and enjoyed tucking into this little pairing.  

Cune Barrel Fermented Blanco 2016 (RRP: £10.15, Waitrose, The Co-op, 13.5%) Chicken korma is one of my favourite curries and white rioja is one of my favourite wines. It’s not often I describe a wine as having aromas of bananas and cream, but I think I am, right now. Bananas are definitely on the nose of this 100 per cent viura wine – which is fermented in oak casks –  together with apples and a playfulness of pineapple and papaya. The rich  coconut crunch of the chicken sauce added to the tropicality and gentle creaminess of the wine.

Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2015 (RRP £13.99 thewinesociety.com, 13.5% abv) White wines from the Rhône Valley are few and far between as they only make up for 3% of the total wine production. This one is a blend of  six different varieties, with viognier leading from the front with 65%, and roussanne, marsanne, clairette, bourboulenc and grenache blanc in the remainder. The wine is prettily aromatic, with springtime blossom, apricot and peach all saying hello to your senses. I slowly cooked crispy pork belly in Chinese five spice, and served a spicy Thai salad on the side. Delicious.

Wente Riverbank Riesling 2014 (RRP £15.49,  richardgrangerwines.co.uk, farehamwinecellar.co.uk, 12.4% abv) This wine owes its heart and soul to deep rocky soil on the banks of the Arroyo Seco River in Monterey County, California, where the grapes are harvested. It has aromas of dried honeycomb, mango, Thai basil and lime and is refreshing on the palate, with a good cleansing acidity. If you think of a prawn noodle stir fry with a dash of dried chilli flakes, then you won’t go far wrong. I sneaked a nibble of extra strong mature cheddar as a mid-evening snack, and a tiny sip of this, and hey, I was a happy bunny.  

National Curry Week 2017 runs from the 9th-15th October. More on National Curry Week  here  and follow them on Twitter here

 


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Wine label facts #1: Helping you understand the gobbledegook on a bottle

I’ve always been mesmerised by red cars. My first one was a Mini I named Charlie and it had a hole in its floor and when it rained the passengers would bail out with a teacup I kept in the car for the purpose.  

One red car blew up on the motorway; another was stolen; yet another lost an embarrassing argument with a car park wall. I’ve been driven up the garden path by red cars because of seeing with my eyes and not thinking with my brain.

A red car! I must have it!! Then I’m lured into the misery beneath.

Wine can be the same. We’re tempted into buying because we like the look of the label. They’re clever, those marketing people.

To help you buy wines based on wine label facts, and not on marketing, here’s a run-through of some terms you might see on a wine bottle.


Wine label facts

Vieilles vignes: This is French for old vines. Old vines are the wise things of the vineyard. They’re not young and giddy, they don’t produce lots of grapes, but the ones which are harvested have a special, concentrated, quality from those sage old vines.

Classico: This Italian term indicates that a wine was produced in the heart of a region where the terroir is “classic” for that style. You’ll find Chianti wines – but a step above is Chianti Classico; and then there’s basic Soave wines and Soave Classico and so on.

Hand-harvested : If you read that grapes have been hand-harvested, the wine producer has put money into manpower. The grapes might be grown on slopes which are inaccessible by machine harvesters, or even better, human decisions could be involved in selecting the best grapes for the new wine to come. I like it when I see this on a label.

Wine label facts: Many grapes are picked in the cool of the night. Don't read this on a label and think ... ah!! This is so romantic!!
Wine label facts: Many grapes are picked in the cool of the night. Don’t read this on a label and think … ah!! This is so romantic!!

Picked in the cool of the night : Many, many grape varieties are picked in the coolest part of the night so they are more stable and the start of the winemaking process is easier; also vineyard workers aren’t struggling in the sun. It isn’t unusual, no matter how poetic it reads on a label. It’s like a shop putting up a notice “we stacked these eggs carefully so we wouldn’t break them”. I ask myself, was there something more interesting to put on the label about this wine? Possibly not.

Sur lie: This means “upon the lees”. The lees is the residue at the bottom of the fermentation vessel when the yeast has finished its busy-body challenge of turning the grape sugars into alcohol. Some winemakers leave the new wine sitting on top of the lees occasionally stirring it. This will add a creamy mouthfeel and more depth to the wine.

Frizzante: If your sparkling wine has the Italian word frizzante on the label it means it is semi-sparkling. This is opposed to spumante, which is fully-sparkling. If you like your bubbles, don’t miss out on half of them!

Oak: If you see the words “new oak” it will mean that the winemaker has invested a bit of money into the wine which can only be a good thing. New oak isn’t cheap. Think of it as a teabag. New teabags impart lots of flavours, just like new oak. Oak will add notes of vanilla, spice and toast.

Joven: You’ll see this on Spanish wines and it means young. If you like aged rioja  with classic smoky, woody and vanilla notes, you won’t get that in a joven wine. They are young, fruit-forward, fresh and easy to drink.

Gran Reserva: The polar opposite of joven. Rioja wines are treated with extra care and spend at least two years in oak and three in bottle before being released to the likes of you and me.


I could go on for a very long time. If you’re baffled drop me a line jane@onefootinthegrapes.co.uk. Only about wine mind. I can’t help with plumbing or wallpapering.


PS I still drive a red car.

Based on wine columns written for Merseyside’s Good Taste magazine and Trinity Mirror regional newspapers