Decoding food and wine pairing

Chef Morgan Rainforth of ‘La Plage’ in Goa and ‘Soleil by La Plage’ at Sula Vineyards in Nashik shares the rules on pairing wine and food with LifeSpice’s Anu Gulmohar, who met him at the Sula Fest held on 7-8 February, 2015, at Sula Vineyards.

Chef Morgan Rainforth of ‘La Plage’ in Goa and ‘Soleil by La Plage’

Chef Morgan Rainforth of ‘La Plage’ in Goa and ‘Soleil by La Plage.’
Photo by Amandeep Singh.

“The most basic rule of pairing food and wine is that with spicy food you take a slightly sweeter wine. When your tongue is on fire it’s nice to cool it down with something that’s a little bit sweet, like the Sula Chenin Blanc.

There are also some reds which work extremely well with spicy foods. Mutton curry with Sula Rasa Shiraz is a combination I think will go well together. We do a mutton curry here in Soleil, which is a combination of French technique and Indian flavours. It’s marinated for 12 hours and then cooked in a sealed pot for 12 hours at a very low temperature. We make mutton stock with bones and then to make the gravy we just fling in a little onion, ginger, garlic, a little bit of garam masala – that we make ourselves. It’s not really hard on chilly but we try to get the taste of the mutton, which I find often misses in Indian curries. You usually get the taste of the masalas, but we try to find that balance between the spices and the meat. Such a meaty dish can take on a red wine without doubt.

A spicy dish will also go well with a Sula Riesling, which is one of my favourites here at Sula. I love it. It has a woody, slightly sweet flavour. I’m not really a sweet wine drinker but I find the balance is perfect in this one. The pairing really comes out nice.

Our restaurant in Goa, La Plage, has been there since 12 years. It’s a big restaurant right at the beach. Sula Sauvignon Blanc is our biggest seller. Fish, especially raw fish, and the Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect combination. The wine is lovely, and it gets better every year. We’ve been drinking it for years. And every year when the new batch comes in, we get a little more flower, more lychee, inside the Sauvignon Blanc.

I’m also a fan of the Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, the sweet dessert wine made here in Sula. It is very sweet; it’s a real dessert wine. It has a complexity in its aromas and when paired with dark, a little bitter, chocolate, it’s perfect. It really is. You have one taste, you have a second taste. When you mix both, you get a third taste altogether. It’s like when you have a good red wine with Camembert cheese; the two create a third taste. You’re not just mixing two tastes; it’s the creation of a third taste, which is the secret of wine pairing. When you’re actually creating something in your mouth as you’re consuming it, it’s truly amazing.

I spend my days tasting food. Adjusting, tasting, adjusting. I find that wine brings in a whole new dimension into tasting. Sometimes you get it wrong and you realise it doesn’t work at all with what you’re eating. But sometimes you achieve these surprises that make all the effort worthwhile.”