Spicy food and wines are no strangers to controversy. Some feel they should be kept poles apart whilst others feel that at best, the only option for spicy foods is a sweet white wine. Recently, Sam Bhattia of Sufi wines and veteran Executive of Continental Airlines put this misconception to bed with his Mirza Ghalib wines. His wines provide a full range to pair with spice-bold cuisines and are non-discriminatory of color be it white or red. I recently caught up with him over a glass of his ‘oh-so good’ vino to find out just how he turned this industry on its head.
1) Tell me about your background? What inspired the line of wines?
I spent over 20 years traveling globally , while at Continental Airlines planning events and launching new destinations. During these global travels , the question of pairing wine with Indian cuisine, always came up. As I am passionate about wine and Indian cuisine, the idea of Mirza Ghalib was born. Wine is all about sharing with family and friends.
Throughout the world, wine naturally finds its place to accompany a meal. As afficionados of Indian Cuisine, we were never quite satisfied with the wines we would choose to accompany our dishes; the former never managed to fully complement the rich flavors of the latter.We therefore decided to do a little research on the subject. With the help of friends and professionals in both the cultural and wine sectors, we tasted a multitude of different wines, we still did not find what we were looking for. We thus decided to create such a wine; Mirza Ghalib. It complements spicy and complex flavors in one of two ways: First, wine’s acidity boosts the layers of flavors in a dish while softening its extremes, whether of body, richness, fattiness or spicy heat. Second, wine’s fruitiness or sweetness tones down spicy heat, letting the dish’s other flavors shine. Our wines’ range is the result of the work of a team of passionate wine lovers led by Frédéric-Jean Hoguet, wine expert and member of the prestigious Académie du vin de Paris.
2) If I am ordering your wine in an Indian restaurant – what wines should I look to?
We have 3 wines:
Mirza Ghalib Red Blend 2011/2012
Our signature Red wine with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 25% Syrah . The wine is well balanced with velvety smooth tannins. Main aromas of red mature fruits and spices.
Mirza Ghalib Viogner 2012
The wine is 100% Viogner with round, velvety, aromatic and dry with a final touch of Vanilla.
Mirza Ghalib Rose’ 2012
The Rose is 100% Syrah with fine aromatic expressions of fruits and flowers, such as black currant , cherry and violet.
3) Where is your wine made? Is there a particular reason why you chose those regions?
The wines are made in France, which is of course known for some of the best wines in the world . The specific region is called Pays D’ Oc in the Southern part of the country. We chose this region for the soil, climate and terrain. The Pays d’Oc boasts a rich and natural combination of steep slopes, hilly peaks, vineyards, garrigue vegetation and the sea, the Pays d’Oc territory is embraced by its Mediterranean climate that comfortably enfolds the vines with its dry and windswept soils. As grapes embrace the land from which they are grown, the grape varieties express themselves differently depending on the climate, exposure, relief, and soils. Pays d’Oc’s patchwork of wine-growing areas creates an expression of these grape varieties that is unique.
4) The industry has always steered spicy food eaters to Rieslings, Yet you offer reds as well. What should the goal be when pairing wine to spicy food?
The goal is using wine to balance the spicy flavors of the food, rather than, try to overpower them. Finding this perfect balance between food and wine results in an exemplary culinary experience.
5) In an Indian restaurant, what wines do you recommend with classic dishes?
Mirza Ghalib Red Blend – This signature blend brings out the spicy and rich flavors in North/ South Indian vegetarian, such as lentils. It is also great with non-vegetarian dishes, such as curries (Chicken Tikka Masala), assorted Kebabs and biryanis.
The Mirza Ghalib White – A Viognier grape that complements primarily fish dishes and lighter vegetarian fare such as Tikkas, Pakoras and Samosas.
The Mirza Ghalib Rose is great with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. It works well with Tandoori dishes (Indian Clay Oven), such as, Tikkas and Kebabs.
These wines are specially designed to find the perfect balance of tastes with these Indian dishes.