Benjamin Mitrofan-Norris on June 10, 2016 0 Comments The world is shrinking, or so they say. Today, if you want to get from Florida to Japan, or from the London to Delhi, you need do little more than book a flight, and you’ll be there within the day – something utterly unimaginable to our ancestors. However, people have always moved, albeit more slowly, and cultures have always merged together, bringing the best of exotic lands closer to home. Nowhere has this had a more powerful, significant cultural impact than at the dining table. What we eat and drink today is the result of generations of migration and exploration, of experimentation and celebration of all that the world has to offer. Walk down any high street in London, and you’ll find an Indian restaurant on every corner, a homage to the days of the Raj and the Victorian obsession with spices. City centers across the world come complete with sushi joints, with Italian trattorias, with aromatic fare from every corner of the globe. Our palates are constantly expanding, and every year seems to bring a new fashion, a new trend for our taste buds to explore. For the wine fans among us, this begs a very serious question. Which wines can we pair with these new, exotic, powerful flavors? We are familiar with the cuisines of France and Italy, which influenced fine dining around the world. We know the classic dishes of our own cultures, and which wines match elegantly and interestingly with them. The great wine producing nations of the world have long since established oenological marriages made in heaven, and books and texts have been written at length about the wonders these weddings can bring. But how do we establish pairings for unfamiliar flavors, or for dishes which come from countries with no history or culture of wine making, or wine drinking? Here are some famous food styles from the four corners of the globe, and the wines which best pair with them. From these, you can think about further pairings, based on similar flavor profiles, and discover the world through food and wine. 1. Pairing Wines with Sushi Alongside micro-technology, affordable cars and strange cartoons, sushi is surely Japan’s great contribution to world culture. It’s fast, fresh and delicious, and they say a diet based on sushi’s key ingredients of seaweed, raw fish and picked rice is one of the healthiest you can have. Combine this life-lengthening cuisine with the antitoxic and cleansing qualities of a good bottle of wine, and you can’t go far wrong. The Japanese wine industry is actually fairly well established, and Japanese bottles are beginning to become available elsewhere in the world, but it will be a fair few years before they are really commonplace. However, there are some great combinations you can find at your local wine store, which are delicate enough to allow the subtle flavors of sushi to come through, while fresh and muscular enough to stand up to the notes of ginger, soy and wasabi that are indispensable to any sushi dinner. If you’re looking for a great wine to pair with sushi, then look no further than Pinot Blanc. In Northern Italy, in the alpine regions of Alto Adige, you’ll find Pinot Blancs with an astonishing freshness and biting minerality, and their subtle white fruit tones will accentuate the feather-light flavors of your fish and rice, while cleansing the palate after dipping into the condiments. 2. Pairing Wines with Classic Indian Curries Few global cuisines have had quite an impact on the western world as much as that of India. Originally brought west by colonial civil servants in Victorian England, it wasn’t long before people were utterly captivated by the fiery, spicy and aromatic flavors of India. Within decades, the Anglo-Indian cuisine was born, combining rich, buttery, spicy gravies with spiced meat and vegetables, and it is this cuisine which most of the world went on to copy. However, it is a notoriously difficult cuisine for pairing wines with, what with there being little tradition of wine consumption on the subcontinent. Let’s take a look at the classic, standard curry that you can find in Indian restaurants around the world – chicken tikka masala, or butter chicken as it is sometimes known. Butter chicken combines cream and tomato with garam masala, turmeric and cumin. It is typical of many Indian dishes, being based on a rich, creamy sauce packed with deep spices. As such, it requires a clean wine, full bodied to take on the spices, but fresh and acidic enough to cut through the cream. A good Sauvignon Blanc does the job very nicely indeed, with its acidity balanced with soft, fruity sweetness. 3. Pairing Wines with Thai Curries When Thai food became globally popular about twenty years ago, it took the world by storm. It was for a while decidedly fashionable, and it isn’t difficult to see why. The Thai philosophy of food is all about balance – taking sweet, salty, spicy and savory flavors and making them work together in harmony. Indeed, they say Thailand is the one country in the world where it simply isn’t possible to eat badly. However, this balancing act of different flavor profiles makes Thai cuisine very difficult to match wines to, as there are rarely any dominant flavors, only subtle, complementary ones, underset by a deep, chili based heat. The trick to pairing wines with Thai food is to focus on the floral, aromatic nature of the cuisine, and to go for a deeply floral, aromatic wine. For fish based Thai curries, Viognier does great work, with its oily and floral character. Viognier also often has subtle hints of exotic fruits like lychee, which works wonderfully with shellfish such as squid, lobster and crab – all common components of rich and elegant Thai beach food. For red and green curries based on coconut milk, you’ll want something with a hint of sweetness. The off-dry Rieslings and Gewurztraminers of Germany and Austria work very well indeed – give them a try!