Pairing Indian wines with Indian food seems like a great idea.
But where will you get the wines? Probably nowhere, because they’re so rare. Three years ago, I tasted very good wines from an Indian company that promised distribution in California. Only it never happened.
Now a new team has taken up the cause–Jean-Charles Boisset of the Boisset Collection of family-owned wineries and Kapil Sekhri of Fratelli Vineyards in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Together, they’ve produced three top-quality Indian wines. These are in such limited production that only 40 cases out of 200 have been sent to the United States.
Fortunately, some of this wine went to the Bombay Palace in Beverly Hills, which staged a dinner to wind up Sekhri’s recent American tour.
Dinner started with papads, chutneys and JCB No. 47, a sparkling Chardonnay Brut named for the year India became independent (above). This lovely, not too dry wine is very food friendly, no matter how spicy the dish. It was made according to the traditional Champagne method, fermented first in French oak and then in the bottle.
During the tasting, Sekhri (above) explained that Fratelli is the only winery in a place called Akluj, six hours by car from Mumbai. There, only table grapes had been planted until Sekhri and six other investors started Fratelli in 2007. The first vintage was 2016.
The estate vineyard is 250 acres. Local farmers under contract grow grapes on another 250 acres, and an additional 50 acres will be planted each year. Production will remain small. The goal, Sekhri said, is to produce wine “of international quality, not an Indian wine for India.”
The next dinner wine was the J’NOON white (above), a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Sauvignon Blanc from the 2017 vintage.
The name J’NOON was adapted from an Urdu word that means passion. Boisset and Sekhri chose it to reflect the intensity of their feelings about their joint venture. The J’NOON wines are “both subtle and intense–just like India,” they say.
The first course for dinner was a tandoori prawn, chicken tikka and a kebab made from spinach, cheese and chickpeas (above).
Next came a puffy deep-fried poori filled with butter chicken or, for vegetarians, chickpeas (above).
The wine was the J’NOON red blend–66% Cabernet Sauvignon co-fermented with Petit Verdot and Marcelan, plus 4% Sangiovese. This big wine goes well with strongly flavored Indian dishes.
Another wine joined it, the Boisset Collection’s JCB Passion (above), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from the Napa Valley. Both held up when paired with the lamb curry rogan josh (at the top) and the sumptuous spicy black lentil dish called dal makhani.
To cool things down, there was icy pistachio kulfi for dessert along with the milk dumpling gulab jamun, soaked in rosewater and honey.
This was the first wine dinner held at the Bombay Palace since it opened in 1985, said owner Deep Sethi. No doubt he was inspired by the caliber of the J’NOON collection. “Someone has done it and done it really right,” he said.
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