Nikhil Agarwal has an extensive 16 year career in the wine industry. Not only is he a trained sommelier, writer, editor and international wine and spirits judge. He is also the brainchild behind All Things Nice, India’s leading wine, spirits and luxury consultancy. He went on to win the Wine Australia scholarship in 2012 and in 2013 Wine Australia made him their A+ Wine Educator in India. He was amongst five contenders shortlisted by the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2015 (IWSC) for The Julian Brind Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Wine and Spirits Industry.
Yauatcha Life caught up with Nikhil after his wine pairing dinner at Yauatcha Mumbai to find out about how to pair wine with Cantonese dim sum.
“As you probably know,dim sum is traditionally consumed with tea. While that has its own set of extraordinary pleasures, dim sum and wine is one of my favourite pairings; due to the size of each serving, you’re able to try a multitude of different flavours in one meal, giving you the added opportunity of trying a series of wines by the glass. I asked our server to split one glass into two for each wine ordered so that we could try as many different wines as possible. If you are on a path of wine pairing discovery, this is an approach I would recommend.
“You might assume that because of the manner in which dim sum is prepared – steamed, cooked or fried –white wines would be the best pairing option. Whilst this is largely true, a few styles of red wines pair just as well. For example, an earthy, acidic Sangiovese aged in oak for some time or an aged Pinot Noir would suit a meaty barbecue pork bun or the roasted duck pumpkin puff. For heavier, meatier dishes like the fatty and sweet pork spare ribs, these pair wonderfully with a big powerful Shiraz perhaps from the McLaren Vale or Barossa Valley.
“One of my all-time favourite dim sum dishes has to be the melt-in-your-mouth braised pork belly (which the folks at Yauatcha Mumbai do so well and should be given an award for!). The pork is soft and melts like butter. You could pair this dish with a powerful white such as a barrel-aged Viognieror or even an oak-aged Cabernet Sauvignon.
“The truffle edamame dumpling is indulgent and a favourite for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. The creamy edamame stuffing is enhanced with truffle oil, giving the kind of aromatics that only truffle can give. I love this dim sum with a cool climate Chardonnay like the ones from Chablis.
“A spicy har gau dumpling goes really well a zippy Sauvignon Blanc, preferably from New Zealand,giving the dim sum an extra touch of fruit. I also think that har gau goes superbly well with Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Riesling or a Chenin Blanc. These varietals offer intense floral and fruit notes that balance the spice, and are light with good acidity.
“Acidity in wine cuts through oily food: this is a basic wine and food pairing rule. The flavours of Yautcha’s crispy prawn dumpling open up when paired with Vermentino from Italy.
“The famous xiao long bao with its hot soupy centre is good enough to write many pages about. I like the play of hot and cold when it comes to food and wine; a chilled glass of Torrontes would match perfectly.
“I should say that I do believe that wine and Asian food in general are a great combination, and can offer just as much pleasure as the traditional ideas of food and wine pairing. This type of pairing is somewhat new to us from an Indian standpoint, however unless we give it a try we will never really understand how magical the two can be together.
“I digress once again… One of the standout dishes we had at Yauatcha Mumbai was the baked Chilean sea bass. The delicate and beautiful flavours combine beautifully with the fish’s natural texture. I like Pinot Grigio from Alsace here; both are just simply hedonistic pleasure.
“To end, we enjoyed the raspberry delice. We were too satiated to give another glass of wine a try, but I would highly recommend a chilled glass of their Vino Santo offering to match the fruitiness and sweetness of the dessert.
Unfortunately, an article this short cannot sum up in so few words truly what is on the menu to discover. The good news is that Yauatcha does pay a lot of attention to the training of their wine team, so when in doubt about which wines go with which food, the team will be more than capable of giving you great suggestions.”