I am by my own admission a bit of an amateur when it comes to wine. I know that I like it, perhaps a little too much, and have some knowledge around grape varieties and regions, but am by no means a wine buff.
I have been trying to expand my knowledge by the only means I know, that is by drinking and trying more wines.
One variety of wine that I have been particularly fond of is Riesling.
This star grape of German wine creates aromatic wines with a sweetness and acidity that lends itself well to spicy foods.
With this in mind, I quickly snapped up a pair of tickets to the recent Johannishof Riesling dinner at Brighton’s superb Indian restaurant, The Chilli Pickle.
The dinner was part of the many events that make up the Brighton and Hove Food Festival. Johannes Eser, director of Johannishof winery, a 10th generation producer of Riesling from its spiritual homeland, was to present his wine alongside chef Alun Sperring’s matched dishes.
After some brief introductions, we got on the important business of eating and drinking.
Our first two courses consisted of Indian street snacks. First up were Gol Gappa, mini puri shells that you filled with chickpeas, chutney and tamarind water. These deliciously fresh and enlivening morsels were washed down with a light “breakfast wine” which refreshed the palate.
Playfully inventive and fun Kadak cheese crispies followed making for a light and tasty start to the meal.
The fish course of “Pondicherry Fruits of the Sea” read like a bowlful of all the best shellfish you can think of. Scallops, mussels, crab cake and clams in a creamy curry with greens and a pancake.
This was a wonderful dish, with a generous helping of shellfish and a dramatic urchin-like crab cake. Matched perfectly with a dry and lemon rich Charta Riesling from 2013, this would be a tough act to follow.
Unless of course you follow it with arguably the best dish of last year. The Chilli Pickle’s pork knuckle vindaloo was created for last years OctoberBEST food event, and following public demand remained on the menu. This was my first experience of it, and it is impressive.
The slow cooked pork, which is seriously moreish, is encased in a crisp beer induced crackling shell so good it should come with a health warning.
The hot vindaloo sauce is fruity and rich, and accompanying potatoes, bread and apple salad all turn things up a notch. A top dish, and one you can still enjoy every Sunday – so get down there!
Dinner was completed by a refreshing pistachio kulfi which was matched with a superb dessert wine.
The 2011 Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Auslese dessert wine really blew me away with its fragrant peaches and cream flavour. I’ve recently come round to dessert wines and I was a massive fan of this one.
It had been a while since I last ate at The Chilli Pickle and I left wondering why it had been so long.
It is great to see that such a successful restaurant is not resting on its laurels and is continuing to impress, improve and innovate. I still love Riesling and it matched the food wonderfully. Next time you are looking for a wine to match your curry night, why not give it a try.