Pairing Spicy Dishes & Wines with Vikram Vij and Sean Nelson

Mar18th

Introduction

How sparkling wine spice up your menu? What complementary taste rule can you use to pair your food with wine? Which wines should you never pair with Indian food? Which red wine should be at the top of your list for pairing with spicy food? Does ambiance affect your wine tasting experience?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, Celebrity chef and author Vikram Vij and Head Sommelier Sean Nelson share their insider tips and tricks to help you pair wine with spicy, complex food like a pro.

You can find the wines we discussed here.

 

Highlights

  • What should you know about the Indian wine industry?
  • How should you approach food and wine pairing?
  • Why should you try Contratto and Blue Mountain sparkling wine as Champagne alternatives?
  • How can you use sparkling wine’s cleansing effect to spice up your menu?
  • What complementary taste rule can you use to pair your food with wine?
  • Which wines should you never pair with Indian food?
  • Why did Vikram brush his teeth with bubbly?
  • Should you drink sparkling wine throughout a meal?
  • Does Riesling pair well with spicy food?
  • Why does the specific Gewurtztraminer have to be carefully chosen when pairing with spicy food?
  • How can you keep your palate from feeling overwhelmed when tasting wine?
  • What can you expect from the wine selection at Vij’s?
  • Why should you have a glass of Krug at Vij’s?
  • Which red wine should be at the top of your list for pairing with spicy food?
  • Does ambiance affect your wine tasting experience?
  • Why did Sean decide to study to become a sommelier?
  • How did Vikram’s grandfather inspire him to become a restauranteur?
  • Why did Vikram decide to go for his sommelier certification?
  • How did Vikram recover from a wine re-gifting faux pas?
  • What was the most embarrassing moment of Sean’s career?
  • What were the most memorable moments of Vikram and Sean’s careers so far?
  • Who would Vikram and Sean most want to share a bottle of wine with?

 

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About Vikram Vij and Sean Nelson

Vikram Vij was born in India in 1964 and lived in New Delhi and Bombay until the age of 20, when he went to study, live and work in Austria. While he was there he received his chef certificate from the Salzburg Hotel Management School. Vikram moved to Canada in 1989 to work at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta.

Vikram became a certified sommelier from the International Sommelier Guild in 2000, and is passionate about pairing wines with his cuisine.

Vikram is a serial restauranteur, author and television personality and he has appeared on hit shows such as Chopped, Top Chef, and Dragons’ Den. He’s also the first Indian chef to earn a sommelier degree.

Sean was born in White Rock, BC and grew up in Greater Vancouver. He entered the Hospitality industry at age 16 and after becoming certified and spending time in wine regions around the world, in 2013, upon returning to Vancouver he took the job of Sommelier at Vij’s Restaurant.

While at Vij’s, Sean passed his Advanced Sommelier Examination on the first attempt to become Western Canada’s youngest Advanced Sommelier in 2016.

Vij’s Restaurant has been awarded back to back Platinum Awards at the Vancouver Wine Festival Wine List Awards of Excellence in 2016 and 2017 and in 2017 was named one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 10 Wine Restaurants in Canada.

 

Resources

 

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Thirsty for more?

  • Sign up for my free online wine video class where I’ll walk you through The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
  • Join me on Facebook Live Video every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern for a casual wine chat.
  • You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
  • The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over is now available on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and other country-specific Amazon sites; iTunes.ca, iTunes.com and other country-specific iTunes sites; Audible.ca and Audible.com.

 

Transcript & Takeaways

Welcome to episode 68!

Do you wonder how to pair wine and spicy foods? What happens when you turn up the heat in a dish? How does that affect the wine? As I get older (hmm) I find I’m amping up the heat on spicy dishes… is that a sign of a maturing palate or one that can’t taste much anymore? I’ll go with the first option.

However, I don’t want to give up on wine. That’s where our guests on today’s episode of Unreserved Wine Talk can help us.

They work together to create one of Canada’s best restaurants renowned for both its food and wine. Celebrity chef and author Vikram Vij has written numerous best-selling cookbooks. He’s also been on hit shows such as Chopped, Top Chef, and Dragons’ Den. He’s the first Indian chef to earn a sommelier degree. Head Sommelier Sean Nelson also joins us. He became Western Canada’s youngest advanced sommelier graduate in 2016 and is now working toward a coveted Master Sommelier designation.

This conversation first aired on my regular Facebook live video show so occasionally you’ll hear me respond to viewer questions and comments. You can join that conversation every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern.

I’ll put a link where you can find us in the show notes, as well as links to their websites, social media handles and the video version of this conversation at nataliemaclean.com/68. Since our conversation, Sean Nelson has moved on to another renowned restaurant in Vancouver called Hawksworth.

Speaking of pairing difficult dishes and wine, you can avoid those disasters when you sign up for my free, online video wine class the 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!).

Go to nataliemaclean.com/class and choose a time and date that work for you. I look forward to seeing you inside the class!

Okay, on with the show!

 

You can also watch the video interview with Vikram and Sean that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.

 

Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this chat with Vij Vikram and Sean Nelson.

Here are my takeaways:

  1. I love how Vij describes a restaurant at being on stage, a performance for the guests. They bring to the table a democracy of palates. I’ve always loved the drama and threatre of dining out.
  2. I equally loved Sean’s description of tasting his first great wine, he says I didn’t know wine could do the things it did… I think we all have a memory of the first wine that moved us to become passionate about learning more about it.
  3. Vikram shares some interesting developments about the Indian wine industry… there was also an article in the Sunday New York Times this past weekend about that. I’m very curious to try Indian wines.
  4. Sean made my mouth water with his pairing of sparkling wine with spicier and heavier Indian dishes: how the bubbles and acidity cut through the fat and cream and heat. I like how he characterizes Indian food as loud and energetic and that it needs an equally expressive wine.
  5. I think the best tip is clearing up the misperception that gewurztraminer (spice wine) should be our default pairing with spicy food when often it doesn’t have enough acidity or the off-dry character that riesling does.

If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the fascinating wine tips Vij and Sean shared. You’ll find links to their websites, social media handles, the video version of this conversation and where you can find us on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/68.

Finally, if you want to connect with me personally, join me in a free online video class at nataliemaclean.com/class.

Thank-you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a wine that pairs perfectly with your favourite spicy dish!

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