Wine and spice: Yalumba dinner at The Cinnamon Club…

Which are the best wines for spicy food? I joined a group of diners at The Cinnamon Club last Friday to pick up some tips.

The Cinnamon Club’s wine consultant, Laurent Chaniac, selected a colourful selection of top drops from South Australia’s Yalumba to accompany head chef Rakesh Ravindran Nair’s modern Indian cuisine.

Our aperitif was Janz Premium Cuvée Rosé, a Pinot Noir-dominant sparkling wine from Yalumba’s winery in Tasmania. Known as “Australia’s ice bucket”, Tasmania has a cool maritime climate and mountainous terrain making it an ideal place to grapes for fizz.

This sparkling rosé’s lively freshness and delicate red fruit worked a treat with a selection of canapés: lamb kebab in roomali bread, spiced prawn skewers on a mango coolis and tangy potato in a semolina shell.

At the table, we moved on to a more challenging match. Riesling is one of Australia’s specialities, particularly dry Riesling. Yalumba’s The Contours Riesling 2005 from the Eden Valley is both very dry (with a mere .5g per litre of residual sugar) and shows some mature fruit – the wine is released after five years in the bottle – but the wine’s zesty freshness is perfectly intact.

It was paired with a cold carpaccio of cured salmon, tandoori salmon and green pea relish. I felt that a slightly sweeter and more youthful Riesling might have complemented the tandoori salmon better. On the other hand, The Contours Riesling’s crisp acidity cut through the richness of the cured salmon; this combination was the clear winner for me.

The next courses all featured game, both feathered and four-legged varieties, giving the meal a seasonal touch. Tandoori partridge was served with The Virgilius Viognier 2008 which also comes from the Eden Valley. Yalumba has worked with this Rhône grape for nearly 30 years and its viticulturalists and winemakers have fine-tuned the style by letting the grapes ripen for longer to achieve richer peach and apricot flavours. The wine is aged on its lees for complexity and aged in mature oak barrels for just under a year.

This wine is also dry (2.1g of residual sugar) but the Viognier’s more overt fruit character matched the sweet spices of the tandoori partridge perfectly.

A main course of venison with poppy and coconut sauce and duck breast with saffron sauce was served with two Barossa Cabernet/Shiraz reds: The Signature 2005 and The Reserve 2001. Both wines are from good vintages and they have aged in oak for roughly the same time (22 and 20 months respectively). The Signature is matured in French, American and Hungarian oak and The Reserve exclusively in mostly new French oak. Both are fine wines but the more youthful of the two, The Signature, was my preferred choice for this dish.

The final pairing of the evening was an intriguing and delightful duo: Botrytis Riesling, Heggies Vineyard 2010 and shrikhand (Indian yoghurt) cheesecake with quince chutney. This sweet Riesling is made from vines located in an area of the Heggies Vineyard which is prone to autumn fog and humidity. These conditions encourage Botrytis (noble rot) to develop in the grapes which are left to ripen and shrivel well after the end of the main harvest – the intensely sweet berries were picked in the first half of June 2010. A light sweet wine (10% alcohol) this Riesling sees no oak and it has attractive citric and lychee fruit. It has all the criteria to match a gently spiced dessert.

I was curious to know more about the cheesecake – there seemed to be a hint of ginger which turns out to be cardamom. Rakesh has kindly sent me the recipe which is reproduced below.

With thanks to: Rakesh Ravindran Nair and the team at The Cinnamon Club and Jane Ferrari for both useful background on Yalumba and entertaining anecdotes.

Shrikhand cheesecake with carom seed crumble

For the cheesecake

250g Greek yoghurt (hung in muslin overnight)

100g Mascarpone cheese

100ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks

50g sugar

½ tsp green cardamom powder

For the crumble:

250g flour

250g sugar

180g ground almonds

250g salted butter, diced

5g carom seeds

For the crumble base, mix all the ingredients till a homogeneous mixture is achieved. Spread on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool and ‘crumble’.

For the cheesecake, fold all the ingredients together gently and chill.

To make up the cheesecake, place the crumble at the bottom of a dish or ring 2-3 cm thick. Fill the rest of the mould with the cheesecake mix and chill for a few hours before serving.

Serve with the cheesecake with a sweet chutney of your choice like quince chutney.

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