Matching individual wines to different foods has always been a test of a sommelier's skills, but it's something the Austrians seem to have cracked - even when it comes to the challenge of pairing wine to exotic Asian cuisine. Austria's winemakers are now highly regarded for producing wines that not only taste delicious but are remarkably versatile when it comes to complementing food.
, for example, is Austria's indigenous and most widely planted grape
, making up one third of the country's 125,000 acres of vineyard. As a light wine, it has a crisp, peppery freshness. Medium-bodied, it offers a finely structured approachability. And as a full-bodied wine, it exhibits a rich, lengthy piquancy. So you can see how it is that the
dry Grüner Veltliner can meet the full gamut of Asian cuisine's complex flavours
. Dim sum, Szechuan beef, sushi and sashimi, plus tandoori chicken and Thai curries are some dishes that marry well with Austria's flagship wine.
Austria's other great white grape, Riesling
, is not actually indigenous to this country, but its wines - especially the dry, fruity, mineral-rich specimens from Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal - are exceptional. Their complexity is in evidence, for example, when drunk with a dish such as fish with a thai curry sauce
. A full-bodied, rich Riesling - such as a late harvest smaragd from the Wachau
- carries the sharpness of the sauce, while its minerally finesse melds with the mild taste of the fish. Also, a medium-bodied Riesling is ideal with vegetable tempuras and fried spring rolls
: the crisp acidity and ripe peachy flavours of the wine harmonise with the light sweetness of the rolls. The tempuras are animated by the freshness of Riesling, particularly one with a bit of residual sugar.
, Austria's main red varietal
, exudes exciting berry fruit flavours (cherry, cranberry and lingonberry, for example), plus refined, effervescent acidity and tannins that are noticeable, but not overbearing. These characteristics make Blaufränkisch a good companion for recipes marked by umami
- a savoury brothy flavour, such as Szechuan and chilli beef
. The wine's fruit-acidity-tannin triumvirate stands up to the sharpness and intensity of the chilli and spices.
and its crispy variant can find an ideal partner in the Zweigelt
varietal. A medium-bodied version with plummy fruit not only enhances the roasted meat, but also harmonises with accompanying sauces. St Laurent
and its ancestor, Pinot Noir, will lend a subtle, piquant character to these dishes. Austria's inimitable sweet wines fit nicely with a dish such as tandoori chicken
. Of course, it need not be Asian cuisine with which you partner Austrian wine. As said, they are extremely versatile and with careful choosing will enhance the full dimension of flavours in any food. The fun is in finding out which goes best with what! For more information on Austrian wine, please visit: www.austrianwine.com