May 2016: Dinner with Mr Kailash Gurnani

Mr Charles on the left and Mr Kailash Gurnani on the right

It’s been a while since the March issue of The Grape Vine, but it's time for the anniversary issue, and I have finally found a topic to do it justice.  This year the topic of this special issue is dinner with Mr Kailash Gurnani, Chief Wine Maker at York Vineyards.

The 29th of April 2916 at the Lalit Hotel, New Delhi, saw Mr Kailash Gurnani, and Mr Charles Donnadieu (sommelier at the Lalit), take fellow diners through 4 wines by York which are now available at the Lalit.

The Menu for the York Vineyards wine dinner at the Lalit, Barakhamba Rd, New Delhi

Mr Gurnani is the youngest wine maker in India, having studied Oenology (the science of making wine) at the University of Adelaide in Australia. He was actually under the legal drinking age in Australia (and of course India) while he was enrolled at the program. So in effect- he was making wine long before he was legally allowed to drink it!

The first wine for the evening- the aperitif used to welcome guests was the York Chenin Blanc. A still wine with much depth, and well balanced acidity. This wine had lovely buttery and dairy aromas which Mr Gurnani explained were from the lees and not from other sources. The wine has minimal oak. There was of course a hint of waxiness which is typical of the Chenin Blanc grape.

This wine was awarded the bronze medal at the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Wine and Spirit Competition.

The Chenin Blanc was paired with small portions of the Pheni Parantha, which had lightly toasted sesame on top (a product of the “nanery”). The parantha had a crisp exterior and a soft as butter interior. The combination of textures and the toasted notes of the sesame paired exceptionally well with the wine, each bringing out the best the other had to offer. As always, the combination of nuts and butter is a classic.

The next wine of the night was the York Sauvignon Blanc. A surprisingly herbaceous wine on the palate, this wine was paired with the Murgh Malai tikka and the Methi Fish tikka. Both of these were prepared exceptionally well, and I only wish there was more to eat on my plate! As for the pairing, the Methi Fish tikka paired just a hint better with the herbaceous nature of the Sauvignon Blanc. The Murgh Malai tikka redirected ones attention to the minerality of this wine, which was also very welcome.

The third wine for the evening was the Arros. Named after the nieces and nephews of Mr Gurnani, this wine was decanted and caraffed for at least 45 minutes prior to serving. A blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, you could quite easily taste the Syrah on the palate with its tell-tale peppery notes. Overall strong but pleasantly so.This wine was paired with the main course for the evening, which was the Rara Ghost (a spelling which amused me), the Dum ka Murgh (essentially a lot like a butter chicken),The Paan biryani, The Dal Baluchi, and the Pudhina parantha.

To my mind, the pairing went best with the mutton. The texture and the tannins from the red meat were natural allies in the pairing with the Arros. Next, I tried the Dal Baluchi- Black Urad dal cooked in butter and spices. A heavy vegetarian dish, here I felt the red wine cut through the butter and the spices to provide balance to the rich food. I liked this pairing.

 The chicken (Dum ka Murg)….. . To my surprise, the spice of the dish paired well with Arros. I was personally not a huge fan of the Pan biryani paired with the wine. I would give it a big thumbs up with the food any day, but I’m not sure the strong flavour of the pan went with the strong flavours and bouquet of the Arros.

The last wine for the evening was the York Sparkling Brut which was paired with the desert course. This wine was also made from the Chenin Blanc grape and it is interesting how the same grape in a another avatar can taste so different. Made by the Method Traditional, this was well made with not more than 10g/l sugar.

Dessert was a trio of sweets consisting of a kind of sweet bread, Pan Kulfi, and lastly the Gulukand Gulab Jamun. To my mind, it is usually very difficult pairing Indian style dessert with wine because Indian sweets are usually not shy when it comes to the sugar- and when paired with Brut wines, the combination tends to highlight the lack of sugar in the wine when compared to the dessert. So unfortunately I cannot give this combination a thumbs up, and this would be an issue with not just York but any Brut Sparkling wine. Perhaps a Demi-Sec would fare better.
But I will say that it was definitely a good attempt. The wine and the desserts would have tasted fine separately, but this unfortunately was not a harmonious combination in my book.

To end, I pay my compliments to the chefs, Mr Charles Donnadieu and to Mr Kailash Gurnani for bringing us the best that York and the Lalit Barakhamba Road have to offer to the discerning Indian. I wish them the best in their future endeavors and look forward to enjoying more of their wines and creating lasting memories with them.