What to drink with Cape Malay dishes
Ingrid Casson offers help with the challenge of picking the right wine to drink with Cape Malay dishes
Burrowing into Cape Malay history, you'll find little tradition in wine-drinking - those who were non-Muslims tended to stick to brandewyn and beer. So Cape Malay food didn't evolve around a particular wine style.
This cuisine can be tricky to pair with wine, given the complex combinations of Asian and Dutch influences - in any one dish you can take a taste tour through salty to sweet, spiced, fatty, smoky and curried. It's often best to follow the basic rule of thumb in food and wine pairing: rich, heavier foods need heavier wines; light foods need light wines. But if we want to get a bit more technical, here are some wine styles that would rest happily with a Cape Malay spread.
AROMATIC, OFF-DRY WHITES
Off-dry wines are becoming cool again . This is partly because these wines can be so food-friendly. They work really well with a Cape Malay curry because these dishes often either call for sweet ingredients or they're served on the side as sambals. Off-dry wines are also often fragrant and a bit spicy, so they're a good choice with a savoury dish laced with heady spices such as cinnamon or star anise. Stick to a white that's clean, fruity and low in acid, so its character doesn't fight with the strong flavours of the food.
Food: Bobotie cooked with brown sugar and raisins.
Try: Viognier, gewürztraminer, sylvaner.
Pick: Simonsig Gewürztraminer 2011, R65.
SPICY, LIGHT-BODIED REDS AND ROSÉS
Light, easy-drinking red wines are heroes with food as they're not too boisterous. Often they'll have a nice silky spice, berry juiciness and a decent wedge of acid to cut through fatty foods. They're also more subtle in body and tannin, giving the food a chance to breathe. A good idea is to chill the bottle to bring out the fruitiness. Likewise, ripe rosés with body and a smack of sweetness love this kind of food.
Food: Sosaties skewered with lamb fat and dried apricots.
Try: Ruby cabernet, grenache or Italian varieties such as barbera or sangiovese.
Pick: Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Gamay Noir Rosé 2011, R47.
It's a South African classic, so shouldn't pinotage be a happy match with Cape cuisine? Well, it is. Its juiciness, lush tannins and spice make it a natural with the spicy-fruit flavours of Cape Malay food - especially as most pinotages have a kiss of sweetness, even if, technically, they are dry. Pinotage is a versatile table wine as there are quite a few styles about. Lighter styles (cherry, herbs, pepper) pair well with light meat dishes, whereas the medium-bodied style (coffee, chocolate and banana) can carry off something a bit more robust.
Food: Cape Malay lamb curry.
Try: A light- or medium-bodied pinotage.
Pick: Durbanville Hills Pinotage 2009, R78.