From Punjab to Yecla

The Story of Chole Bhature

It was a nice warm January (I know! We are quite spoiled here in and around San Francisco) afternoon when the thought occurred to me.

During one of my recent visits to the wine store, I had purchased a bottle of a Monastrell from the Yecla region in Spain.


While thinking about pairings for this beautiful grape that goes by the name of Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre or Mataro), I immediately decided that it had to be a lentil/legume centric dish that could match the earthy notes of this grape and also is hearty enough to withstand its tannins and alcohol levels.

Bingo! The perfect dish just came to me like a flash - the ever comforting, hearty street food of the Amritsar district in the north western Indian state of Punjab - the finger-licking delish Chole Bhature!

Chole is a comfort food made with chickpeas that accompanies a Bhature that is a deep fried bread (made from maida aka all purpose flour). There is nothing that I do NOT like about everything that I just typed :)

And so I got down right to business - first, soaked the chickpeas overnight. The trick is to knead the flour for the Bhature a couple of hours before its ready to be fried - for a more softer Bhature. And I found a recipe to freshly grind the dry roasted spices that makes this dish to absolutely shine.

The next day I woke up thinking (drooling) about making this dish and how its going to pair with the wine....

I was done making the Chole and frying the Bhature soon after the day had started. Next, I plated the dish with its trademark accompaniments - raw onions, slit green chillies and a slice of lemon - Dhaba style!


The wine pairing with Chole Bhature

If you have not noticed yet, I do have a HUGE affinity to Spanish, Portugal & Northern Italian reds - especially while pairing them with Indian food.

So when I saw this red, luscious wine from the eastern region of Yecla in Spain, I just had to buy it (even if I did not have a concrete plan about the pairing just then). 


Yecla is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) neighboring the Jumilla DO - another amazing Spanish wine producing region. Both of these parts enjoy plenty of sunshine that is directly proportional to the abundant red fruit flavors that dominate Monastrell wines. As a bonus, Monastrell as a grape does amazingly well in this part of Spain


Tasting notes

Just look at that wine, its bold red color made it hard to even see it a midst the dark granite in my kitchen counter.

So as soon as I opened the bottle, on the nose there were these unmistakable ripe red fruits (explains the color?!) - raspberries, strawberries, cassis, I even got some dried prunes at the end.

I poured a very little amount, swirled and sipped diligently. Hmmm, the red fruits undeniably still came through. Additionally, I got some vanilla bean as an after taste (No oak though!). 

There was a good amount of body, any Spanish red would be proud of - I bet that's because of all the tannins specific to this grape in this terroir of Spain.

Monastrell is an interesting grape - especially as a varietal. The reason being, mostly its used as a blending grape, the most popular kind is the GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend. In all the wines where Monastrell is used as a blending grape, the main aspect expected from it, is the fruit forward flavors that it can bring to the table.


The verdict

So, it was now time to test out my theory (intuition) about this pairing.

Given its blending utilities, I was most curious to see how  this Monastrell would perform as a varietal (100% Mourvèdre). And I must say, it did a spectacular job standing tall - next to all the strong spices (cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves etc.) from the Chole.


The weight (14% ABV) also embraced the deep fried Bhature dipped in this "smorgasbord of flavors" called the Chole. 

I will say though, that I may have gone a little, teeny-weeny bit overboard with the spice levels in the Chole (unintentionally). If it were a little more subtle, I believe this pairing would have been even better.

Nothing major to to fret though. All in all it, was a good experiment turned great!

At the risk of sounding a little arrogant - I am going to say that everything that I had in mind about this food and wine pairing turned out to be quite accurate (that did sound more than a little arrogant huh? ;) )

Now, here's how I'd like to say Cheers! in Punjabi after this finger licking good endeavor - Khuśa rahō! 

And until next time, Alavidā! Adiós!