I am following Parr around Phelan Farms, his newest venture, where he– pretty much by himself and one helping hand– is growing unusual wines in a biodynamic fashion. The grape varieties that he reels off are unusual and he tells us little details about each plot. One is growing Savagnin (not sauvignon), a white grape from the Jura region of France, with a complicated genomic history that links it to Traminer but also wine varietals in Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Australia. There is another plot growing Mondeuse, another little planted grape from the Savoie region of the French alps, usually blended with other grapes. There is Mencia from Spain, which also is aromatic– a component that Parr seems to like. Other plots contain Poulsard, another red grape from Jura in France, that usually contributes the aroma to red blends. There is Gamay, Trousseau, and the usual suspects for California: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. All are grown biodynamically, by hand. As we walk through the plots, Parr points out his herbal concoctions and milk which he sprays to remove mildew.
Parr suggests picking high acid, dry, and saline whites, and fresh, crunchy, low alcohol, low-tannin reds. “Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gamay and Syrah work well with Indian food,” he says. “But it also depends on which part of the country the food is from.”
So we get specific.
What would he drink with Mughlai tandoor meaty food?”
“Orange wine from Italy,” he replies. More on that later.
With fish-based food from Kerala or his native Kolkata?
With vegetarian South Indian rice based food?
If he had to just take a bottle of wine to an Indian dinner, he’d probably go with a bottle of orange wine.
A favourite is Cantina Giardino from Campania, Italy.