**This article first appeared in The Indian Scene Magazine for November 2020**
Add a special touch to your Diwali celebrations by pairing your popular selection of sweets with these exemplary wines.
The festive season is in full swing with Diwali celebrations. This means a celebration with amazing foods. Typically we plan large Diwali celebrations with family and friends. This year the celebrations will be smaller but maybe that means grander.
Diwali is India’s biggest and most important holiday, this festival of lights celebrates the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. It marks the day Lord Rama came home after 14 years of exile and battling the demon, King Ravana. To celebrate the joyous return of Lord Rama, people light up their houses with diyas, lights and rangolis.
For many, the most fun part of the festivities is all the special Diwali sweets, otherwise known as mithai. Indian tradition is to prepare, distribute and enjoy these treats with family, friends and neighbors. Diwali is the time of year where we indulge in these decadent sweet treats.
The following are some of India’s most popular sweets and are an absolute delight to present to your guests for Diwali. Add an extra special touch and pair them with these delicious wines and impress your friends and family this festive season.
Rabadi is a popular North Indian treat made with thickened milk that is delicately sweetened and has layers of malai(cream). Cardamoms, saffron and dried fruits are added to enhance the flavors. The creamy textures of Rabadi is a perfect match for Pedro Ximenez (“PX”) sherry. This is a lusciously sweet sherry with notes of caramel and espresso. Try González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez, it is sure to please.
Gajar Halwa is made with grated carrots, ghee, sugar and condensed milk. To add complexity and richness, cardamon, and nuts are blended in. When I make Gajar Halwa I always have a slightly effervescent Moscato di Asti on hand. My favorite is Michel Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asto DOCG 2019.
Gulab Jamun is a quintessential Indian dessert of little pancake balls made of milk solids and flour, then soaked in a sweet rose flavored syrup. Everyone loves indulging in the sugary sweetness of Gulab Jamun. A lusciously sweet dessert-like Gulab Jamun deserves a decadent wine like the beautifully balanced Merry Edwards Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2018. I’m a huge fan.
Kalakand is a popular Diwali dessert prepared by reducing milk and sugar. It is often flavored with cardamom and rose essence. An off-dry riesling will pair delectably with Kalakand. The bright acidity of the Riesling is a great match for the creaminess of the Kalakand. One of my favorite Rieslings is St. Urbans-Hof Estate Riesling QbA from Old Vines.
Kaju Katli is easily prepared with a creamy blend of cashew nut and milk topped with an edible silver leaf. The nuttiness of the cashews makes it an ideal pairing for a tawny port. A match made in heaven is Kaju Katli and Taylor Fladgate 20-Year-Old, made by one of the oldest and finest port houses in Portugal. You will savor every bite.
Kulfi is an intensely sweet dessert most likened to ice cream. It is traditionally made with milk that simmers for hours, which gives it a caramelized flavor. Try a Tokaji with this dessert. Tokaji from Hungary is one of the most historic and delicious dessert wines. Chateau Dereszla 2009 Aszú 5 Puttonyos (Tokaji) pairs exceptionally well with Kulfi. The creamy flavors of the Kulfi are accompanied by enticing aromas of butterscotch, vanilla and caramel in the Tokaji. This is over-the-top luscious goodness.