Chicken Salad and Viognier

Spices can rob wine of its fruit. That's why this Indian-spiced chicken salad requires a white with fruit to spare.

Perfect wine match
Spices of any kind have a notoriously difficult relationship with wine. The fiery ones tend to deaden the palate, while the sweet ones can rob a wine of its fruit. Reds end up tasting too tannic and whites too acidic. The Indian-spiced chicken salad also poses the perennial problem of finding a wine that can stand up to salad dressing; the acidity can strip the wine of its flavors. (A further challenge here is counterbalancing the sweetness of the papaya, port and cashews.) The solution? Make sure the wine you serve has fruit and richness to spare. My first choice is a white made from the exotic Viognier grape. Its rich, floral, perfumed flavor is the perfect foil for the salad, and the 1999 Bonterra ($19) from Mendocino County, California, is a particularly fine example. Made from organic grapes, it has a wonderfully expressive apricot character. My second choice is an Alsace Gewürztraminer, specifically one of the voluptuous versions from star producer Zind-Humbrecht. Its 1997 Herrenweg ($40) is packed with the flavors of rose petal, violet and fresh lychee.

--Robert Joseph

PUBLISHED August 2001

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