The excitement of wine is not only because it is good for health. Not only because it is a lifestyle product that goes well with food. Not only because it is fashionable. Not only because it is produced from grapes-and a God’s gift to man. Not only because it’s a low alcohol beverage. But also because it is perhaps the only beverage that changes its character based on the grape, soil, terroir and has a stamp of a country, its climate, people, history and philosophy of its people.
We all generally love Sauvignon Blanc-every wine drinker has had it on more than one occasion. Sula introduced it in India and it became its calling card as a quality producer and a producer making varietals. But try drinking the one made during the last few years by Grover Zampa in Bangalore and compare it with the one in Nashik. Go to Hampi Hills and taste the difference with Krsma wine in your glass (You could also drink it in Bangalore). Or try Fratelli. Same grape-but different soils and climatic conditions and style and flavours.
Your palate will tell you what it likes. It may be able to even identify the area- I find Nashik Sauvignons distinctly herbaceous. But it’s the experience of tasting these wines that enriches the experience and eventually lets you make choices.
Many of us are fortunate enough to travel overseas for whatever reasons- France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa or even to lesser known countries like Slovenia. But even if we don’t get to travel to these places-certainly most of us won’t have time, inclinations, extra cash or desire to visit all of these countries. But you can taste the same Sauvignon Blanc from all these countries in India or wherever you are and feel the difference.
French Sancerre might have even been a benchmark earlier but today your palate can savour the same from South of France. How about a taste of Sauvignon Blanc from the Southern part of Austria? So delicious, lush and totally different-you could practically feel the mountains if you had read about the beautiful region near Graz in southern Styria. You may love New Zealand without ever having set feet on their soil. But if you did some more legwork- oops palate work, you might find the difference in the well-know Marlborough and other areas like Martinborough or Hawke’s Bay.
Sauvignon Blanc (SB) from Casablanca in Chile, Napa valley in the USA (especially Fumé style introduced by Robert Mondavi- or from Cakebread Cellar or Honig), the slightly tart Sauvignon from South Africa, the local version from Spain (like Fransola from Torres), Italy (Gaja Alteni di Brassica Langhe)-the list goes on and on. Good thing is that practically all of these wines are available in India for your palate to enjoy and memorize the flavour and the nuances.
I have given only one example of a grape varietal. This holds true equally well for other white grapes. Riesling is a perfect example. Germany is known for the best and the worst Rieslings. But you have excellent ones from Austria as well-or Australia. Within Germany you have Mosel, Rheingau, Palatinate (Pfalz), Baden and Franconia and other regions producing it-each with its own character. Our very own country has Sula pioneering the rather difficult grape.
Red wines are even more versatile. A good example would be Sangiovese-a difficult grape to grow out of Italy and ostensibly best suited to Tuscany where Chianti is the king using the grape as the predominant varietal. Yet it does wonders to Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino (Brunello clone), Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (predominantly Sangiovese clone known locally as Prugnolo Gentile). Yet Emilia Romagna and Marche regions produce it as well and your palate will tell the difference with a bit of training. Your palate will enjoy the Sangiovese from Fratelli (Maharashtra) and also Krsma (Karnataka). You could also chance upon the grape in wines from Australia or the USA.
There are certain grapes that are unique to their country or regions. Taste a white wine from Etna in Sicily a few times and pretty soon you will end up near the volcanic Mount Etna every time your palate tastes the singular blend of Carricante and Catarratto. You don’t need to visit Etna or know anything about the grapes. The unique minerality would transport you to the region if you have learnt a bit about it. If you have been to the producing area, of course you will find yourself in that favourite region, spot or in the company of people you enjoyed it with.
Not the right example to showcase a product (since it is not related to wine) but here is a great one to show the relevance. Several years ago when 100 Pipers was being introduced in India, there were surrogate Ads on TV suggesting that the moment you took a sip of the Scotch Whisky you would be in Scotland and hear the bagpipers playing their bagpipes and you didn’t even have to leave your drawing room!
The point of it all is that if you are intelligent enough to have taken to drinking wine, you don’t need to go places-physically. But let your palate go to those places. Try drinking wine from the same grape but different wineries, different regions and countries in 2015. It will enhance your knowledge and even help evolve your palate. The only downside is it may make your desire to visit those places, wineries or the countries. This is a dream you may or may not be able to fulfill. But your palate will certainly become widely travelled.
Therefore, take a tip from me. Let Your Palate Go Places in 2015!
Wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year and May you manage to take your palate physically to at least some of the places during the year.