The Indian Wine Academy dedicated a full week in January to the promotion and enjoyment of Sicilian wines, which have almost been hitherto-unsung heroes, owing to the decades old established perception that Sicily is mostly good for bulk wines. But a few connoisseurs and budding wine enthusiasts got to see firsthand just how untrue this statement is, first at a series of Masterclasses in Sicilian Wine (in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bengaluru) and then at a wine dinner organised in Mumbai by the Indian Wine Academy Mumbai Zone headed by Rishi Vohra CSW.
The Indian Wine Academy has long been a staunch supporter and promoter of wines from this amazingly diverse region and got a rare opportunity to present a few of the wines that have never before been tasted in India, to a select audience, paired with a fabulous 5-course meal at the Pali Village Cafe in Mumbai on January 25th.
Pali Village Cafe has the distinction of officially being the first wine bar in Mumbai and enthusiastically supported the Indian Wine Academy Mumbai Zone in putting together a memorable evening for the 20-odd guests who walked into the quaint setting of the restaurant's private dining room that can best be described as charmingly 'urban crumble'.
As guests walked in, they were welcomed with a glass of the refreshing Ottoventi Zibibbo 2011. They also enjoyed an array of appetizers including the Roast Garlic Marinated Chicken, Prawns in Lemon Coriander Broth, Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Roasted Red Pepper Humus with pita bread, and the most delicious thin crust mini-pizzas - Garlic, Mushroom and Smoked Scarmoza for the vegetarians and Chicken and Capers for the non-vegetarians.
The simple, delicately perfumed, summery wine with a soft finish was perfect as a quaffing wine even before the appetizers were served but was also a great match with the majority of them, that kept coming in a steady flow even after the next course, the Greek Salad, was served and the next white wine poured - the Castellucci Miano Catarratto 2011. This was an undisputed hit with the white wine drinkers who managed to finish all four bottles of it! A pleasant dry white wine with hints of peach and soft citrus fruit, it was a particular favourite among the ladies.
While people enjoyed finishing up the appetizers and salad, the special guest of the evening, Cavaliere Subhash Arora, the Founder of the Indian Wine Academy (and the man behind promoting the Sicilian wines at the Masterclasses for the second year in a row) gave the diners a bit of background on the wines as well as a few tips on how to enjoy the wine.
He welcomed the opening of the Mumbai Zone of the Indian Wine Academy and had more than a few appreciative words to say about the fabulous menu that the Pali Village Cafe had organized. He also informed guests that he had expected some of the Sicilian wine producers to attend the dinner but unfortunately, due to itinerary glitches, they had to leave before the event. They would certainly have enjoyed trying their own wines with a decidedly un-Sicilian menu!
As guests were served the main course - Chicken and Jalapeno Risotto/Roasted Tomato and Mascarpone Risotto - they were also served an unexpected treat - some special Sicilian Olive Oil, organically made from a Sicilian olive varietal called Cerasuola. Following a tip from Subhash, some of the guests were happy to pour this delicious oil over their risotto and the combination of the Benanti Serra della Contessa Etna DOC 2004, took taste buds to a whole new level! A medium-bodied Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio Blend with fresh acidity and silky tannins and a decent burst of red fruits, it went rather well with the creamy texture of the risotto.
Unlike most organized wine dinners that have strictly-paired food-wine menus, Indian Wine Academy Mumbai Zone was able to enhance the experience by serving more than one wine per course, especially the reds. Along with their risottos, the diners were also able to sample a couple of bottles of the Feudo Montoni Vrucara Nero d'Avola IGT 2009. This gave people a chance to compare the two reds and taste the difference as they sampled each wine with their food.
The luxury of having two wines to choose from extended into the Entree as well. The menu offered vegetarians a choice between the Home-made Chilli Linguine, Penne in Bell Pepper Cream Sauce and at Chef Conrad's special recommendation, the Pumpkin and Quinoa Construct; the non vegetarians had a difficult time choosing between three equally mouthwatering options of the Grilled Tenderloin, Grilled Pork Chops or the Cajun Dusted Norwegian Salmon, a popular favourite at the Pali Village Cafe.
Guests were able to try the Curto Giombattista Nero D'Avola, a predominant red grape Sicilian varietal with a full bodied structure and nice acidity. It certainly was a fabulous match with my grilled pork chops in pink peppercorn jus with caramelized apple mash!
I did have a hard time though, when I tried a glass of the organic Gulfi Reseca 2007 from their Etna vineyard after polishing off the first pork chop on my plate - the dry, medium bodied red was slightly high on tannins but had a surprising burst of flavor on the mid-palate and a nice finish. The vegetarian guests were urged specially by Subhash to try this one with their entree.
Chef Conrad again outdid himself on the two desserts served - the Vanilla Scented Pena cotta with a zingy passion fruit Gastrique and the velvety smooth Hazelnut Mousse, both beautifully presented and equal hits among the guests. His menu for the evening and Bazil Moniz, (the Manager at Pali Village Cafe as well as their Indian cuisine offshoot Pali Village Bhavan) and his professional, attentive wait-staff ensured that guests had a unique gastronomic experience that was not limited to wine alone.
For a first event, the evening was a satisfying success for the Indian Wine Academy Mumbai Zone, with several of the guests expressing a keen desire to attend the next wine dinner. More evenings such as this one are definitely on the cards and the IWA plans to start accepting memberships in the near future as well. If you're in Mumbai, and would like to be a part of Indian Wine Academy Mumbai Zone, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we shall keep you posted on our forthcoming events!
Tags: Rishi Vohra CSW, Natasha Vohra, Sicilian wines, Masterclasses in Sicilian Wine, Indian Wine Academy Mumbai Zone, Pali Village Cafe, first wine bar in Mumbai, Ottoventi Zibibbo 2011, Castellucci Miano Catarratto 2011, Cavaliere Subhash Arora, Cerasuola, Sicilian Olive Oil, Benanti Serra della Contessa Etna DOC 2004, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio Blend, Feudo Montoni Vrucara Nero d'Avola IGT 2009, Curto Giombattista Nero D'Avola, Gulfi Reseca 2007, Chef Conrad, Pali Village Bhavan