Photos By:: Adil Arora
|Dott. Gianluca Carrabs (l), the state minister of Marche with other visitors at Olive Beach
The star wine maker owner Enzo Mecella from the winery of the same name in the town of Fabriano, about 40 kms from Ancona was present along with a few top officials of the region including the state minister Dott. Gianluca Carrabs and several government delegates.
During the 150+ wine events organised by the Delhi Wine Club, it has conducted several winemaker dinners and workshops, with many restaurants launching their openings or re-openings and even new wine launches. So when Mr. H R Ahuja, the Marketing Director of Riona Wines offered a pre-launch of Italian wines from the Marche region from Moncaro and this visiting winemaker, an immediate acceptance was natural.
The club boasts of tasting over a thousand wines including the numerous wines available at the wine shows. But the prospect of tasting wines for the first time in the country was quite exciting. Having been to the region last year when I tasted over two hundred of their wines including Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Rosso Piceno reds, I was very curious about these wines.
The DOC appellation of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi may sound intimidating to the uninitiated. But it is quite logical when you have visited the area. The medieval town of Jesi, very close to the Adriatic, is surrounded by small mountains known as castelli (in Italian). Therefore, the appellation simply classifies the wine as Verdicchio (grape varietal) of the hills of Jesi (pronounced as yay-zee).
Verdicchio makes very interesting and delicious crispy and fruity wines which can be simple or more concentrated and complex but are always very palatable due to their slightly citrus fruity flavours that would entice the Indian palate and my first and foremost impression at the first taste was that the Indian palate would love it, when they arrived in the Indian market.
So it was not surprising when the wine served as an aperitif at the dinner with interesting snacks- Tuna rolls, delicious blue cheese and walnut doughnuts (sweet from the outside, savoury from the inside) and Duck Confit cigars was finished before the ETF (expected time to finish) - members kept on asking for it way past the table- seating time.
Seared rare salmon and char sui oxtail with a wasabi dressing and the open ravioli of wild mushrooms and asparagus with a warm truffle dressing and parmesan foam were a novel creation from the newly anointed Chef Justin, well paired with the otherwise lackluster but clean and quaffable Capriccio- a Chardonnay based IGT wine.
Smoked tomato and Almond consommé with a goats cheese tortelli enamoured even the non-vegetarians-it could be because it could handle Le Silve very well. Le Silve is a 100% Montepulciano based easy drinking wine with soft tannins. Montepulciano is also a wine growing area in Tuscany making unforgettable Nobile and Rosso di Montepulciano from a noble clone of Sangiovese. Montepulciano is also the grape growing in many regions of Italy but mainly in Abruzzo and Marche both of which claim to make better quality. It is used as a varietal or a blend with Sangiovese, the taste of which we got with the main dish, as Colle Malvano.
However, the 100% Merlot wine which did not impress on the first sip, kept on growing on you and before the glass was finished, it was obvious that the oak cellared wine had a great personality and ageing potential and with a bit of decanting, this hugely complex wine with a great balance and harmony and a special character is quite enjoyable. It over-powered the seared rare tuna with foie gras and a tempura of oyster, a dish which some found too rare, but an interesting and nouvelle preparation all the same.
Saddle of suckling pig with Chestnut mash and minted baby vegetables was a bit of a disappointment though the fifth wine of the evening, the Montepulciano and Sangiovese blend- Colle Malvano was a great hit as the wine as well as the pairing. The meat was too dry despite the support from the excellent condiments. As Chef owner-member Nataloni on our table said, it required a few herbs to make the flavours burst out.
The last wine to be served with the outstanding caramelized pistachios and banana on puff pastry with gold leaf vanilla bean ice cream was a great combo. Tordiruta is a late harvest Verdicchio which means that the grapes are left on the vines for a longer period, thus making them concentrated in sugar. A delicious dessert wine which is fairly well balanced but with a shade lower acidity, it could well be drunk in lieu of the actual dessert itself .
The service by the staff managed by the restaurant manager Shailesh Jha was excellent. What was commendable was the way the staff kept the members happy-something that the Chef seemed to miss. With a chip on his shoulder (a Ramsay Gordon touch maybe!!) he seemed flustered, as it was perhaps his first wine event where pre-plated dinner had to be served. With a nudge from the PR department he should become a darling of the Olive Beach crowd- just like Chef Saby and others in the top order.
Launching at the Park
Photos By:: Adil Arora
‘If one has not heard of these fabulous wines in India or even in many parts of the world, the people of Marche are partly to blame. There has not been much promotion by this region, one of the smaller Italian regions which many people unfairly compare to Tuscany because of its rolling hills and beautiful vineyards sloping down steeply- some as high as 500 meters above the sea level,’ is what I wrote in one of my articles on the region last year.
As if to prove me wrong, the official launch at the poolside Aqua Restaurant at the Park Hotel had all the trappings that had the guests clamouring for more, what with the beautiful environs and the Italian damsels dancing to the tunes of Bollywood as well as native numbers and a whole lot of Italian speaking guests from the Marche region present, with four variants of wines to go with enough sumptuous snacks.
What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Supposedly, the wines could not be served till a bottle was uncorked officially on the sets created for the wine and women to dance. But the guests were getting restless and so the egg came first, chicken be damned. And the guests loved the Verdicchio so much that they were in a good mood when the wine was officially uncorked and thus launched by the Marche minister Gianluca Carrabs, fashion model Amanpreet Wahi standing tall, fashion designer Jatin Das, , KT Mane-CEO of Riona Winery, Enzo Mecella and HR Ahuja.
There were two Verdicchio wines at the launch party- Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Moncaro and Casa Fosca. The guests discussed their favourites as if they were Pepsi and Coke. Le Silve and Colle Malvano were repeats from the previous day and were both in high demand. I don’t remember anyone saying he or she did not like any of the four wines. Many were ready with their valets to place a quick order, unsurprisingly.
Riona Wines also launched these labels on 17th December in the lawns of Renaissance Hotel in Powai where members of Terroir One- Mumbai Chapter of the Delhi Wine Club were also invited. A few members did venture to go to the traffic-ridden suburb but most, including the club President who was going to report about the event, had to return disappointed as they were caught in a horrific traffic jam. The wines are also being launched at the Westin Hotel in Pune on Monday, December 21.
Riona Wines which is a joint venture with the Marche based wineries, Moncaro and Enzo Mecella, is also coming out with Indian wines next year with the staple varietals of the Sangli region where it is based. It will be interesting to see how the Italian touch shapes these wines. Of course, they are also trying to grow Italian varieties and one has to wait to see if and how successful they are. Both Mane and Enzo are keeping their fingers crossed and their mouths shut on the possible outcome.
The best part of these wines, the 13 labels of which have been registered in Delhi and are already available in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune have been priced extremely reasonably between Rs.900+ and Rs.1600+ (Tordiruta at 2500+ being a natural exception), and are a great value-for-money buys for wine connoisseurs. It is only a matter of time that the wines will catch the fancy of Indian palates in these metros due to the excellent price points and a different yet pleasant experience which the wines of Enzo Mecella and Moncaro have to offer.
For some of the earlier articles related to the region and my visit, click