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Swaad and Sparklers may Swoon you in 2014

Posted: Tuesday, 24 December 2013 15:08

Swaad and Sparklers may Swoon you in 2014

Dec 24: With the wine market limping along due to several factors, the government being the Big B in a seemingly ‘khalnayak’ role, next year starts with a cautiously optimist note for us in India but we hope to be swooned with a lot more of sparkling wines with the buzz created by Moet et Chandon’s desi avatar Chandon and perhaps the consumer realizing that what they are looking for are the ‘Swaad’ wines-a term not coined but frankly being promoted by me

Other day I was at a music soiree where Sula was being served as the aperitif white wine; I could tell from the corner of my eye. The usual stuff- except the wine was exceptionally delicious! Really Swaad, in my wine dictionary! I went back to the bar counter and double checked-it was 2013! I took another bottle-same vintage, really swaad! Normally, I would have gone back to Sula’s winemaker Ajoy Shaw and asked him what could be the reason for the excellent flavour-was it a better vintage, better winemaking or simply my impression? This reminded me of earlier vintages a decade ago when the wine was absolutely delicious-apart from the usual gooseberry, asparagus, grassy descriptions that one is used to.

One often reads in the western wine press, experts exhorting the Asians to evolve their own local wine terms based on their fruits, vegetables or other home grown products, egging one of our local experts to opine at a wine dinner he had hosted that the wine tasted very nicely like lassi (yogurt- based drink). I almost felt sick and found the term as repulsive as ‘cat’s pee’ that might be used by some wine experts to describe the Sula Sauvignon Blanc 2013 I was enjoying this evening.

Not to say that we cannot have our indigenous descriptions. There are a few times when I have come across wines during wine tastings and judging when I find the flavours remind me of jamun, falsas or anaar (pomegranates)- not common but not very rare either. Of course, amrood (guava), cheekoo are also present some times. But I look for the ultimate in wine flavour; when it is really ‘swaad’ and I hope that more and more people use the term in the Indian context when it is really delicious.

First-off, it is not a term invented or coined by me- it has been in use in various Indian languages including Hindi and used perhaps before the wine was ever made in India. It’s used to describe food taste (generally as a noun but I use it as an adjective as I have often done for years when the dish was finger-licking delicious-and included samosas, jalebis, and chana bhatoora  (usually, it is not the Michelin star type of food, though on occasions I still salivate when I think of some of the dishes I had years ago in Italy- they were so ‘swaad’!!

I have been writing about the term at various platforms and have received a positive response in that may people are already using the term to describe the wines and food. So what exactly is ‘swaad’? I don’t know- it’s like Umami, difficult to describe exactly . Of course, it encompasses the term ‘delicious’, but it is much more. A blogger who picked it up from one of my write-ups says it describes a really rocking wine. I agree with him but not totally. To me, there is also an emotional connect- touching the soul, if you believe in metaphors. It doesn’t necessarily reflect the top quality-technically. But it gives you that feeling of ultimate satisfaction and you want to scream “Eureka”! There is an orgasmic touch to it.

Sula Sauvignon Blanc 2013 may not be the best in the world - but it was ‘Swaad’. No wonder I downed 4 glasses instead of my usual single at the same venue. I hope ‘Swaad’ will swoon my wine and food loving friends-especially in describing a wine in 2014.

Indian wines may Sparkle in 2014

Champagne and sparkling wines are traditionally celebratory drinks in India. I was pleasantly surprised once at a wedding in a very small town where the wine consumption is negligible and champagne almost unheard of. But at the wedding reception the groom’s father had organised a cake and 2 bottles of Champagne (no prize for guessing-it was Moet Chandon). He had paid a princely sum of over Rs.10,000- almost beyond his reach. But he is an avid TV watcher!!

The sparkling wine industry has been moving along with a share of around 5% (not counting the low end fortified wines-perhaps the fizzy Dia from Sula falls in this category). Sula has been the leader in sparkling wines as well since Indage checked out with it Marquis de Pompadour a few years ago. Vinsura also entered and has but vanished. Zampa made a valiant attempt and not only survived, it made a room for itself and now the Grover Zampa label, especially Rose Brut is lurking at the top.

With the announcement by Moet to bring out the Nashik-based Chandon made many players take a note during the last couple of years. With their launch in October and a product marginally superior to the existing bubblies (Sula re-launched its wines with new packaging and Fratelli also had a hurried release but with a good product). There is now an apprehension and also a silver lining for the whole industry. While Chandon is promoting it heavily and will bank on its Moet brand in Champagne  (imagine the aam admi enjoying an AAP ‘champagne’ at a fourth of the real thing!), the maiden release has been very low volumes.

This will ironically, push up the total demand and the existing producers should benefit from the launch initially- next few years may change the scenario significantly though. With Four Seasons and York also announcing their offering soon, the wine market is expecting to be become buoyant with the gaseous, sparkling wine which many older people find too acidic but the younger generation finds easier to digest. 

I have been an advocate for Prosecco for years because of its lightness (on the palate and the wallet, heavy initial mousse (froth), and the high palate acceptability of the prosecco grape (ok-so you might insist on calling it by the original name- Glera!). On one end Chandon would find the Indian sparkling wines being pushed aggressively and on the other end, Prosecco with its fine Italian pedigree would be there to challenge them. Four Seasons wants to promote the French Bouvet Ladubay as the most celebratory sparkling wine in India, if one can spend a couple of extra hundreds.

The consumer would be the ultimate winner. We will find more and more bubblies at the banquets and parties. Perhaps, for the first time, Indians will discover that a slightly sweet bubbly (with a residual sugar content of 9-15 gms, making it still a Brut) will be a perfect, simple and universal combination to go with the Indian food and thus it might even start a brand new market for wines.

At any rate, thanks to Chandon, we are about to be swooned by Sparklers.

Have a great 2014! Drink more wine- and sparkling wine! I hope you will find some of them very ‘swaad’. Who knows some of our avid readers might even find this Blog very swaad-in which case do share your emotions and sentiments with me. Cheers!!

Subhash Arora


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