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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Saturday, 06 November 2010 13:42

Blog: Wine is Dead- Long Live the Wine

High taxes and dogmatic bureaucracy might be big hurdles in the development of wine culture in India but lack of education is no less a culprit with ill-informed consumers drinking wines that are dead and gone past their prime, thinking that is how wine is supposed to taste, which may leave them unexcited for wine in future, as I discovered for the nth time at a recent party.

At a recent party thrown by a friend, wine was the center of attraction though whisky, single malt, vodka and other poisons were more in circulation. The first small sip of the white wine and I knew it was a disaster. Darkish golden to orange in colour, it did not smell foul but certainly felt dead on the palate. Otherwise a very pleasant wine I Feudi di Romans Pinot Grigio 2004 from the North Eastern province of Friuli in Italy, had lost all its freshness and crispiness. Gone were the melon and peachy flavours. It almost tasted metallic and repulsive on the palate.

One look at the bottle and the label would have sent alarming bells to a buyer with some wine knowledge. The colour of wine and vintage are some indications even if the producer is unknown. Usually the Pinot Grigio has pale colour and should be drunk young; within 3 years of the vintage-certainly the low end wines that are normally available in the Indian market. But my friend had been convinced by the wholesaler (read bootlegger) into believing that 2004 and the producer meant a premium wine. Salt on the wound was that the ‘wholesaler’ had made my friend pay a pretty penny for the Pinot.

My disdain does not end there. The wine drinkers of the evening would not have enjoyed the real taste and pleasure of an uncomplicated Pinot Grigio. Generally a single dimension wine, it’s a fun and fresh wine you can enjoy as an aperitif or with tapas, fish and vegetarian cuisine. We have often served different labels of this fastest growing wine in the US, at the Delhi Wine Club dinners. Every time we serve this varietal, whatever the quality or the producer, it is a hit with the members because of its freshness, fruitiness and crisp acidity-even though it is mostly short on the end.

The red wine of the evening, Chianti Colli Senesi Fattoria del Cerro 2003 was still breathing, though well past its prime. Poor storage had made it unworthy wine for the evening-at least at the price paid for it. Chianti is drinkable for 2-5 years normally; Good quality Chianti Classico and Reserva last-and even get better for a longer period. In this case some of the fruit was also missing on the palate. It must have been drinking better 3 years ago and would have made a decent party/banquet wine. Not its day today, though.

I have often advocated that we should perhaps evolve a policy of sticking ‘Best Before’ or ‘Best After’ stickers on wines to help the hapless consumer decide whether the young wine is past its prime (it is mandatory in the case of beer) or the age-worthy wine is ready to drink (for instance, a Barolo, Barbaresco, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Reserva or Grand Reserva from Spain, barrel fermented Chardonnay or even Sauvignon, quality Riesling from Mosel etc, which are generally opened before they are at their best). Every producer can give recommendation on each label. Importers/producers will certainly balk at the idea-claiming extra work involved but also in their mind fearing that it may become more difficult to get rid of undrinkable stocks through the existing channels including the friendly neighbourhood wholesaler of my friend. But I would definitely not suggest it to be government controlled- we don’t want to open a new channel of corruption or tempt the honest bureaucrats.

Today, India’s metros are full of imported foods that are past their expiry dates and would not be allowed to be sold in their country of origin. They are being imported by unscrupulous importers into Dubai where re-labeling has become an art. The product is being dumped on the gullible cosmopolitan consumers who love the ‘phoren’ beauties. We may also be the similar victims of wines. In the ‘Ask Wineknightindia’ of our website, I would be glad to advise our readers about the efficacy of buying a particular label or vintage in India.

The Wine you have been buying and drinking so far may be Dead…but with proper storage and guidance from me or anyone knowledgeable about wines, Long Live the Wine! 

Subhash Arora



Sidd Banerji Says:

I had the privilage to meet you at the inauguration of last Bombay Wine Festival,on 12th Nov. here in Mumbai.Let me congratulate you at your mission.Being an ardent wine lover,specially red, shall join always with my might, to spread awareness of the real goodness of wine drinking and to know wine well.Shall be glad to extend cooperation from my Mumbai office.Warm regards, sidd banerji,mg.ed.Castcon Group

Posted @ November 17, 2010 15:51


Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks, Rifaquat. I agree with you but I restrict myself to wine and a bit of food. One day? Yes, I hope during my lifetime! Subhash 

Posted @ November 11, 2010 17:53


Rifaquat Mirza Says:

This is so true of a lot of imports... why only wine ?.Hopefully your crusade will yield results someday. Well done.

Posted @ November 11, 2010 17:51


Subhash Arora Says:

Tony, I would be the last person to suggest goverment's hand in the 'Recommended Date'. With all the good intentions on the part of the government, any regulation flilters down as more corruption.This would have to be voluntary from the producers. The practical problem arises as the importer gets stuck with  'dead' stock he needs to palm off to the unsuspecting customer and won't be interested in this step either. As you agree, the crux is education. Many Australian producers who meet me on their visit to India tell me that the situation here is similar to what it was there 30 years ago. So I do know we shall be getting there slowly. My objective- mission really, is to shake people up as quickly and fast as I can so they get interested in learning. Frankly, there is so much quality material on the Net today that basic self-education is available at the click of a button. Hopefully, bringing out such examples by me or any neutral and objective journalist will go some distance. Subhash  

Posted @ November 11, 2010 12:07


Tony Devitt Says:

Hi Subhash, The most important points in this article were; (i) The bureaucratic limitations placed on wine importation, distribution and moderate (educated) consumption of wine in India is holding your wine industry and the appreciation of wine back immensely. (ii) Wine education is the single most important gift we in the industry can give to the wine trade and wine consumers. I have been wine educating for nearly 40 years (and I know I may sound like I am pushing my own barrow) and I am surprised, appalled, disappointed at the lack of knowledge about wine in many communities around the World who profess to be interested in wine. This needs to be adressed. Used by dates on wine bottles is not the answer as I can tell you that many wines just bottled are passed their used by date. Wine education, although a slower process will in time overcome many of these problems. Who is going to make the decision on the date? All you are doing is adding another level of bureaucracy. Loosen up and liven up, open the Indian market up and let people from overseas work with local educational institutions etc. to provide the much needed education, the Indian and many other communities need. Best wishes, Tony.

Posted @ November 11, 2010 12:06


kskarnic Says:

The facts revealed by Sri Subhassji is quite is total ignorance on the part of consumer which provides oportunity to unscrupulous suppliers to hoodwink them. The measures suggested may serve some purpose but education of the consumer would be best way to overcome such problems and make the wine live longer.

Posted @ November 11, 2010 12:05


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