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Delhi Wine Club
DWC Dinner: Summer Soiree at Olive with Fratelli Wines

Posted: Monday, 09 June 2014 14:55

DWC Dinner: Summer Soiree at Olive with Fratelli Wines

June 9: The wine dinner at the Olive Bar and Kitchen last Friday was very significant and refreshing in that the members were privy to a quasi technical presentation of five Fratelli wines by their winemaker Piero Masi making his first-ever presence at a wine dinner in India and interacting with members at the Restaurant where the food was served from the new summer menu crafted by Chef de Cuisine Sujan Sarkar, writes Subhash Arora, founder president of the Club in its 12th year.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

The 227th wine event of the Delhi Wine Club organized at the Olive Restaurant had several firsts, making it memorable for those who attended it. We have organized dinners with Fratelli wines a couple of times earlier too but it was the first time that Piero Masi, their Italian winemaker came to Delhi for a day to meet and interact with the members of the Club. He was accompanied by the Italian partner Alessio Secci who also doubled up the interpreter for him; Masi is not as comfortable with English language as winemaking.

The ‘S’ word in Fratelli and the Olive trinity

Wines were intentionally selected with ‘S’ as the common letter- even if it meant choosing their Sparkling, Sangiovese Bianco, Sangiovese Rosso, Sette and the newly introduced dessert wine Santo for tasting. Barring Rosso (red), all other wines were part of the prestigious B and G series of the company-a new concept being promoted by Fratelli as the superfine range where each label has a firm and bold black and gold in the design of the labels.

It was also a culmination of our culinary trinity at all three Olive restaurants in Delhi during this year – Olive Beach, Guppy by Ai, and now Olive Bar and Kitchen Restaurant, the original Mediterranean restaurant that changed the food-line of Delhi a decade ago. Whereas Chef Vikram Khatri has helped bring back the nostalgia and reputation of the Ai Restaurant in the Metropolitan Mall in Saket, Chef Sujan Sarkar who came back after 10 years in London, developing modern tools and techniques like Sous- vide and molecular gastronomy and flavour engineering in the modern cuisine, has been at the helm of cooking affairs at Olive Delhi and Mumbai now.

In the glass training

Delhi Wine Club is the 12-year old association of like-minded people who love their wines but not necessarily know the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet Franc, Merlot from Malbec or a Sauvignon Blanc from Vermentino. But they know that a wine dinner with 4-5 different wines selected by the Club at different venues and cuisines is a learning experience that they enjoy in the company of friends who generally do not have any hidden commercial agendas. They know that there is nothing snobbish about swirling the glass or twirling the wine in their mouth to get the best of flavours. They also know why we hold wine glasses from the stem the way we do and at what temperature the wine is served, though they do not carry a wine thermometer like some overseas clubs might. In short, the dinners are not meant to be in-the-class training but rather in-the-glass training.

Taking the benefit of the visit of the two Italian experts, we decided to create a more-than-usual serious atmosphere where Piero was encouraged to talk about technical aspects of winemaking at Fratelli during the first half of the ‘fellowship hour’- an hour where members can mix around freely with other members with a glass of wine accompanied by a stream of snacks and talk about wines, before sitting down for the 5-course meal. To make it interesting we had organized 10 shopping vouchers or Rs.1000 each as prizes for a  quiz based on his talk and lucky draws to engage everyone.

Wines of Fratelli

Fratelli wines have been the most talked about new wines during the last 3 years with the quality, variety and branding moving up on a fast track and the winemaker’s interactive talk was inspirational for the technically inclined. Masi (no relationship with the Italian producer Masi whose wines from Veneto are imported by Brindco) shared with the members his philosophy that he made his wine in the vineyard. Every winemaker talks about it these days but Piero practices it religiously and feels that contract farming prevalent in most Indian wineries cannot ensure the best possible quality grapes into the winery. Fratelli uses only the grapes grown in their own vineyards and as Arora interjected, in many countries it would qualify to be known as an Estate-the only one of the Top Five Indian premium wine producers who could claim that distinction. Masi also gave credit to the special soil selection and their insight into choosing only the sites that were not very fertile otherwise.

He does not like too vigorous vegetation in the vineyard as he believes it affects the concentration of fruit and that’s why Fratelli wines have more mineral character. He is pleased that Sangiovese has been accepted as the best quality produced outside Italy; even the well-known Tuscan producer Antinori had not been as successful in California, he said, attributing more spiciness in their Sangiovese to the typical soil conditions. Besides the soil, he credits the local micro climate for the high quality as rain which plays havoc in Nashik at times, has been no problem for them. He also shared his preference of keeping the fermented juice in longer contact with the lees. Piero also affirmed that due to their viticulture practice they use only a third of sulphites the domestic industry uses on an average to keep wines bacteria-free, thus resulting in better flavours and less headaches due to sulphites. (Many experts have recently argued that sulphites are not the reason for headaches-editor)

The simpler- to- digest information like Fratelli owning 240 acres of land, 12 grape varieties grown and 16 labels sold, made the session very interactive and created a lot of buzz and bonhomie with several prizes to boot-making it a highly interesting part of the evening for those who came to dinner at the earlier appointed time specially for this session.

Serving temperature matters

Since it was an evening of people more focused in technical talk and discussion, we also contributed by testing the member skills for judging the right serving temperature of red wines. While the Sparkling Fratelli Brut (made from bottle double fermentation of Chenin Blanc) and Sangiovese Blanco (blanc de noir in French terminology) were aptly chilled we let the red Sangiovese that followed to be kept at relatively warm room temperature of about 23˚C. It was heartening to note that there were vociferous complaints from almost every member including even our Italian guests. There could be no better example of educating the members, the wait staff-and many of our delWine subscribers who may still believe that red wine has to be served at room temperature that red wine must always be served under 18˚C. I prefer to serve at 14-16˚C in the Indian summer so that it reaches 16-18˚C by the time it touches the palate.

It took us a few chilled bottles to add to the glasses and bring the temperature down to about 18˚C. Nevertheless, one could explain to the members that what they smelt was alcohol vapours that are released when the wine is warm. But if one looked beyond the medicinal taste, the wine was amazingly perfumed and the black cherries and minerality and earthiness of the flavours were quite distinct. 

Sette 2010 is fast gaining popularity as the best red wine in India by many people. Although many in India- Sula (Rasa), Grover (Chene), Big Banyan (Limited) and Krsma (Cabernet Sauvignon), double Barrique Reserve( Four Seasons)  or even Charosa (Tempranillo) would like to throw their hat in the ring as the Best Red of India, undisputedly, it is the most expensive wine in India. Retailing at around Rs.1700 and priced at $52 at the Delhi Duty Free shop, it even won a guest a bottle of Fratelli Sangiovese Blanco  for guessing the correct price of Rs.7000 listed at the Leela Palace Delhi. Besides this quiz, 8 more bottles were given away as Lucky draws-in 3 phases. This was also a subtle way for Secci and Arora to talk more about Fratelli wines.

Although the evening stretched out longer than usual despite an early start at 7:50 pm, it also gave an opportunity for members to try out various delectable dishes prepared by Chef Sujan Sarkar who was more than willing to serve second helpings of every dish to whosoever so desired- he did not flinch even when some members had the thirds-it was an evening to showcase his culinary art and dexterity-right from the two soups to the Heirloom tomato salad with Burrata sorbet and fresh basil to the creamy and smooth foiegras and chicken liver parfait with peach puree, poached pear and brioche which made some vegetarians argue with the carnivores that their salad was better while others took the peaceful alternative of simply devouring the two.

Earlier, the snacks were endless and enticing. To me the Compressed melon and feta with the unusual presentation was supreme- and gave one an insight into the artistic traits of Chef Sujan. Of course, pizzas have been the calling card of Olive since it opened its doors a decade ago and both the Artichoke, roasted pepper and semi dried tomato pizza and paprika chicken and mushroom pizza had members asking for more with their bubbly, even after most of the congregation had moved from the Bar to the Main Restaurant that had been exclusively reserved for us for the traditional sit-down dinner.

Cornfed chicken breast- Pave of confit chicken leg, corn puree, mashed potato, kale and  hazelnut jus also vied with the Australian Lamb Osso Bucco, saffron and green pea risotto, gremolata (the famous Milan dish with veal has been Olivized by Chef Sarkar). Interestingly, this was the last minute entry into the Menu at my request as I believed that the Cabernet- Sangiovese heavy Sette would go better with lamb even though many people avoided red meat. A request mail to members to indicate their main course preference brought a surprise response; over 60% indicated their choice for this special dish! A great sign that they appreciate the food and wine match! I can vouch for the chicken confit as a very good match with Sette but those who had it with the Osso Bucco were raving about it-I wonder if it was due to the heavenly pairing.

Santo, the Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, was the sweet surprise with members swayed by its fragrance and flavour. It was a perfect paring with Pave of valrhona (the famous Belgian chocolate) ganache that melted in your mouth and the mango sorbet with mango textures and soil of chocolate in which Chef Sujan has specialized in as a chocolateur. The combo made me wonder why Indians who generally have a sweet tooth have not taken to sweet wines with desserts despite our serving them occasionally with desserts for a decade. Interestingly, the half bottles selling for under Rs.400 should be enticing enough and one hopes these wines become a part of the repertoire. One must remember that they are great condiments with spicy Indian food and do not even need a lot to serve as an accompaniment. Diabetics need to stay away as much from them as the delicious treats at this dinner, though.

It was yet another wine dinner to remember, it was heartening to have the Chef and the management beckoning us to come back soon. Like a true artiste, Chef Sujan understands the culinary appetite and appreciation for a true gourmet experience by the Delhi Wine Club members and did not mind admitting that he was filled with excitement whenever he had to cook for such evenings.

There is no doubt that Chef Sarkar’s career growth is waxing. There is no doubt that one will hear a lot more about Fratelli wines in future. There is no doubt that Olive is vivacious and vibrant as ever as a venue for culinary experience and there is no doubt we shall be back for yet another delightful evening with Chef Sujan

Subhash Arora

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