Jan 22: The Taj Mahal Hotel Delhi hosted a wine dinner along with Brindco and La Cave at The Chambers last Friday where 4 wines from the old historical wine cellar of Marchesi di Barolo were served and presented by the 5th generation owner and producer, Mrs. Anna Abbona who is not new to the country, having visited India already, writes Subhash Arora who found the mid range wine selection well-matched the excellent food served to a full house in the Grill Room
‘You must have drunk several wines. Which is your most favourite wine?,’ asked the guest sitting next to me at the dinner table ?’ Having tasted over 20,000 wines, it is never an easy answer but I gave the first answer that came to mind-Barbaresco-a docg wine from Northwest of Italy. ‘Made from Nebbiolo, a popular red grape variety of the Langhe region in Piedmont, it is lighter, more subtle, elegant and feminine than the better known neighbour Barolo. In fact, if Barolo is the king of wines, Barbaresco is the queen’, I told him. Barbaresco was one of the 4 wines being poured at the dinner tonight, after a generous pour of Bollinger with canapés.
We were having a rather special dinner with Anna Abbona, the 5th generation owner and producer of the well-known winery in the town of Barolo-called Marchesi di Barolo. I had met Anna 7-8 years ago at the historic winery founded by the Marquis of Barolo in the mid 18th century (a bottle of Barolo Riserva shows the year as 1859 though). The Marquis had married a French noblewoman Juliette Colbert and had stated the wine production within Barolo.
It was purchased by the Abbona family in 1929. The effervescent Anna Abbona loves India and visits as often as she can. She was here last a couple of years ago with her daughter Valentina who helps her in marketing. Agreeing with my viewpoint on Barbaresco while talking about the history of the Marchesi, she stresses that their wines were a symbol of that dedicated love. Barbaresco had been served with the chicken breast as Primo Piatto. A very good match with even the Truffled mushroom Tart with Lima beans and slow cooked for 6 hours by the chef.
Naturally, this was not the first wine poured. As a tradition, the dinner hosted the Taj Hotel, La Cave and Brindco which has been importing these wines for over 15 years started with Bollinger Champagne-also in the portfolio of Brindco for many years. Setting of the evening on a relaxed note, Anna met many old friends and made some new ones.. As we sat down with the beautiful view through the glass, of Delhi getting slowly covered with the evening fog , we were served Norwegian Salmon and Scallop Carpaccio after the Amuse Bouche. The wine on pour was Marchesi di Barolo Gavi di Gavi 2016. The straw colour dry, smooth and fresh wine made from 100% indigenous grape Cortese from the village of Gavi in Piemonte had the typical floral aromas and fresh almonds.
Sitting right across me at the dining table, Anna explained that due to the phenomenal popularity of the grape and the wine, the local producers controlled the production of grapes and increased the grape prices successively making Gavi di Gavi quite expensive-not to mention the excessive import duty in India that made it a very expensive white Italian wine. It is a pity that Arneis and Favorita (Vermentino in Piemonte), the other two grapes of Piemonte have not been popular in India though these wines cost much less and are delicious.
But Gavi di Gavi (as opposed to Gavi which comes from the area around the village of Gavi and has grapes less concentrated in flavours and is cheaper), was a very attractive, easy drinking wine. I could have finished the whole bottle as we were chatting, thinking that Gavi di Gavi could have been also named as Gavi Classico-much like several Italian wines like Chianti, Soave, etc where the core of the region produces better quality and higher priced wines due to the area and soil conditions and hence is called ‘Classico’.
Up next was Marchesi di Barolo Madona del Dono Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2016- made from the grape that gives a nice quaffable, daily drinking wine that is affordable as well.. And this was followed by Marches di Barolo Barbaresco docg 2013- perhaps the most talked about wine of the evening and decidedly most admired by a sizable majority.
The last dish was the Breast of duck and it was served with Marchesi di Barolo Barolo docg 2012. Despite the decanting, it was still slightly closed with tannins that still need a couple of years to mellow down and sing. It was a good match with the Duck dish that was excellent in preparation. I tasted it with Barbaresco and it was divine match- smooth, pleasant and ripe tannins with full mouth-feel and with a long after-taste. Barolo would have loved Angus or perhaps a mutton dish.
Like close friends who don’ t meet for long and when they do, it’s never ending chat, Anna made it even more special by taking a promise from me that I would soon visit her estate where she will open several special wines-especially single vineyard wines. She says they have an 1857 in their wine library but the oldest she has tasted is less than 100 year old.
A factor not to be overlooked is that her wines are very well priced and are excellent value-for-money. They have also opened a restaurant within the Estate and if you visit Barolo-it ought to be in your itinerary to visit Marchesi di Barolo and have a meal at the restaurant too.
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