Aug 13: The French quartet of Le Grand Noir Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, GSM and Cabernet Sauvignon wines sang at the 283rd dinner of the Delhi Wine Club at Chez Jerome Restaurant in New Delhi with members shouting encores, writes Subhash Arora who later conducted a quick show of hands to find out the most liked wine and was not surprised with the almost equal response to the four varietals but GSM scoring clearly over the other three varietals
Photos By:: Adil Arora
If it was our objective to showcase wines that disproved the general impression that quaffable French wines are very expensive compared to, say Italian, Australian or Chilean wines, it was well achieved at the wine dinner last Thursday with four of Le Grand Noir range of wines from Languedoc-Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, GSM (Grenache-Syrah and Mourvedre blend) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Members of the Delhi Wine Club were treated to a very good meal prepared by chefs under the supervision of French owner-Chef Jerome Cousin of Chez Jerome, paired with each wine. It was also a good example to stress that food and wine pairing was not always the most important thing for a gastronomy experience- enjoying the food with wine and the company in a congenial atmosphere is equally important.
The genesis of this dinner goes back to a few years when Rajeev Samant, Founder CEO of Sula, importer of Le Grand Noir and Robert Joseph, the well-known journalist, author and critic and a partner in the winery producing these wines in Languedoc, were discussing about the French wine market in India. It’s Robert’s belief that the consumer does not care to imbibe knowledge about wines but desires a delicious wine and conversation with friends over food at affordable prices. Rajeev had been planning to add a quaffable wine that retailed for under Rs. 1500 a bottle and wanted to become the biggest importer for a French brand in India. Le Grand Noir was the obvious answer. At Rs. 1400 for Chardonnay and Rs. 1550 for the 3 reds (I suggested Rs. 1490 but was told it was not feasible), it was a still a fair price.
Evening with Le Grand Noir
Without disclosing the retail price which we don’t do in any case at our wine dinners, we started with the pour of Chardonnay after the fellowship period with 4 pass-around snacks downed with Sula Tropicale Brut-a pinkish coloured bubbly made reportedly from red grapes and a major chunk of Chenin Blanc. It was a natural match with the two Bruschettas, quiches and even veg and the delicious non-veg pepperoni pizza (not a French dish but extremely popular in France, anyway!)
Zaheen Khatri, the WSET-qualified brand manager of Sula, talked about how the white wine at the table was different than other Chardonnays in the market. Made with an unusual blend of Chardonnay sourced from all across Languedoc, with just a touch of oak and 15% Viognier had spiced it up and made it such a delicious quaff with fresh acidity and apple and pineapple flavours that several younger members kept on asking for refills and later voted it as the best wine of the evening.
Le Grand Noir Pinot Noir 2016 was served next. With no pretence of comparing with Burgundy and in fact with 15% Grenache, it had a personality of its own and members loved it as a mate for the Morel Croutes ( a super specialty of the house) as well as Duck Pate which were a good match with Chardonnay too, dispelling the belief that the best match can be either red or white. There were more takers for this wine that went quite well with the Goat cheese salad and Smoked chicken salad it had been paired with.
The winner of the evening was surprisingly Le Grand Noir GSM- a blend of 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, an extremely popular blend in this region. With low alcohol content of 12.5%, the fruity wine, full of red and black fruits with a touch of spices that we Indians love, persevered in the mouth. It had pretty good structure and a rather long finish. GSM was certainly the most favourite wine for me-especially since I had ordered a fish dish that did not like the Le Grand Noir Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 for the Main Course. It would have been perfect with a lamb rack that I had forsaken in the Menu in favour of Chicken Cordon Bleu that was not at its peak today. Even the unimpressive mushroom risotto served to vegetarians when added to the plate was not much help. The excellent garlic bread helped salvage the situation somewhat. The dessert was generous- Crème Caramel and watermelon ice cream with generous proportions.
Fun with wine
The second and equally important objective was to once again stress to members and guests that at Delhi Wine Club, wine is not a serious business but part of having fun and frolic and that our wine dinners are experiential. I organised a few interactive quizzes after Zaheen had finished her lucid presentation on 5 wines and we gave away 4 wine bottles as prizes.
To make things more interactive and interesting I created a Face-off between our members Pradeep Mehra and Arun Verma. With the help of Tristan De Lomenie, our French member and GM and Delegate for Accor Hotels in North India, we improvised 5 simple questions about French wines to both of them. There was a tie at the end, so we awarded a bottle each to both of them- this segment generated a lot of excitement amongst members.
It was truly a wine evening to remember, thanks to the Le Grand Noir wines, food and boisterous company, the usual glitches in service in a stand-alone restaurant notwithstanding. But the shortfall was well made up by the food quality. The wines deserve a relatively fast growth and success because they are excellent value-for-money French wines in India.
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