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Prowein: A Teetotaller’s Diary on a Wine Fair

Posted: Friday, 15 April 2011 11:04

Prowein: A Teetotaller’s Diary on a Wine Fair

An international wine fair like Prowein may attract 38,000 trade visitors tasting wines from 3,600 exhibitors but it can be an exhilarating experience for a teetotaller as well, writes our guest writer Sarosh Bana who admits he cannot tell the difference between a Château Mouton Rothschild from a table wine and  was invited by Messe Düsseldorf  to attend Prowein held between 24-26 March in Düsseldorf.

Understandably, I was rather exhilarated upon receiving an invitation to attend it from its organiser, Messe Düsseldorf GmbH. After all, just about all the world’s foremost vintners participate in it, including seven from India who were marking their presence there for the first time. The three-day event – 24 to 26 March - attracted 38,000 trade visitors who called on the 3,600 exhibitors who had come from 51 wine-growing countries across Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

There was one snag though. I am a teetotaller.

As total a teetotaller as one may imagine. Not a sip of wine, beer or even shandy or cider since birth, simply because I never could cultivate a taste for them. I would not be able to distinguish a ChâteauMouton Rothschild from a table wine. And here I was, sauntering from one cavernous exhibition hall to another at the fair grounds, teeming with all sorts of wines imaginable and with people who had spent the better part of their lives burying their noses into wine glasses.   

Being the first major wine event of the year globally, ProWein gives scope to exhibitors, particularly from the northern hemisphere, to release their new vintages from the harvest of the previous autumn. That includes the wines from India, where there are 84 wineries, 69 of which are in Maharashtra, 14 in Karnataka, and a relatively new one that has opened in Haryana in the north. The other international events include Vinitaly, in Verona, held from 7 to 12 April, the London International Wine Fair, from 17 to 19 May, the bi-annual Vinexpo in Bordeaux that lasts from 19 to 23 June, and the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair, between 3 and 5 November.

ProWein had a rambling central tasting zone that featured a thousand international wines for public tasting. Not surprisingly, there were huge crowds milling around this area, as also around the various company stands and regional wine tasting events. Many of them were dyed in the wool sommeliers, connoisseurs who breathed, slept, dreamt and, of course, drank wine. They would pick up a bottle, study it against the light, pour out a little from it into a wine glass, tilt the glass, sniff its contents, spin it around, sniff at it again, take a sip from it, roll it across their palate, reflect deeply over it, spit it out into a bucket kept at hand, and then chew on a bit of bread or cheese before moseying across to another bottle.  

The tasting events were taking place in enclosures with vintners and oenologists narrating the history behind the wines on offer, at times with power point presentations. These were well attended events and I sat in on a few of them, twirling the glasses the audience was asked to twirl, holding them against the light, and sniffing at the contents, before placing them back while others were sipping studiously before spitting out the swigs they had just taken. Unfortunately, there was mostly bread as accompaniment here. And how much bread can a teetotaller ingest?

Wines are the result of very complex production processes, which determine their ‘style’. The key steps that lead from grapes to wine include the storage of the harvest, the pressing, the method of temperature-controlled fermentation, the use of yeasts, and storage and maturing in steel, wood or oak barrels. 

Wines can hence be engaging even for a teetotaller, as there is a heritage behind them. One needs to remember that whilst attending a wine tasting, it is preferable to taste the lighter, sweeter wines first and the heavier, dryer wines last. This way, the heavier wines do not overwhelm one’s senses and distort the tastes of the lighter wines. A classical wine tasting order is: sparkling wine – light, younger whites - heavier, older whites – rose - light, younger reds – heavier, older reds – dessert wines.

ProWein also featured the special delicatessen section where the culinary wine accompaniments on offer drew gourmands and specialist retailers alike. To enjoy the wines and make the occasion an experience, it’s necessary to know which wine goes with which food, how the harmony of certain flavours can be accentuated, and what complements an aperitif or a dessert.

Thankfully, the creators of the fine foods were around to guide one through. Famed chocolatière Sabine Pauly, owner of La Fleur du Chocolat, invited visitors to “Sensual Seductions” made of chocolate and exquisite Vallendar distilled beverages. The Weinfachverband Elsass (Wine Trade Association from Alsace) presented a combination of Crémants and finger food with “Wine and Spices”, while “East meets West” was a stimulating tasting area involving various versions of Japanese sake and cheese.

Briefly, Brie cheese and chocolate go well with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cheddar cheese with Chardonnay, mild Cheddar and pasta with white sauce, with Merlot, Parmesan or Romano cheese with Pinot Noir, fresh fruit and mild cheeses with Pinot Grigio, and mild curry and Risotto with Zinfandel.  

I now await ProWein 2012.


Sarosh Bana is the Executive Editor of Business India and is based in Mumbai. The views expressed here are purely those of the writer-editor.



Rachel Burkons Says:

Great job, Subhash! Be sure to keep an eye out for my article in the digital edition of The Tasting Panel.

Posted @ April 23, 2011 12:12


Sarosh Bana Says:

Feels great to have written on this site and having received such an interesting feedback!

Posted @ April 21, 2011 19:18


N. Rao Says:

For a teetotaller, the writer has indeed done a great job in this review of the wine festival. I only wish he would be motivated to give up his 'teetotallism' after reading the piece. Cheers!

Posted @ April 21, 2011 13:57


Raymond Says:

A friend of mine has been after me to join him on a wine tasting trip through Europe this summer. I am a teetotaller and have been suggesting alternative trips to him. He sent me the link to this article hoping I will change my mind! And just when I thought I had him convinced!

Posted @ April 20, 2011 12:25


Ketayun Says:

Super article! Very interesting and informative. Thanks

Posted @ April 19, 2011 17:45


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