May 30: At a dinner organised recently by the Delhi Wine Club at Hotel Crown Plaza Gurgaon, H.E. Antonio Armellini, the Ambassador of Italy appreciated the club's efforts to promote wine culture, adding that one day when it became an every day reality, India will have the club to thank for. In a lighter vain, he remarked that the only problem was that the club promotes non-Italian wines too!
A few days later when I went to Aperitif de la France at Shangri-la, my favourite lady from the French embassy's commercial section, Pascale Fleury said she was happy to see me even though I promote Italian wines!
I didn't have the heart to tell her I would not only be attending the Chilean Wine Festival the next day, where I had been invited for an exclusive dinner by the Ambassador, I would also be addressing a group of 13 visiting Chilean producers about the Indian wine market. Or that DWC had recently organised events with New Zealand, South African, Australian and Indian wines, not to talk of a minor tasting evening with wines from Spain, Portugal and Germany and in the not-so-distant past over forty award winning wines at the first India Wine Challenge were featured from across the world.
Think wine- Drink wine
Our objective at the Indian Wine Academy is to promote wine from any country or region of the world, my personal tastes notwithstanding - and this includes Indian wines too. Granted most of Indian wines are nowhere near the best wines in the world in quality yet, despite the rhetoric from many producers claiming their wines compare with the best of the world even when they crush purchased grapes and ferment them in rented wineries, in their maiden vintage.
But that is understandable and forgivable. After all they are in the business of wine and their passion for wine may have taken a temporary back seat. But let us also not forget that in most countries the emphasis has been quantity not quality in the earlier stages. Spain, Italy, USA, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia and France have all been through the stage. Surely, India will rise to the occasion and in the decades to come many wineries will have a story about them.
Different Regions-Different Wine
A point which most people with myopic vision overlook is that every country, every region has different wines to offer even if the grape varietals are same- and I am not even talking about the delicate, feminine and subtle Burgundy reds where different rows of vines may have different owners (e.g., Clos du Vougeot has 80 owners with an average of 1000 bottles each) producing different style of wines, adding to the confusion but also the excitement due to diversity.
Italy and Spain with their indigenous varietals running into hundreds have something unique to offer. A producer I had visited in Dogliani, Piedmont had me taste a wine from an autochthonous grape, which was produced in only 13 wineries throughout the world! The terroir, climate, viticulture and winemaking techniques make wine from each winery unique, even from the same grape, region or the country.
Take the example of ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc, king of Sancerre in the French Loire Valley. The French may still feel it is superior to the varietal in Marlborough. But when Angelo Gaja and his 13 wine tasting 'apostles' loved and ordered Sauvignon Blanc from Sula when Rajeev Samant encountered Angelo at Vinexpo in Japan in 2002, Angelo told me, 'it was not Sancerre, it was not Marlborough, or an Italian from Friuli but it was different and it was pleasant.' I believe that turned out to be the defining moment for Sula.
It must have been a proud moment for Ranjit Dhruvu, CEO of Chateau d'Ori when the lady journalist from New York Times told him that his powerful, oaky Sauvignon Blanc reminded her of a fine Fumé Blanc from California.
I have since tasted other Indian Sauvignon Blancs from Vinsura, Chateau d'Ori, ND, Nine Hills, Chateau Banyan, Vin di Valor, Grover from Bangalore and a few others. They are all different (though not all pleasant). The pertinent point is not the unpleasant flavour-those will have to either improve or face extinction. But they are all typical and offer different experience even if some may be a better fit with the food and the mood than the others.
Then there are several varieties from Australia, Chile, California which with different oak power and personality offer flavours to suit different palates. South Africa offers almost an infinite choice matched only by its ubiquitous Chenin Blanc.
Same varietal but different taste. One grape with many choices. Which other beverage offers such magic? Or a healthier option?
The Fifth Dimension
Colour, Nose, Flavour (including fruit, acidity, tannins, harmony and balance) and After-taste are four important dimensions for every wine that make all those Sauvignon Blancs or any other blancs- or even noirs have a different, unique personality.
When I think of the Fifth Dimension I am instantly reminded of the popular American musical group of the 60s and their evergreen song, 'Let the sunshine, let the sunshine, the sun shine-in and I start humming, 'Layyyyyt the Wine Shine, layyyt the wine shine-the wiiiiine shine-iiiiin.'
Let us not be nationalist, narrow-minded, biased, prejudiced or 'parochial' about wine and learn to enjoy wine-quality wine from different countries,
…and simply let the Wine Shine.
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