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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Monday, November 24 2008. 15:03

Goodbye Summer with De Bortoli Wines

At perhaps the last wine dinner possible for this year's summer in the hotel lawns, a select gathering enjoyed an excellent spread of Indian Fusion Cuisine with De Bortoli wines from Australia at a dinner last week hosted by Shangri-la, Delhi where their winemaker presented award winning wines, reports Subhash Arora

Andrew Steele with David Slingsby-Smith

The cold breeze blowing in the lawns outside Café Uno announced it was time to say goodbye to the Delhi summer, finally. It was also the time to say hello to David Slingsby-Smith and Nikki Palun, Kashmiri looking Aussie Export Manager of De Bortoli and their cool climate wines from Yarra Valley, Australia.

While one could adjust to the change of season taking place right in front of one's eyes, there was the welcome pink Moscato bubbly   which was a bit too sweet and flat for the palate. The Chardonnay served after we were directed by the hotel staff to our pre-designated seats was a welcome change-over even though it gave out strong signals of barrel fermentation.

'We will reduce the oak in our Chardonnay further when we start fermenting in the huge wooden vats which are being seasoned by storing wine to take out the oak sting,' said Nikki when I told her that the oak presence in the Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2006 was pleasant but still intimidating and masking the fruit, though less than the typical Aussie Chardonnay designed more to win competitions than palates.


'The oak should help in giving some structure and add complexity to the wine but not mask the fruit,' said David, adding that the philosophy of the company was to make wines that are pleasant to the palate.

It was reassuring to hear yet another affirmation that Australia was finally getting away from heavily oaked Chardonnays which the winemakers had been making for years, to give some personality and complexity to the otherwise dull varietal but injecting too much wood in the flavour in the process.

Windy Peak Pinot Noir Yarra Valley 2006 from Victoria was a good example of how De Bortoli has used their cool climate to make a very elegant wine which was fruity with good balance and the soft tannins made it a perfect match with dum ka bater, the quail dish stuffed with nuts and chicken with a light  saffron curry.

Similarly the Estate Grown Shiraz-Viognier 2006 with a touch of Viognier (3%), which David explained was lighter than the Barossa Valley Shiraz because of cool temperature, yet quite complex and provided an excellent company to the lamb shanks braised in onions and yoghurt gravy.

Noble One 2003, the iconic Semillon Botrytis  dessert wine from their Bilbul winery in Riverina towered over all the other well-made wines tasted earlier.  Winning a Gold medal last year for this label at the maiden India Wine Challenge was great but not as exciting for David as several other awards that the earlier served wines  had won in many international competitions. 'As a winemaker, I find that a lot more efforts and risks go into the making of dry red and white wines where you have to monitor the process carefully on a more frequent basis and many more choices needed to be looked into.'

Shangri-la has made it a habit of turning out excellent sit down wine dinners under the leadership of Andrew Steele, their General Manager. 'Today we decided

Nikki Palun (l) enjoying the Chardonnay pared well with Patrani Machhi (fish cooked in wrapped leaf)

to make a deviation and go for Indian food with Chef William and the Indian Chefs deciding to tweak the spices to match the wines being served,' said Parmeet Singh Nayar, the Resident Manager of Shangri-la, sitting on my left.

Indian cuisine lovers, chefs and critics balk at the idea of changing the original recipes for the sake of wine but those who love their wines to match Indian food

know that wines may have to fight to match spicy bater curry, but an experienced chef with a touch of his magic wand can create a recipe and synergise the experience of food and wine with a minor adjustment in the handling of spices. The dinner at Shangri-la was yet another example this evening.

Family of Italian immigrants- owned De Bortoli Wines based in Yarra Valley, Victoria is 'one of Australia's largest private companies. Our premium wines hold number four spot in the domestic market', said Palun. Satisfied with the performance of the Indian distributor, Aspri Spirits who 'imported a container load last year and have already ordered for the second one this year. With the induction of Sumedh Singh Mandla as the CEO, they have a man of diversified wine industry experience and we won't be surprised if they order the third container within this fiscal year,' she added with excitement.

Subhash Arora


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