Vineyard wisdom and bubbly tales

LIVING IN THE KITCHEN

The other day I was invited to a wine appreciation lunch and the experience is still sinking in. Yes, I enjoy wine occasionally, but vodka is my first choice. As for wine, well, I can only tell at the first sip if it’s good or not and if I want more of it or not. Lacking the highly evolved palates and sophistication of sommeliers, I’m unable to describe a wine in  poetic terms as they do.

I reckon that in order to appreciate a fine wine in all its finer nuances, my fickle nose must first get refined enough as to be able to detect all manner of fruity, spicy and herbal essences and tell whether a wine has got any one or more of those notes. And for good measure, smell some timber as varied as acacia, pine, oak and probably mahogany, beech, ebony, teak, sandal and rosewood in order to pick up the faintest woody notes in a wine! With imported vines now deeply rooted into hectares of Indian terrain, it might not be way off the mark to add even jackfruit and mango wood to that list. And of course to sniff out the subtlest floral scent, I should first familiarise myself with the names and fragrances of all the flowers on this earth, and the whiff of grass and soils of different regions too.

How I wish they’d keep it sweet and simple. Like, this wine is good, or that is bad, or this one’s smooth, or that is a bit harsh or too tart on the palate, or edgy on the teeth? Or simply not mature enough, tasting rather raw or too sweet and syrupy. That is the kind of evaluation someone who is still on the starting blocks of wine appreciation can understand in an instant.

That day, I sipped Bouvet Ladubay’s flagship wine Brut as an aperitif, which I could confidently say was crisp with just a slight hint of sweetness to tickle the taste buds and create a mood of anticipation. It reminded me somewhat of a delicious German label I like called Blue Nun, not found in profusion, but that doesn’t render it exclusive and one needn’t be a connoisseur to enjoy it.

It was a Saumur blanc with the second course and a Chinon rouge (yes, it was Chinon and not Chenin...a varietal distinction I thought was within my limited ambit, only to be told that both were one and the same) with the main course: Mountain herb grilled lamb chops with polenta, grilled vegetables and red wine sauce. The ruby red complemented that dish.

I chose the cherry creme brulee with citrus salad for dessert, an unusual combination providing a contrast of flavours, but its pairing with a rose led to a conflict of flavours…or so I thought.

 At the lowermost level in the pecking order of wine lovers and writers, all I can state in plain and simple winespeak is that the wines that they poured were all excellent — the kind you can drink a few glasses of without the heady feel of one too many. Maybe that’s what enabled me to savour them to the last drop.

The food was very good indeed and appetisingly presented. But I don’t know where those dainty portions went and settled in my rather expansive stomach. Obviously at such an event, I couldn’t have possibly thrust out my empty plate and begged like Oliver Twist: “Please sir, can I have some more?” without making some heads turn in horror. It was the wine glasses that kept getting refilled. I must have missed the point.

However, the highlight of the occasion was the unveiling of the Taille Princesse range of white and rose cuvees, notably Taille Princesse de Gerard Depardieu to prepare the ground for an India launch. Without delving into the details of its inspiration and the 76-facet diamond that it’s named after, I can safely say I enjoyed it better than champagne whose excessive fizz causes one to hiccup after the first gulp. And it pops open just like champagne...that is, if you’re particular about hearing the pop to mark a special moment. It made me feel rather bubbly without the annoying hiccup!
For me, the toast of the event, however, was neither the wine nor the food, but blue-eyed Patrice Monmousseau, award-winning winemaker of the heritage Bouvet Ladubay Wine House, whose flashes of humour sparkled like his wines. He said he liked Bangalore, although it didn’t occur to me to find out what he found so virtuous about this city - and asked how long I had been here. I said: “Some 20 or so years…” To which, with a poker-faced note of finality, he said: “Non! You were not born then!” Caught in my dumbest moment, I was three seconds late on the uptake to get the full import of the statement, before breaking into laughter.

But the most quotable gem of the day: “If champagne is the east of France, then we are the west!” said it all, keeping in mind not just the geography but that blind tastings have proved Bouvet’s sparkling wines as comparable to the world’s best champagnes.

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