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Wine & Spirits

Six of the Best Indian wines around INR 1000

Indian Wines have come a long way from their humble beginning in the later part of the 20th century. Wine back then was a niche drink, meant to be consumed by the elite section of the society and somehow this notion has still got some foot in today’s time. The wine scenario has changed drastically for good though, as more wineries are opening their doors, giving us more understanding and options to savor wine.

Indian wines serve the purpose towards having a fair introduction to wine. Here’s a list of perfectly curated 6 Indian white wines, for the novice and passionate alike. White wine is generally perceived as sweet tasting, less alcoholic (than the red wine), fruity and perhaps easy to drink. Technically speaking this is not always the case; as many white wines are dry (meaning that wine is not at all sweet).

The wines mentioned below follow no particular order and every wine is good and unique in its own manner.

Specialist Tip Always try and buy the latest vintage (2016), especially for white wine.

York, Chenin Blanc

 

York winery is a newcomer but has carved itself a promising name in the Indian wine Industry. Chenin Blanc briefly is a white grape variety native to France and produces floral and fruit driven wines. It’s also widely used in making sparkling wines especially in India.

Chenin Blanc from York is semi dry, thus one can taste a little sweetness in the wine. The wine on the nose offers ripe oranges, fresh apricots, hint of pineapple and subtle vanilla. The palate is fruity, showcasing apples, honey dew melon, guava alongside a creamy feel. Oak used during production process adds body and more character to the wine.

Food and Wine pairing: This versatile wine can be paired alongside a creamy pasta dish, paneer tikka or sushi.
Price: INR 570 (Delhi Retail Price)

Grover Art Collection, Sauvignon Blanc

Grover Zampa is one of the oldest Indian wineries, offering a huge and myriad range of wines catering to every segment of the market. Currently they released the most expensive Indian red wine: – Insignia. Art Collection by Grover is a range of mostly varietal wines (single grape variety wines), distinguished by beautiful label art done by Indian artists. The famous Indian colorist Rini Dhumal has crafted the label of the Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Sauvignon Blanc briefly is a white grape variety from France, known for classical herbaceous and grassy profile. This Sauvignon Blanc is full of zesty citrus, pears, hint of peach with characteristic herbaceous grassy tones. The palate is refreshing, with lemon, apple and gooseberries making it an ideal thirst quencher.

Food and Wine pairing: The wine pairs perfectly with summer salads, seafood preparations and soft and creamy cheese.
Price: INR 750 (Delhi Retail price)

Grover La Réserve Blanc

La Réserve was first produced in 1998 as a red wine in collaboration with the world famous oenologist Michel Rolland, who has been extending his professional help to Grover Vineyards since 1995. La Réserve has also bagged many international wine awards and is a hit in international market too. La Réserve Blanc was first produced in 2014 from Viognier and minute proportion of Sauvignon Blanc. Viognier briefly is an aromatic white grape variety native to France with nice fruit concentration, and can be made into a complex and serious wine, for those who prefer bold white wines. La Réserve Blanc is special in the way it’s crafted, from hand harvested grapes, from best vineyard sites and finally the usage of French oak barrels during fermentation and ageing.

 

The aroma is fragrant, showcasing orange blossoms, grapefruits, ripe apples, peach, hints of exotic fruits and vanilla. The palate comprises of pomelo, quince, guava, passion fruit with a touch of sweet spice from oak ageing. An amazing white wine with great aromatic intensity and enriching flavors.

Food and Wine pairing: This wine is a food wine that goes well with white meat dishes, hearty seafood dishes and blue cheese like Gorgonzola and Danish Blue. Spaghetti Carbonara can be an ideal food pairing.
Price: INR 1050 (Delhi Retail Price)

Sula, Riesling

Sula is the most widely known and recognized Indian wine brand, and in fact was the first winery to start it’s wine making journey in the Nashik region in 1999, currently the wine making hub of India. Sula Riesling requires mention in this list, not just because of the brand power, but the fact that it is India’s first ever Riesling. Riesling briefly is white grape variety of German origin, and can be made into different styles ranging from luscious sweet nectar to bone dry wines.

This Riesling has aromas of lemon zest, white flowers, apples, apricots and a touch of ripe pineapple. The palate is fresh and juicy reminiscent of assorted fruit basket, with pears, honeydew melons, some guava with some sweetness to it. This wine can give novice an idea of what to expect in Riesling grown in Germany and elsewhere.

Food and Wine pairing: A versatile wine when it comes to pairing with food. Summer fruit based salads, spicy food preparations and Asian cuisine pair well with this wine.
Price: INR 890 (Delhi Retail Price)

KRSMA, Chardonnay

Krsma is a boutique winery, based in Hampi Hills in Karnataka. The winery production is limited as compared to other brands, making availability difficult. Bangalore currently is the only city where one can lay hands on them. New York is another international city where you can find these exclusive wines. An interesting fact about KRSMA is that, they focus on only four varietal wines: Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese in the red wine category and Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in the white wine category. Chardonnay briefly is white wine, native to France and is grown in almost every wine making region worldwide.

This Chardonnay expresses notes of white flowers, sweet lime, orange peel, apple and peach. The palate has some creaminess, nectarines, mango, and vanilla bean. The wine is delectably fruity and balanced with subtle oak in the background.

Food and Wine pairing: Mild Indian curries, seafood preparations like prawns in garlic butter sauce, Chicken Caesar salad will pair excellently with this wine.

Price: INR 1200 (Bangalore Retail price)

Fratelli, Sangiovese Bianco

Fratelli is an Indo Italian venture, based in Akluj in Maharashtra. The winery has expanded its wine label, thus exposing Indian consumers to new styles of wine exclusively produced by them. Interestingly and surprisingly Sangiovese Bianco is a white wine, made from Sangiovese (An Italian red grape variety). This wine is a work of fine craftsmanship and sheer passion. The famous red wines of Chianti from Tuscany, Italy are all Sangiovese based, thus making it the most known Italian red grape variety.

 

 

The Sangiovese Bianco has delicate aromas of acacia blossoms, citrus zest and green apple with hints of ripe peach flesh. The palate has nuances of vanilla, grapefruit and some ripe banana. This light bodied wine is an excellent aperitif and must try if one is looking to stray from the known classic white grape varieties.

Food and Wine pairing: Kebab preparations like Chicken malai tikka, Thai cuisine, grilled seafood can pair well with this wine.
Price: INR 880 (Delhi Retail price)

Conclusion

Most of us would after a long and a hard day at work return home, put our feet up and want to relax for the rest of the evening. The way I see it is that a good glass of wine can never go wrong with a meal or otherwise and if this fits nicely into our pockets and budgets then this could be a life long affair to remember rather than a one night stand!

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Wine & Spirits

The Secret Life of Cashews

As the cashew waited patiently inside the cashew apple, it grew lonely. It could hear the sounds of the outside world, which it desperately wanted to explore. So, it prayed and prayed, until God appeared one day, and said, ‘I grant you your wish. You can now remain outside the apple, and watch the world go by, as you wanted’. – Legend of The Cashewnut

The Cashew Fruit – Ready for Harvest

Whether you choose to believe the above story or not, in actuality, the cashewnut is a seed, and the source of a variety of products and by-products. The cashew was brought to the Indian shores of Goa by the Portuguese in the late 16th Century, and we Indians have since, discovered the secret life that a Cashewnut leads! We were a part of The Cashew Trail this year, an annual event organized by the Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa, tracing the journey of the Cashew, from fruit to its many derivatives. Here are the different stages of the Cashew Lifecycle:

Birth of a ‘Nut’

Hues of reds, yellows and greens, welcomed us at the cashew farm and this was the first time that I saw where the cashew actually comes from, and it looked a bit comical to me. The cashewnut was literally hanging onto the fruit for dear life, it seemed to me. As it was later explained to us, the cashewnut is ready for harvest when the color of the cashew fruit changes from green, to any of the other colours.

The Fruit – The Cashew Apple

Urak Sorbet

Once ripe, the cashewnuts are manually separated from the fruit and further processed. The fruit of the cashew tree is identical in looks to an apple, but it has a chalky texture , a slightly sweet taste and a pungent aftertaste. Sprinkle it with some rock salt, and it does taste better, but I don’t see myself chomping down on cashew apples, just for the pleasure of it.

However, the juice of the fruit makes for a very pleasant and refreshing summer drink. Add a dash of lime, club soda, crushed ice, and a pinch of sugar. Top it off with a few mint leaves, and what have you, a Virgin ‘Cashew-Apple’ Mojito!

Urak and Feni – Fermentation of the Cashew Fruit Juice

Stomping of the Cashew Fruit

Once the nuts are separated from the fruit, the fruits are then compressed either by machines or by stomping on them, to extract the juice. The juice is then diluted with water and collected in earthen pots, buried underground. This juice is left there for nearly 3 days, where the heat of the earth and naturally occurring yeast ferments the juice, converting the sugars into alcohol, and covering the ‘Cashew Wine’ with a thick layer of scum which is removed before the next step.

Distillation of the Fermented Cashew Fruit Juice

After fermentation, the product is then distilled in large, sealed earthen vats at high temperatures, to produce Urak. Urak is a colourless and slightly cloudy derivative, containing around 12-14% of Alcohol. Urak is the younger cousin of Feni, has a nice and fresh-cashew fruit odour, and mixed with Limca, is ideal to beat away all your summer blues.

The End Product- Urak getting collected

A couple of distillations later, the end product is Feni, a potent drink, containing nearly 40-42% of Alcohol. The odour is now more pronounced, but the colour is still clear.

The Cashew’s Nightlife! (Appreciating Feni)

The range of Feni and Urak at the Feni Appreciation Event @Park Hyatt Goa

When you want to appreciate Feni, the Goan way, you need some song and dance. And we got a bit of both as we were entertained and educated by a lively host on the intricacies of Feni and Urak. The surprising takeaway from this session was that we discovered that Feni ages really well, and we tasted several varieties of Oak Barrel-Aged Feni.

A bit like wine, Feni is definitely an acquired taste, and once you get over the initial shock of the strong fragrance, it actually is a decent drink. The 3 year and 5 year old aged Fenis were the standout here, and I was distinctly reminded of fine Kentucky Bourbon, with the latter one. Smooth, luxurious and potent is how I would describe it.

‘Roasted’ Cashew-Nuts

The actual cashew-nut that we eat is the kernel of the cashew seed, and is embedded within it. The extraction is actually a dangerous process, if you decide to do it indoors. The sun-dried cashewnuts are roasted in a large vessel which has several holes at the bottom. The reason for these perforations are two-fold: One, the Cashew Shell contains a poisonous dark coloured ‘oil’ which is inflammable, and it can percolate out through these holes. Two, the heat is evenly distributed, allowing for proper roasting of the nuts.

As the roasting begins, after a few minutes, the cashews burst into flame, due to the oil seeping out from the cashew shells, and gradually, the fire dies down, leaving behind charred cashew nuts. They are allowed to cool for a bit, and the kernel is now extracted by cracking open the shells with either hammers, or stones, anything that is handy. Out pop the pearly white cashew nuts, toasted and ready to consume(with a thin shell still remaining, which can be brushed off by hand).  And thus, we have Cashewnuts!

And the Cashew Life Cycle continues:

The Cashew Lifecycle in an edible format at the Park Hyatt Goa

And these are the significant(and secret!) events in the life of the Cashewnut. It must be noted that the Cashew and Coconut tree form the backbone of the trade and exports in Goa, and both of these trees hold a special significance in the Goan Culture. While the cashewnut seems like such an innocuous product, hopefully, you would have gained an insight into the diverse applications that this seed can be put to.

The Cashew Trail and Park Hyatt Goa

Pic Courtesy: Park Hyatt Goa

Cashew Trail is an annual event that was conceptualized by Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa in association with Madame Rosa Distillery in 2012. This event was curated to showcase the legacy of the fruit of Goa – the cashew in its many forms and manifestations to the global audience so as to create another rare and unique Park Hyatt experience. April is the ideal time for this unique celebration being the perfect harvest season for cashews, showcasing the fruit in its true glory. Edition 2017 was hosted in collaboration with Goa Tourism Development Corporation, Carpe Diem Art Gallery, Madame Rosa Distillery and  Goan Culinary Club.

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Quirky Wine Questions with Mr. Abhay Kewadkar

Even seasoned wine connoisseurs admit that they are still learning something new about wine every other day, and the depth and variety of the fruit itself leaves room for so much debate as well as speculation.

In a freewheeling chat with Mr. Abhay Kewadkar, Director & Chief Winemaker Four Seasons Wines, and a person who has been intrinsically involved in setting up several Vineyards in India from scratch, we learnt a lot about the history of modern wine in India from his journey in the Indian Wine Industry. Here is a short excerpt from our interview session:

We did a little survey on Chef At Large, to find out from our users, about any questions that they have about wine, and we got a tremendous response. In the below video, we put these questions to Abhay, who answers these in exquisite detail where applicable. Watch it and get wine-educated!

For those who would like shorter answers to these questions, here is a summary of the Q n A Session.

Quirky Wine Questions- Answered

1. Which type of Wine helps you reduce weight and gives a glowing skin

There is no record or report to say that any particular type of wine can help in weight reduction or give a glowing skin.

2. Which wine is healthier red or white?

Published articles on health benefits of wines have recorded that a chemical compound called ‘resveratrol’ which is present in Red Wines reduces cholesterol in the blood and to that extent, Red wines are considered to be healthier than White Wines.

3. Which wine is best paired with meat? Red or white?

The basic thumb rule of food and wine pairing is Red Wine with Red Meat and White Wine with White Meat.  Having said that, there can be certain pairings where White Wine can be used for pairing with lighter red meats depending on the method of cooking and the ingredients.

Normally, one chooses Red Wine with Red Meat as the proteins in the meat interact with tannins in the wine. A White Wine with a Steak or a Lamb dish is very difficult to pair as proteins in the Red Meat will overbear the White Wine which lacks tannins.

For roasted pork, you may need a lighter to medium bodied Red wine like Pinot Noir. But for roast Pork with Apple Sauce, you can definitely choose the White Wine like Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc.

If you can move outside your traditional pairing you will find many whites will match well with roast pork, especially when it’s served cold.

Old Vine Chenin Blanc is a very enjoyable match for cold roast pork while an off-dry German Riesling makes a delicious match for roast belly pork.

WINE WITH STEAK

Leaner = Lighter – As a general rule, the leaner the red meat you are matching, the lighter the red wine you can use. A rich cut, such as prime rib, will pair nicely with a bold and high tannin red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

WINE WITH LAMB

Smooth Tannin – Because of lamb’s delicate texture and flavor, choose a bolder red wine with smoother tannin such as a Syrah or Malbec.

White Sauces

EXAMPLES: Yoghurt Sauce, Blue Cheese Sauce, Béarnaise, Bechamel, Stroganoff, Peppercorn Sauce
PAIRINGS: Cream sauces offer a wide variety of pairing options: With a yoghurt sauce look for Grenache or even a Rosé wine. With a peppercorn sauce, match with wines with peppery notes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz.

Tomato-Based Sauces

EXAMPLES: Espagnole Sauce, Marinara Sauce
PAIRINGS: Find medium-bodied red wines with ample acidity to match the acidity in the tomatoes: Wines like sangiovese.

 4. Myth about fish and wine? Which wine should we drink with fish and what type of fish?

If you are having a fish stew, you can go in for a White Wine, like Sauvignon Blanc, for a fried fish with a low level of spice, you can go for a Rose’ , but in case you are having a spicy Malabar fish curry like in Andhra Cuisine, you are better off, having a medium bodied Red Wine like Shiraz.

For lean and flaky fish like Sea Bass, Sole etc. one can pair with refreshing whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. For medium textured fish like Trout and Red Snapper one can pair with White Wines which have been matured in Oak, varietals like Chardonnay, Semillon. Try Riesling which is also a good pair.

For meaty fish like Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna etc. one can even pair with lighter Red Wines or Rose’ Wines.

Strongly flavored fish like Anchovies and Sardines can be paired with Champagnes/Sparkling Wines.

b) Can red wine be drunk at 10 degrees Celsius?

The list says it all.

Inline image 1

5. Which wine goes with which cheese? 

In case you want to taste Wines, for its evaluation and the formal tasting, I would not advise any cheese. But if you want to enjoy Wine with cheese, please go ahead and do so. Acidic White Wines go well with young and creamy cheese for eg. Sancerre with Chevre.  Older and heavy Red Wines go well with older and harder cheeses for eg. Barolo with Parmigiano.   Oaked and heavier bodied White Wines with cheese like Camembert.

Basic rule for cheese pairing:

Cheese and wines from the same region will typically go well together. Cheese with a high fat content = Smooth, oily wine.Cheese with high acidity = Sweet, alcoholic wine,Salty cheese = Acidic wines

6. Can an open wine bottle be reused? If yes, how many days?

Once you open the bottle of wine, the best way to store the remaining wine in bottle is to use a small equipment called Wine Fresh.The technique here is that the air inside the bottle is removed and the bottle remains in sealed condition.  This avoids oxidation. It is good to keep such open bottles in a refrigerator. White wines can stay upto one week and Red Wine can stay up to two weeks.

There are published articles on health benefits of wines have recorded that the chemical compound called ‘Resveratrol’  which is present in Red Wines reduces cholesterol in the blood and the extent Red wines is considered to be healthier than White Wines.

7. What temperature is right for a wine to keep in when not in use?

A good storage temperature for Wine is 15oc, both for Red and White Wines, however, you can invest in a multi-temperature-zone wine cooler, wherein you can store sparkling wines in the lower compartment  at 10oc and progressively, the temperature can go up to 20oc in the top most compartment wherein you can store heavy bodied Red Wines .

8. What’s the difference between Table Wines and Fortified wines?

Table wines or a still wine as they are called is a product of natural fermentation with Alcohol percentage ideally between 8% to 14%.Beyond this alcohol percentage of 14-14.5% the yeast dies.

Fortified wines are wines with Alcohol percentage between 18% to 24% and to achieve this Alcohol is added during or after the end of fermentation. Port wines are classic example of this.

9. Which wine can cause more water retention red or white?

This question is best answered by medical professional. In my understanding, water retention in some cases can be related to the alcohol percentage in the beverage, not necessarily the type of wine

10.What is the actual reason for the punts in bottom of wine bottles? Does it have anything to do with quality?

The only technical reason for having a punt in wine bottles is for sparkling wines.The sparkling wine/Champagnes have pressure inside them and Punt adds strength to the bottle which resists pressure inside the bottle. For still wines, there is no technical reason really but Punt is associated with better quality bottle and hence the better quality wine perception. Punt can also help in better stability when bottle is stored upright.

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Pairing Indian Food with Wine

Chilled Wine Glasses, Four Seasons, Chenin Blanc

Pairing– The concept of bringing together two popular food or beverage items, so that each enhances the flavour of the other, and the end-result is actually not just the sum of the experience of the food and beverage together, but an exponential amplification of both the components. As a concept, this sounds rather like a mathematical definition, and in actuality, it actually involves a lot of chemistry, common-sense, an inherent understanding of the ingredients involved and most importantly, experience. Food  pairing can be something as simple as french fries and mayonnaise, to something exotic like Chilled Vodka & Caviar, and my personal favorite, Wine and Indian food.

I met up with Mr. Abhay Kewadkar, Winemaker at Four Seasons Wine, and a veteran of the Indian Wine Industry, at the iconic restaurant of the Gateway Hotel, ‘The Karavalli‘ which serves coastal cuisine from Mangalore, Goa and Kerala too. Our aim was to pair some of the best of Four Seasons Wines, with Coastal Indian Food, to see if we could get a whole new high. Also, present on the occasion was Executive Chef Naren Thimmaiah, who has been a chef here for more than 25 years, and his experience in working with local produce would come in handy too, to decide on the pairing.

We had the following 3 Wines at hand, a popular white, and 2 barrel-aged reds:

  1. Four Seasons Chenin Blanc
  2. Four Seasons Barrique Reserve Shiraz
  3. Four Seasons Vintner’s Reserve

Here is a short video, where the Chef and the Winemaker are in an intense discussion to decide on the food-wine pairing:

  1. Chenin Blanc v/s Chicken Satay

Chenin Blanc: This is a white grape variety, which can either result in either a dry wine or a sweet wine, depending on how the wine is made.However, one factor which makes Chenin Blanc easy to pair, is the fact that it had got a beautiful acidity, which can cut across several types of dishes, including Mediterranean as well as lightly spiced Asian Dishes.

The Wine: Coming to the Four Seasons Chenin Blanc, this wine is made in an off-dry style(which means that it still has a bit of the residual sugar left in it, so the sweetness of the sugars balances the dryness of the grapes, bringing it’s palate down from a dry varietal to an off-dry varietal). This wine has a pleasantly fruity smell, and has its acidity on the crisp side, so pairing this wine was relatively easy.

The Food:We decided to have a the Chicken Singapore Satay to go with our chilled glass of the Four Seasons  Chenin Blanc.

Four Seasons Chenin Blanc with Singapore Chicken Satay Skewers

The Pairing: The Chicken Satay was not the classic thai version which is served with peanut sauce. Rather,these were roasted chicken pieces on skewers, pan-fried a little to give them a little dimension and served with a tangy sweet-spicy red sauce. This went really well with the Chenin Blanc, and a pairing that I instantly liked. The freshness of the wine enhancing the flavours of the skewered chickens, this is a highly recommended pairing, though it isn’t exactly Indian Food.

2. Barrique Reserve Shiraz v/s Pork Sorpotel

The Wine: The word ‘Barrique’ actually refers to a particular type of french wooden barrel, in which wines are aged. The Four Seasons Barrique Reserve Shiraz is a wine-blend consisting of 87% Shiraz, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Viognier, which is aged in barriques for about 12 Months, and another couple of years in the bottle. This wine was of a inky-red colour, with a nose of dry spices and dark fruit. The flavour profile was a bit on the smoky side, with a intense charcoal flavour coming through. I think this wine would go perfect with barbecued items.

The Food: This was a tricky one, especially considering, that we were dealing with Coastal Cuisine, where the flavours are much fresher. We decided to go with the Pork Sorpotel, a goan-interpretation of pork in a red gravy, high on spices and flavour. This was served with fluffy sannas on the side, to help mop up the slight gravy that remained.

Goan Pork Sorpotel with Barrel Aged Shiraz, Four Seasons Barrique Reserve

The Pairing: The pork item that arrived is probably one of the best dishes of Pork I have had over the years, with beautifully roasted pork pieces in authentic goan spices, with the slightly sweetness of cashew balancing the spices. But having this with the Barrique Reserve was not a very happy conclusion. The spices of the curry drowned out the smokiness of the wine, and vice-versa. For this wine, I think if the pork was smoked, it might have gone down better. Nonetheless, a lesson learnt, Very Smoky Wines do not pair well with spicy goan red curry.

 

3. Vintner’s Reserve v/s ‘Atturachy Ularthu’ (Kerala-Style Dry Lamb Dish)

A barrel aged fine red wine with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes

The Wine: The term ‘Vintner’ actually means a wine-maker, so Vintner’s Reserve symbolizes a Reserve Wine that is recommended by the Wine Maker. The Four Seasons Vintner’s Reserve is a combination of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grape varieties, aged for 2 years in oak barrels, and another 2 years in the bottle. This wine is a delight to have, with a deep plum color, and smoky notes, balanced with mellow spice notes. This wine almost seemed like the older brother of the Four Seasons Barrique Reserve Shiraz, with similar base characteristics, but more well-rounded and mellowed out.

The Food: This complex wine called for food that has a richer texture and more complexity to it. We decided to go with the ‘Atturachy Ularthu‘, as recommended by Chef Naren. Ularthu in malayalam means dry, and this preparation of lamb is a dish from Travancore. Lovely cubes of lamb, cooked to perfection in typical kerala spices, such as black pepper,nutmeg and fennel powder. This was another dish that was superbly done by the chef, and it would be interesting to see how this paired with the wine.

Vintner's Reserve Barrel Aged Fine Red Wine with Kerala Style Dry Lamb Appetizer

The Pairing: This turned out to be an interesting exercise in wine-food pairing. The beautifully rounded wine cut through the fine spices in the lamb, and the pairing turned out to be the highlight of the day. Since the Wine itself had slight spice notes, and the slight smokiness of the wine elevated the ‘Atturachy Ularthu’ to a different dimension altogether. A Worthy Pairing!

All in All, after pairing several coastal Indian dishes from Goa and Kerala with Wines, it has become clear to me that Indian Cuisine can indeed become a good companion to good wines from around the world, and Wines can complement Indian Food as well, if you are willing to give it a shot. The only way to know for sure is to keep experimenting with different wine varietals and food combinations, until you find something that hits your ‘sweet spot’. Well, What are you waiting for, try pairing your favourite wines with your favorite food, and tell us the results!

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Losing Your Wine Virginity!

Are you a wine virgin? Would you like to savour your first glass of wine? This is a quick primer for beginners, who would like to know how to drink wine, with expert tips from Ms. Karishma Grover, Winemaker and Co-Owner at Grover Vineyards.

Here it is:

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Wine 101 – A Video Interview with Karishma Grover

wine, podere, montepulciano, umani ronchi, dead-arm shiraz, sangre de toro, torres, miguel torres, catalunya, catalonia, mc laren valeHave you always had these questions about wine that you were too embarrassed to ask? Would you like to understand a bit more about wine, what are the types of wine, how they go with some types of food and so on?We had an in-depth discussion about the various aspects of wine and food, with Miss Karishma Grover, Co-Owner and Wine-Maker at Grover Wines.

Here are the questions we asked her:

  1. A Lot of people think of wine as a pretentious drink. Your take?
  2. How would you prefer to classify wines? (Red/White? Table/Dessert/Sparkling?) Could you tell our viewers more about these particular type of wines?
  3. Does wine have any health benefits?
  4. Since a majority of our group members are foodies, I am sure they would like to know which type of wines pair well with food?
    1. Rich Gravy Dishes (Paneer/Chicken)?
    2. Steaks (Chicken/Beef/Pork)?
    3. Curries with a light gravy? Soups/Broths?
    4. Classic Indian Desserts like Gulab Jamun, Gajar Halwa, Rabri?
  5. What advice would you give budding chefs on serving Wine?
  6. If left alone on an Island, which wine would you prefer to take with you and why?

Here is part 1 of this session. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we get Wine Tasting Tips, and also taste some of Grover Vineyard’s finest wines.

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Wine Tours in Bangalore – Part 2

This is our concluding part to the wine-tours article. This is where things get more interesting. These tours are more for the Wine-Enthusiasts, who are looking to experience some top-notch Indian Wines, in the company of knowledgeable winemakers. As we continue our quest to scour Bengaluru for Vineyards, both the Wine and the scenery get better. In case you missed reading the first part of this article, here is the link to it:

Wine Tours in Bangalore-Part 1

Grover Vineyards

Grover, Wine, Tasting, Barrel Room

The Grover Vineyards are located at Doddaballapura, Bangalore and the Vineyard Entrance is right on the Devanahalli Road, which makes it easy to find. It is nearly 50 km from M.G road, and I would suggest taking the Telecom Layout road route, for the last 20 km, to experience a peaceful and scenic drive.

While Grover Wines are highly acclaimed Indian Wines, their Wine Tour is less than spectacular. It begins on the lawns with a brief history session about Grover, proceeds through the winery, and culminates in their barrel room which really has a charm of its own, and the best tasting room in Bangalore in my opinion. You get to taste 5 of their wines, 4 of which are from their Art Collection, 1 Red, 2 Whites and a Rose. The last Wine you get to taste is their critically acclaimed La Reserve, which is a delightful Indian Red Wine, destined for greatness.

Grover Wine Tour

Their Vineyards are around 3 km away from the Tasting Room, and you can also take a tour of the Vineyards, if you have the time. The food they serve is decent, and pairs appropriately with their Wine. You can also have Wine by the Glass, if you wish to sample more of their wines.

They also provide Wine-Stomping facilities in special vats, for large groups only.

Wine(s) I would buy:
Grover Zampa Chêne: This is one of my favourite Indian Wines. A blend of the Spanish Tempranillo and Syrah grapes, this beautiful fruity wine is superbly balanced and has an elegant finish.
Zampa Soire Brut Rose: Sparkling Rose Wines are rare, and this Brut Rose made with Syrah grapes is certainly a must-have in your special-occasions wine-collection. Light, creamy with a hint of strawberry, this is the perfect wine to savour on a dinner date with someone special. Serve Chilled!
Cost
Wine Tour and Lunch Weekdays              : INR 850 per person
Wine Tour with Lunch Weekends            : INR 1000 per person

Bangalore Soma Vineyards

The Bangalore Soma Vineyard is located at Sonnenahalli, close to the Makalidurga fort. It is nearly 70 km from MG Road and about 20 km from the Grover Vineyards in Doddaballapura. The last kilometer from the main road to the Vineyard is a bit confusing if you are using Google Maps to navigate. My Advice: Follow the arrows on the road, to reach the Vineyard.

This Vineyard is by far, the most scenic Vineyard on the list, flanked by the Makali Hills on one side, and the Gundamagere Lake on the other. It boasts of 3 artificial ponds, and should you wish to swim in them, you would need to inform the management in advance. They currently grow 3 grape varieties in their Vineyard, which are also exported to other wineries. The tour starts off with a Vineyard walk, where the 3 grape varieties are shown and their farming/texture/properties explained in lucid detail, if you would like to know more. Then comes the tasting of 3 of their wines, and each wine is paired with a specially designated area, to ensure that you can enjoy the wine more. This is a beautiful concept and equally well-executed. For example, they serve their Rose Wines, as you watch the sun setting over the Makali Hills, and needless to say, this is one sunset you are unlikely to forget.

The pairing of snacks with the wine is appropriate, and their-quality is top-notch. If you are visiting in a small group, catering is done in-house, and the food is thoroughly enjoyable.

If you would like to stay over, you need to request for it well in advance, and it is at the discretion of the owners.

Peaceful, picturesque, breath-taking, this is one Vineyard I could keep visiting every weekend and still not get enough off. Their wines are decent, and unfortunately, the Reserve wine was unavailable when I visited. The passion of the owners, the attention to detail in the Vineyards and the enchanting views, make this one Vineyard whose progress I would follow closely.

Tip: In case you are travelling here early morning, a trek to the nearby Makalidurga fort and temple can also be planned.

Wine(s) I would buy:
Bangalore Soma Sauvignon Blanc: This is a crisp White Wine, with its acidity being on the higher side but with a smart finish. It pairs beautifully with Indian Food.

Cost
Wine Tour/Tasting with Snacks            : INR 1500 per person
Wine Tour with Lunch/Dinner              : INR 2500 per person
Overnight Stay and breakfast (On Request): INR 2000 per person

Bangalore also has another Vineyard called the ‘BlackBuck Vineyard’, which is not owned by Salman Khan! On a serious note, it is located nearly 120 km from Bangalore in Maidanahalli. Unfortunately, I was unable to contact the owners through email and phones in-spite of repeated attempts. Though I understand, they have a full day package with stay included at INR 4000 per person.

This concludes the two-part Wine tour series in Bangalore. Stay tuned to this section as we take on the Wine-Makers on their own turf and ask them some hard questions about Wine-Making, Grapes and the best wines on their list.

 

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Columns Contributions Travel Wine & Spirits

Wine Tours in Bangalore – Part 1

Soma Vineyards, Wine Grapes

Tired of visiting the same old café’s with their generic lattes and cookies? Hopped across most of the pubs in Bangalore and in search of your next surprise drink? Or are you simply trying to get away from the city, choc-a-bloc with people and vehicles?

Look no further, these wine tours promise to satiate your senses, be it with a romantic date or a group of friends wanting to have fun. The best part is, they cater to all budgets, and they are all located in Bengaluru! The following are the Vineyards in Bangalore, offering everything from a guided Wine-Tour and Wine-Tasting to a tour of the Vineyards, Grape-Stomping, food and even overnight stays. They are listed in increasing order of budget, starting with the least expensive tour. In the first part of this article, we will cover the Heritage and Kinvah Vineyards in Bangalore.

Heritage Wine Tour

Wine Tour

This Vineyard is near Channapatna, the Land of Wooden Toys. It is nearly 70 km from M.G Road and is around 3 km off the Bangalore-Mysore highway.

This is the least expensive Vineyard Tour available in Bangalore, and is the perfect start for someone willing to experience their first wine, and understand how wines are made. The tour is basic, but it covers all aspects of wine-making. For the Wine-Tasting, you will be provided with 5 Wine varieties in their ‘Tasting Room’.The tasting notes and basics would be covered by the Wine-Expert there. The Wine-Maker is knowledgeable-enough and makes the Wine-Tasting Experience worth it.

While the Wines at Heritage are certainly not the best out there, they are super-affordable and ideal for students and beginners alike. They also have an in-house restaurant (Epulo), where you can have food à la carte, or have a 3-course meal as part of the package. Honestly, the food here is just about average, and if you are not very hungry, it can be given a miss. They also have vats for Grape stomping, if you are so inclined, and that costs extra (INR 500).

Wine(s) I would buy:
The Heritage Twist: Carbonated and fortified, this is like a fizzy-grape version of colas.
Cost
Wine Tour/Tasting        : INR 250 per person
Wine Tour with Lunch  : INR 800 per person

Kinvah Vineyard and Tavern (Or Nandi Valley Winery)

Wooden Cask, Wine, Kinvah

This vineyard is notoriously hard to find. Search for it on Google maps and you will be re-directed to it’s Nandi-Durga Road office. It is actually located in the Yelahanka Hobli area, around 3 km from MVIT College, the nearest landmark. The distance from M.G Road to the Vineyard is approximately 30 km.

This is the most tourist-friendly Vineyard to be in. They have an elaborate setup for grape-stomping with a nice lawn and several large vats, where groups of people can do the grape-stomping. They even have a DJ, dance-floor and synchronized lights to make it a very happening spot on the weekends. Also, they have planted grape-vines of the local variety that wine-tourists can pick directly from the wines, so that it can be used for the grape-stomping sessions

The winery tour is decent and the wine-maker is ready to answer all your questions. The best part of this wine-tour is that you get to choose the wines that you want to taste, and the quantity that they serve is more than adequate for the average wine-consumer. Overall, this wine-tour scores high on hospitality.

Again, their wines are not top-notch, but they have a large variety of wines in their portfolio, and some of them can be pitted against the better mid-range Indian wines. They also have food arrangements, and the food is just average. But there are no restaurants close-by, so you can have a go at their food packages as well. A major plus of this wine-tour, their grape-stomping is fun and well-priced. Here is a short video we shot of our grape-stomping session at Kinvah:

[mycred_video id=”ia3LTT1H_WE” logic=”play” amount=”5″ width=”560″ height=”360″]

Wine(s) I would buy:
Kinvah Brut: A lovely dry sparkling white wine with Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, this is a light, crisp and fruity wine with a lower level of carbonation, when compared to other sparkling wines. This is the perfect drink for celebrating occasions on a budget!
Kinvah Manthan: An interesting blend of four grape varieties (Merlot, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon), this wine will surely flummox your guests with it’s intense ruby color and burst of fruity flavors.
Cost (They also have discounts, ask while booking)
Wine Tour/Grape Stomping              : INR 495 per person
Wine Tour/Grape Stomping/Lunch: INR 995 per person

While these vine tours are more for beginners, they are easy on the pocket, and do not require any background on Wines. Stay tuned, as we cover the Grover and Bangalore Soma Vineyards in the concluding part of this series.

Here is the link to the next article.
Bangalore Wine Tours Part – 2

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Wine & Spirits

In Wine There’s Truth!

You are flipping through the pages of a food magazine and you come across an interesting recipe and think about trying it out. You peruse the list of ingredients, read that it includes Chardonnay wine and decide to give this recipe a pass. All because you are unsure if cooking with wine is as simple as it is made out to be? WC Fields once said, “I cook with wine. Sometimes, I even add it to the food!” Jokes apart, cooking with wine might come across as a daunting task, mostly because people are apprehensive about investing time and a nice bottle of premium wine; and then ending up with some culinary gobbledygook.

That need not be the case. After all, early Romans used to cook with wine regularly since it was a great preservative to store their meats, especially when their troops trudged to war. This is apart from mulling wine with spices and citrus fruits as their beverage of choice. And all this by just following their nose for what worked in a dish, and what didn’t. So what’s stopping you? Cooking with wine gained popularity with various European cultures, because it was abundantly available and could replace vinegar in some dishes too. Besides acting as a preservative, wine elevated the taste of various meat dishes and soon became a staple medium in cooking.

Wine to Europe is what spices are to India – helpful in most recipes and but, essential in a few,” explains Chef Stephane Mathonneau, former Head Chef of Delhi’s Le Bistro Du Parc. “In some cases, wine is used to lend color to a dish like the beef bourguignon; while wine reduction will give the sauce of meat dishes a velvety touch.”

Making the Right Choice

Delicious grilled ribs with wine!

Wine’s natural sugars, tannins and acids help accentuate the aroma and taste of a dish, irrespective of whether it is used in the sauce, marinade or as a medium for sautéing. Chefs advise that a light-flavored white wine is apt for delicately flavored foods like chicken, turkey, fish or dishes that include apples, citrus, olives and mushrooms. Dark-colored meat like beef will go best with a dark, coarse red wine; lamb tastes better with a light red, while pork can be easily married to a fruity red or white wine.

Ultimately cooking is not a scientific experiment. You can follow the outline of a recipe, but use your judgment and individualistic panache to make your dish a success,” adds Chef Michael Swamy.

Now, don’t take this as a blanket allowance to hoard wines during the annual sale at your local wine shop! Instead, pick only those that will lend itself best to the recipe on hand. Before you buy a bottle, or use one in a dish, preferably taste the wine. “Besides understanding the taste of the wine, this exercise will give you a good idea about what will go best with it. Different people like different flavors in their food. My advice is that you first find the right wine shop, discuss the wine with the people at the shop and buy one bottle to test it,” suggests Chef Michael. “Once you know what you like and dislike, you can start using the wine in your cooking more regularly.”

Cooking with Wine- Myth buster

Myth: I will get tipsy if I eat food cooked in wine. Truth: A large part of the alcohol in wine evaporates when cooked with food, depending on the method of cooking. To avoid getting tipsy, skip that glass of wine during your mealtime, instead!
Myth: If you have some leftover wine, toss it into a dish. Truth: If you have some wine left over, store it in an airtight bottle, refrigerate and use within 4 days. Leftover wine that has been sitting open for a while will oxidize and using this could alter the taste of your dish.
Myth: The more the wine in a dish, the better it will taste. Truth: Excess of any ingredient will spoil the taste of a dish. The same logic applies to wine as well. Ideally, pour small quantities of the wine gradually to the dish while cooking. Keep tasting the dish to see if it has imparted the right flavor and adjust the wine portion accordingly. Adding more wine won’t necessarily transform your dish to a gourmet creation.

Does Premium make a Difference?

Treading the middle path and cooking with a good quality wine is sensible!

Your better half might not be as excited about you using the cherished bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951 wine for your cooking purposes. So which wine should you use? Cooking wine is economical, because it often has a shorter maturing period and is therefore less complex. Not all chefs, however, contend to using cooking wine. Chef Deepak Ballaney of International Chicken Wings Factory in New York puts it bluntly, “If you won’t drink it, then
don’t cook with it. Cooking wines often have high quantities of salt and food coloring and can wreck havoc if you are cooking a delicate meat like shellfish. Instead, invest in a better quality, though not necessarily expensive, wine for your cooking purposes.”

Tread the middle path and invest in a good-quality wine, which is likely to give the same flavor to a dish as an expensive one. Better still, buy two bottles of the wine – use one for cooking and the second for serving with the meal! The other alternative is to read the recipe of a dish carefully to see what is the kind of wine mentioned. For example, if a recipe asks for a crisp dry white wine or Pinot Grigio, then stick to this than opting for a Sauvignon Blanc. The results will differ depending on the type of wine you use, and always pleasantly at that. Using leftover wine is another no no. Having an opened bottle of wine lying in your pantry is no excuse to use while cooking lamb shanks. Refrigerate the wine and use it within a couple of days. Any older than this and you had best toss it in the trash.

Conclusion

Ultimately, there is no rule book about cooking with wine. It is all about experimenting, inventing and arriving at your own recipe. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from dabbling with wine in your dishes. Just use your imagination and cook like no one is watching, that is the right attitude to creating magic in the kitchen, yes? In wine there’s Truth …or so said Pliny, The Elder, a Roman philosopher. So let’s raise a toast to cooking with wine and adding this epitome of truthfulness into our culinary experiments!

This article has been reproduced from CaLDRON Magazine, February 2014 and has been authored by Vinita Bhatia.- Editorial.