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The perfect wine for Christmas

December 21, 2004

Wine

I've been tasting wines seriously only for a short time (though I've been drinking them ever since that trip to Goa after finishing school first exposed me to Goan 'port'), so when asked to write a column for the wine-drinking fraternity, I approached it with some trepidation.

It's very well to say that in the land of the blind the one-eyed is king while explaining the difference between a Chablis and a Chardonnay, but to translate a self-taught familiarity with wine into something that doesn't get sneered at is a different cup of, well, mulled wine.

Nevertheless, one can take comfort in the fact that there are far more aficionados than experts -- wine drinking is, after all, both aspirational as well as evolutionary.

Let it also be said right at the start that I do not subscribe to the 'East or West, foreign is best' ideology and find many of the domestically bottled wines quite comparable to the imported drop, though costing twice as much.

In fact, since these wines are available everywhere, that's what I would recommend you buy and try this Christmas: Indian wines. Grover makes some great stuff, Sula's wines are the most visible and highly appreciated, and even Indage is going great guns with its Ivy range.

My personal favourite is Grover's La Reserve. Made from a blend of their best Cabernet and Shiraz grapes, the wine has a deep ruby colour and a fruity aroma with hints of spice. The taste is full-bodied, with soft tannins (from the oak barrels) and a lingering spicy finish.

The demand for the wine is such that the company cannot make enough of it, so they release the wine a year too early -- try getting hold of the 2003 vintage (or earlier). Alternately, buy up a few cases and keep for the future (Rs 390 in Bangalore, Rs 440 in Delhi and Rs 550 in Mumbai).

In comparison, Sula's Cabernet Shiraz (80/20) is much more basic -- a medium-bodied red wine that, while well made and with peppery notes, is somewhat light and almost astringent. Not available in Bangalore, it is priced at Rs 490 in Mumbai.

And so to Indage, whose Riviera and Chantilli we will eschew for the Ivy Malbec -- a deep red wine with a fruity nose (cherries?) and a touch of oak in the flavour, this wine is also very drinkable. It is priced at Rs 440 in Bangalore, Rs 490 in Delhi and Rs 530 in Mumbai.

What really goes well with Indian food is either cold water or beer, not wine. However, red wines do better than whites -- so long as they are drunk cooled (the 'room temperature' for reds refers to that in Europe -- a bracing 14-16 degrees C).

So go on, all you Francophiles -- rediscover 'Made in Indya' (with apologies to both Alisha and the eponymous website).
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