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3 steps to buying the right wine

December 19, 2005

There's something about X'mas and the New Year that's special -- perhaps it's the nip in the air, or the imitation holly wreaths and plastic Santa dolls being sold by the wayside stalls in Connaught Place in Delhi and Commercial Street in Bangalore -- there's definitely a sense of one year drawing to a close, and the expectation of another year starting afresh.

Never mind that the Hindu year started some months back, or that the Muslim year is still some months away: celebrating the end of the calendar year is a universal phenomenon, and is reflected nowhere else better than in the consumption of wine.

People buy, and drink, more wine in December and January than any other three months put together. There are all those year-end parties as well as the innumerable weddings; this is also the time for hordes of foreign tourists as well as businessmen and dignitaries to come a-visiting.

And, somehow, it just seems right to drink and gift wine at this time of the year. The more savvy shops make up those nifty gift hampers -- and these days any self-respecting gift hamper has one (or more) bottles of wine (still or sparkling).

The only problem is, the wide selection of wines available on retail shelves these days is confusing, even intimidating, for many consumers. So here's a ready reckoner for those wine consumers whom Project Genome termed 'overwhelmed':

What to buy

Depends upon your budget and inclination, really. The best value wines are Indian wines from the old favourites: Ivy from Indage, most of the wines from Sula (I'd skip the Madera) and all the stuff from Grover. All priced at between Rs 300-500 per bottle.

If you're inclined towards imported wines (and don't want to spend a bomb) you could start with Michel Laroche (French, Rs 650) or Paso de Luz (Chilean, Rs 720); Hardy's Stamp series (Australian, Rs 750) and Astica (Argentinian, Rs 800) are also good buys.

Want to splurge a bit? I really like the Green Point wines from Australia (Rs 1,600-1,750), as well as the Chardonnay & Merlot from Casa Lapostolle (Chile; Rs 1,500-1,600), while the Italians from Ruffino and Antinori (all Rs 2,000+) are just sublime.

And we have yet to touch the better French wines or champagnes -- which, since they start at Rs 2,500 and rapidly go stratospheric, we'll not talk about.

Why to buy

Champagnes are for celebrating those special occasions and to romance that special girl; sparkling wines make great aperitifs. Savour white wines if you are feeling hot (and want to get cool), and red wines if you're already cool and want to 'get it on'.

How to buy

All retailers will give you a discount if you pick up a goodly quantity (anything over three bottles) -- so work out your season's requirements (and budget) and strike a good deal.

Here's wishing you all a Merry X'mas -- cheers!

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