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How well do you know your wine?

Kishore Singh | January 27, 2006

There's money to be made from wine, and everyone seems to have cottoned on. The winemakers keep queuing up to tell us how to sniff and gargle and spit out good wine, all so we can twirl a stem languidly and say, "Um, definitely some fruity notes, and the colour is golden, which means it's well aged, a great choice with chicken tikka masala."

The importers are doing pretty much the same thing with wine tasting dinners, so why is it that when you're in Delhi's Khan Market to select wines for a party, you can never remember whether it was the Chenin Blanc or the Sauvignon Blanc that was better, and what the hell is the difference between a Chianti and a Chardonnay anyway?

Then there are the restaurateurs who've packed extensive wine lists for you to select from, but the wine steward can't really pronounce his Muscats and Zinfandels, and if he's pushing the Beaujolais, you can't help wondering if it's because of orders from the management to get rid of it before it turns into vinegar.

But there's no denying that wine is suddenly posh. Even hardcore 'Scaatch' drinkers have an opinion about it, even if it's to say, "Definitely, white is better than red."

And now there's Magandeep Singh, who's a sommelier by profession (that's a person who's supposed to know everything about wine), apparently the only one of his kind in the country, who's decided to give us a helping hand with Wine Wisdom: Buying And Drinking Wine In India, a small handbook about everything you wanted to know about wine but didn't want to ask.

You can't escape the sense of deja vu. Here he is, telling us wine is all about sight, smell and taste (what about the drinking?), which is exactly what all those visiting winemakers with their difficult accents have been doing. Only, Magandeep has put it down in black and white, and it seems to be written in English, so you can make a great deal more sense of it.

He has heaps and heaps of stuff on grape varieties (Ugni Blanc and Brunello, Roussanne and Semillon, and so on), lots of tips ('Always ensure that at least 50 ml to 70 ml of wine is poured for you'), strict no-nos ('Avoid serving heavy reds before light whites'), the usual gaffe about temperature and glasses and protocol, much of which should be elementary -- because if you've chilled the Merlot too much, or the Resiling too little, you'll soon find there's no forgiveness in the snobbish world of wine drinking.

Then, Magandeep puts you through the hoop with a dictionary of wine terms. So, you have 'attack' which isn't about aggression; 'body' which isn't about fitness; 'bouquet' which isn't about flowers; 'brut' which isn't a spelling mistake for a monster; 'chewy' which isn't about gum or tough meat; 'dry' when, of course, it isn't; 'legs' which has nothing to do with girls... you get the drift.

And then, just when you've mugged it all up, Magandeep deals a whammy: 'There is no wine that's 'good' or 'bad'... there is only wine you like and wine you don't.' Kind of takes away the whole point of the book, that, which is a pity because it's mostly a fun read, like its subject, even the parts you don't understand ('...the depth of the punt is directly proportional to the quality of wine'), and so though critics (er, like sommeliers, Magandeep?) might carp a bit, grab a copy -- but drink the wine instead.
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Number of User Comments: 6




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