Vishal Kadakia of Wine Park, Martin Kronenberg of Casa Brancaia and Antonio Colaianni of the Michelin starred restaurant, Il Casale were in New Delhi to talk about and introduce their wines and food to the Indian palate. Rahoul Singh was present at the tasting at Rick’s Bar at The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi.
Saved from being gripped by “Delhi Belly” – a gastronomic onslaught of “rude food” (to borrow Vir Sanghvi’s term), a potentially debilitating condition – Antonio spent most of his weeklong trip in the bowels of the hotel’s kitchens, collaborating tirelessly with his Indian colleagues for the stellar performance they put on at dinner later that evening.
As any wine-loving gourmet will attest, food alone cannot satisfy the palate and while Antonio Colaianni set the bar high a void still needed to be filled.
The Italian winery, Casa Brancaia, with vineyards, Brancaia (Castellina in Chianti, and Poppi (Radda also in Chianti) took up the challenge and presented four wines:
1.IL Blu IGT Toscana 2004
2. TRE, IGT Toscana, 2006
3. ILatraia IGT Maremma Toscana, 2004
4. Casa Brancaia Grappa, Toscana 2006
While neither Barbara Kronenberg-Widmer, Martin’s wife and the estate’s winemaker, nor Dr. Carlo Ferrini their accomplished wine consultant were present at the tasting, Martin along with Vishal, who is importing the wines into India, introduced them to us.
With vineyards that vary from 750 feet to 1300 feet above sea level on hill sides that face south, south west, or south east, the estates of Casa Brancaia are perfectly located to produce some exceptional wines, and hence it was hardly a surprise when recognition was accorded to them in 1983 with a first prize at a Chianti Classico tasting.
With approximately 60 acres of land under cultivation, the soil is lean and stony, with both clay and lime present in it. Broadly speaking the vines under cultivation are Sangiovese that accounts for 65% of the crop, Merlot 30% and the remaining 5%, Cabernet Sauvignon.
2004 was a good year in Tuscany. The summer temperatures reached a maximum of 32 degrees centigrade in July with harvest temperatures during the months of September and October varying from 28 degrees to 21 degrees centigrade. Rainfall too was not too much – 9 rain days in May, 16 rain days between July and September, and 16 days of rain in October.
Tuscan temperatures in 2006 varied in summer from 21 degrees centigrade to 32 degrees centigrade while the amount of precipitation varied from 12 rain days in May to 28 rain days between June and September and 16 days of rain in October.
The Il Blu, IGT, Toscana, 2004 was harvested between the 20th of September and the 12th of October. The blend of Sangiovese (50%), Merlot (45%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) resulted in a wine that was in its bouquet reminiscent of freshly cut roses and lilacs. Full bodied and well balanced, with velvety tannins and a long finish, the Il Blu proved to be both a complex and elegant wine.
By contrast, the Tre, IGT Toscana 2006 was medium bodied with fine tannins and a clean finish. The chocolate and berry aromas, coupled with its relatively medium body would pair well with poultry and fish well. The use of polymer corks in this wine, as explained by Martin, was to ensure that consumers don’t mistake a corked bottle of wine for one that is plain bad! The Tre that we tasted was a simple uncomplicated by highly enjoyable wine, ready to drink at a young age.
By contrast the Ilatraia, IGT Maremma Toscana, 2004 gave the Il Blu a run for its money. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Sangiovese (30%) with the remaining (10%) being Petit Verdot. Produced in a climatically different region from the Chianti Classico, the Ilatraia, has undoubtedly carved out a distinct identity for itself. As a wine, I found it to be a lot friendlier than the Il Blu, but not as enigmatic.
The Grappa that concluded the tasting was an absolute delight! Not as harsh as some Grappas can be, it was more in keeping with either a Cognac or an Armagnac. A blend of predominantly Sangiovese and Merlot (with a little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon), the Grappa was infused with subtle peach aromas.
During his visit to India, Martin Kronenberg presented some very interesting Casa Brancaia wines – approachable and friendly yet not overly complex for the uninitiated – wines that could be enjoyed at meals even if Antonio Colaianni was not the genie in your kitchen!