Choose best wine while you dine

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In a recent article for the Deccan Herald, Alok Chandra discusses the challenges in buying good wine that hasn’t gotten “cooked” due to bad storage. One city that he singles out as an exception to the rule is Bangalore, with its well laid-out, asthetically pleasing designs. Sommelier India is mentioned in the article.


Choose best wine while you dine

By Alok Chandra
As some people are no doubt aware, Delhi allowed sale of imported alcoholic beverages in retail liquor shops end-2004, and it’s good to see some decent brands available in the capital.
But never mind that. Since retailing is monopolised by the state government, the average liquor shop is still a squalid, crowded, and poorly-lit hole-in-the-wall with surly attendants and badly-displayed goods. Hopefully that too will change – one hears that private retail shops are at last being ‘permitted’ to open in select locations.
Of course, since the chaps manning the shops have absolutely no idea about wine, or how to store it, I shudder to think what will happen a few months down the line when temperatures in Delhi rise to 40 deg plus.
This is a common problem almost everywhere in India, where poor storage conditions result in oxidised or ‘cooked’ wines (we blame the producer).
In contrast, many wine shops in Bangalore are well laid-out, with attention to display, aesthetics and design – foremost among these are Metro’s two outlets in Yeshwanthpur and Kanakapura Road. There are also Spiritz at Leela Galleria, Wine Palace in Bangalore Central, Cyber Wines on Walton Road, Classic Wines in Jayamahal, Madhiraa in Basavanagudi, Madhulok Stores on Sarjapur Road (near HSR Layout), and (of course) Foodworld and Monday-to-Sunday stores.
Rise in wine drinking
It is a fact that despite a huge increase in wine drinking in India (at last count volumes grew 27 per cent to about 600,000 cases, including over 100,000 cases of imported wines), most people know very little about wine and how to drink it. Most tend to equate price with quality (not true), the xenophile still thinks that imported is better than domestic (true for wines priced above Rs 1,000/ bottle), and if it’s French it must be better (while the best French wines are superlative, 90 per cent of their wines are ordinary). Since most wines are dry, they taste sour to the noviate – and if you are being subjected to a low-quality table wine (served at 25 deg or more!), it’s no surprise many think wine is over-rated.
Actually, most people are not only confused but even intimidated by the number of wine brands now available on retail shelves in the big cities: from a mere 30-odd labels just three years back, there are now over 200 new wines in Mumbai and Bangalore (Delhi has over 60 imported wines). In a few years from now, there may well be over 500 labels, and that would be fun.
Choosing your wine
So how does one choose? The shopkeepers are generally no help, wine columns like this, can only talk about a few wines at a time. Price is not always a reliable indicator, and there is no information about wines in India on the web. Evidently, wine aficionados in India need a guide, along the lines of ‘The Wine Spectator’ or ‘Decanter’. Which is why, the first Indian wine magazine ‘Sommelier India’ out of Delhi is most welcome – it fills a big gap for wine consumers here. And, hopefully, also provides a forum where people who want to ‘whine about wine’ can get it off their chests. Let’s drink to that. Copyright: 2004 The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G. Road, Post Box No 5331, Bangalore – 560001

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