My friend Reva – editor and publisher of Sommelier India, the country’s first and, so far only, wine magazine – is puzzled. So, presumably, is Sharad Pawar who, according to popular report, owns acres and acres of grape-producing vineyards in the Nashik region. Jug Suraiya proceeds to answer the question himself with unfailing wit. Excerpted from the magazine.
And so would have been Thomas Jefferson, who remarked that no people who drank wine and beer in preference to hard liquor would ever find themselves in dire need of applying en masse for membership to Alcoholics Anonymous.
All these very different people are – or in Jefferson’s case, were – advocates of the civilised practice of enjoying the occasional glass of wine. To them, and many others like them, wine does not represent the demon drink. Far from it. Wine is a lyric in liquid form, music turned into moisture, a rhapsody played on the palate. So, how come, they ask, don’t more Indians drink wine? Dry days, punitive excise duties and economic downturns notwithstanding, the sales of whisky, rum, vodka, gin and brandy show no signs of decline. On the contrary, they get higher and higher, as presumably do the customers of these products. But, by and large, wine remains a no-no among India’s drinking glasses.
And the reason for this is simple: the idiom of wine is all wrong. When asked to ‘nose’ a wine you aren’t meant to snort the stuff up your nostril, like snuff, but rather to inhale its ‘bouquet’, or the smell it gives off. Or when your host urges you admire the ‘legs’, don’t gawp around looking for the young female in the micro-mini; the ‘legs’ are the streaks of wine which adhere to the side of the glass when you tilt it. A wine said to have an ‘excellent finish’ is not an invitation to grab the bottle by the neck and swig it down till empty in record time; ‘finish’ denotes the lingering aftertaste that the wine leaves in your mouth. ‘Well- structured tannins’ don’t refer to generously endowed bikini-clad sunbathers bronzing themselves on a beach but to the acidic elements, which add complexity to the wine. And no, a ‘complex vintage’ is not a senior citizen in need of psychiatric care but a wine which has matured and gained subtle nuances of taste with age.
Read the rest of the column in the latest issue of Sommelier India WINE Magazine. Subscribe today if you aren’t a subscriber already.