This was a Sommelier India panel tasting with a difference. It was held on January 26 which also happened to be India’s Republic Day since that was the day that suited most panel members. It was a country-wide “dry day” when all liquor outlets are closed. There was no theme for the tasting this time. Members were free to bring their own wines to present to the panel, explaining why they chose that particular label to recommend to SI readers. The wines could be Indian, international, old world, new world, varietals or blends. After the tasting and discussions the tasters would write about their wine in the magazine. Everyone was game, and I expected a full house. But then it began to rain, and the rain didn’t stop. Some members bowed out, so we had fewer tasters than expected. Undeterred, the participating panellists went on with the tasting which ranged from an Indian late harvest wine to wines from Bordeaux, Austria, Italy and South Africa. All in all, it made for a very good session of tasting wine and exchange of views. — RKS
Fratelli Santo Late Harvest wine
The name of Fratelli’s late harvest wine, Santo recalls Vin Santo, the well known dessert wine from Tuscany made with local white grapes, Trebbiano and Malvasia. Fratelli’s Santo, an exquisite, limited release wine produced with four kilos of grapes per bottle is made with Chenin Blanc grapes, selected from plots with little sun but high humidity. The grapes are left to ripen on the vines for an extended period of time well beyond peak ripeness. When they shrivel and dry out, the natural sugar in the grapes increases with an intense concentration of flavour as well as acidity. The juice is fermented, aged in French oak barrels for 24 months and bottled in 500ml bottles. I was presented a bottle which I planned to savour at a special occasion. I couldn’t have chosen a better time. We drank it as an aperitif with foie gras on toast. It was delicious. An increasingly popular aperitif, sweet wines are equally good as a digestif paired with nutty cheese such as Comté.
Intense aromas of vanilla and orange marmalade. Rich and concentrated, with good acidity. Crisp orange peel and nutty flavours on the finish. Best served chilled between 7°C to 13°C in small dessert wine glasses.
— Reva K Singh
2013 Livio Felluga “illivio”, Italy
A blend of Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Picolit. Picolit is a rare varietal found almost exclusively in the north-eastern Italian region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, particularly in Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC. The jewel in the Livio Felluga range of whites, this is a supremely complex, warm and mellow wine that harmoniously unites sweetness and tangy acidity. A true “meditation wine”, it is as subtle and precious as the old gold it evokes in the glass. The grapes are carefully de-stemmed and left to macerate for a short period. The must obtained is allowed to settle and then ferments at controlled temperatures in French barriques. After fermentation, the wine is left on the lees for about 10 months.
Deep straw yellow. Intense nose, penetrating, set on freshness. Hints of cherry plum and orange blossom, candied citron, white pepper, garden cress combined with confectionery, mint and cardamom notes. Fresh and firm on the palate with intriguing sapidity; hints of gooseberry and bergamot orange blend in notes of ganache and licorice root. Pair it with fish, risotto and fresh cheese.
Sometimes people perceive the golden yellow colour as oxidised wine. This is not true, white wines come in varying shades of white which depends on different aspects like ageing, style of grape, production method, etc. — Atul Tiwari
2008 Château Haut-Lagrange, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France
Pessac-Léognan, the region where Château Haut-Lagrange is located, became a part of Graves following a new classification in 1987. This is also where you will find Château Haut-Brion, Château Haut-Bailly, Château de Fieuzal, Château Smith Haut Lafitte and many others. Graves is the only AOC to take its name from the soil. The soil is a mixture of gravel, pebbles, flint and other stony debris deposited by the Garonne River over thousands of years. The grapes for 2008 Château Haut-Lagrange – Cabernet-Sauvignon (55%) and Merlot (45%) – were cultivated on 7.5 hectares. Some of the juice is kept in new barrels, while the rest remains in the tank. Bâtonnage takes place in the barrel. Bottling comes 18 months after the harvest. The wine is good to keep for three to 10 years, depending on the vintage.
Deep red with evolved highlights. The nose gradually unfurls ripe, red fruit scents. The palate is well-integrated. A fruity attack leads into a more robust mid-palate. The finish stays focused and is driven by fruity and liquoricy aromas. A balanced, elegant wine that pairs well with raclette cheese, Indian food and other spicy cuisines, Haut-Lagrange is a great buy, a top Pessac-Léognan wine, for about a third of what most of the other bottles in the area cost. — Isabelle Beau de Lomenie
2012 Weinrieder Kugler Riesling Weinviertel DAC, Austria
Located east of Vienna, Weinviertel forms an important part of the Lower Austria wine region, Niederösterreich. Weinviertel, which translates literally as “wine quarter” is the largest DAC wine region in Austria and the first to receive an official DAC title in 2002. Wines labeled with the Weinviertel DAC title are dry, mid-bodied, white wines with the trademark citrus and spicy white pepper notes of Grüner Veltliner. While Grüner Veltliner, aka GruVee, is the most esteemed varietal in the country, Riesling has an equally important hold on inquisitive palates here. Kugler is one of the most prominent single vineyards in the region and the Weinrieder Riesling does justice to it, showcasing the minerality and typicity of the site.
Bright, youthful pale lemon colour, with a slight green tinge. Attractive first nose with ethereal floral elegance, slowly making way for ripe, fleshy, white florals and chalky minerality with hints of peach marmalade and green tinges at the back. Dry palate with subtle traces of residual sugar, high acidity, subdued yet balancing alcohol, with the grip of stoney chalky minerality. Floral lift continues on the palate with ripe white fruit sweetness complemented by candied lime citrus. This Weinviertel wine has received good scores from various critics. Best drunk now, shows promise of ageing. — Gagan Sharma
2009 Rijk’s Private Cellar Pinotage, Tulbagh, South Africa
Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. It was created in 1925 in South Africa by scientist Abraham Perold who wanted to combine the flavours of Pinot Noir, which was difficult to grow in South Africa’s hot climate, with the more sturdy, Cinsault from southern France. (Cinsault is also known as Hermitage, hence the name, Pinotage.)
Despite its name and ancestry, Pinotage has very little resemblance to Pinot Noir. It is in fact closer in taste and appearance to Shiraz. The grapes are very dark in colour and the wine produced is high in tannins. For a long time Pinotage received a bad rap because it produced poor quality, insipid, commercial wines. However, careful winemaking and lower yields have seen this unique grape increase in reputation and popularity to become the signature grape of South Africa.
Well-made Pinotage wines range in style between easy-drinking table wines to dense, concentrated wines with some ageing ability as attested by the delicious 2009 Rijk’s we tasted. Situated in the picturesque valley of Tulbagh in the winelands of the Western Cape, Rijk’s grapes are picked in the cool of the night and carefully handled with mininum intervention so that the wine is a true expression of its soil and climate. If you like bold, fruity wines, Pinotage is the wine for you.
Tasting notes Deep, ruby red in colour with cherry, tobacco and plum aromas. The red fruit aromas carry through to a rich, expressive palate supported by an intense concentration of tannin, well-integrated oak and amazing depth. Smooth on the palate Rijk’s sophisticated Pinotage is a great food wine. — Reva K Singh