Wine tastings in themselves can be, after a tipping point, a heady experience. Swirl, sniff, sip and smile, reports Rahoul B Singh. The much practiced routine is followed either by an inconsequential opinion or a much valued insight even in the Indian wine scene. Left to right: Gildas d’Ollone of Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Reva K Singh of Sommelier India WINE magazine, Aman Dhall of Brindco and Al Portney of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
A fellow ‘whiner’ laughs, and you reach out for the next round of canapés. Soon the evening runs dry and is considered well spent.
Without either food or congenial company, wine in itself can be a fairly solitary and cerebral experience, yet when all three ingredients come together it’s sheer magic! And that’s what it was at the last Sommelier India Wine Dinner (SIWD).
Held at the Hotel Imperial’s exclusive restaurant 1911 in New Delhi on January the 25th, the private affair was a combination of fine wines from Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and a specially crafted menu by the restaurant’s talented chefs. We all know about food and wine pairing and the great disclaimer, if it works for your palate then it’s a good match, but seldom does it result in a truly gastronomic experience. But on this occasion at 1911, with superb wines and food, this is exactly what it was.
The early part of evening followed a cocktail format. Nursing flutes of Champagne Louis Roederer the twenty something guests mingled with each other, conversation lubricated with fine champagne. Yes, there was wine talk, not the terribly technical sort that discusses the intricacies of winemaking but fascinating stuff about the future of Bordeaux wine estates, given the effects of inheritance and inter-marriages with shifting alliances. Land holdings in France, especially at some of the older estates, can be as complex as they are here in our country!
The format of the dinner allowed guests to re-connect with old acquaintances while also enabling one to meet new people. Round tables with their starched tablecloths were arranged to seat between four and six and allowed for plenty of flexibility when it came to choosing who you would like at your table.
Aman Dhall and Gildas d’Ollone with the Director F&B, SS Thakur and Chef Jan and staff of the Imperial Hotel at 1911
The restaurant with its collection of antique lithographs depicting the historical events of 1911 added to the pleasing ambience. I was seated with Ghulam Naqshband, the founder of India’s first wine club and someone who had tasted wines from this particular estate when in France in the 1950s (if I remember correctly) and Lalit Anand, an anglophile who divides his time between the UK and India. We jotted down our favourites among the wines.
Top of the pops was Château Pichon Lalande 2000 which was served towards the end of the meal when we had Déclinaison d’Agenau d’Australie or Australian lamb, shallots and couscous in our plates as well Napoleon d’Aubergine, Shiitake et Taleggio, that is, crisp Aubergine slices, Shiitake mushroom duxelles, Taleggio cheese and Rucola salad, lightly coated with Porcini perfumed olive oil.
The wine even though relatively young compared to some of the other offerings was superb. Purple in colour, medium bodied, amiable tannins, a firm bouquet with a few undecipherable aromas but unmistakably smoky oak. It was friendly, approachable and palatable (even for some of the whisky drinkers in the room).
The wines included a Château Bernadotte 2001, Château Pichon Lalande 1988 and 1996 along with a Reserve de la Comtesse 2003 and 2004. A couple of the wines were decanted while the others had been opened and allowed to breathe before serving. They were all excellent. Our table, which had the distinction of not only representing a random sampling of the Indian consumer, but also that of having each diner born in a different decade!
Decibel levels did rise as a lively discussion on an adjoining table was brewing – are there really two categories of wine consumers? In which category would the average Indian wine drinker fall? Are we developing into a market of wine drinkers or wine thinkers?!
With an industry still in its infancy, the Indian wine enthusiast has been fortunate in having been introduced to imported wines that are highly rated, a fact that, in spite of prohibitive prices, has helped many of us to develop a discerning palate.
The confluence of the wines from Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande introduced by visiting managing director of the Château, Mr Gildas d’Ollone, and the excellent food prepared by Chef Jan and his team at 1911, culminated in a truly gastronomic experience that I am sure will continue to be enjoyed greatly on other occasions.
For more information on availabilty and prices of the featured wines, contact Brindco Sales Ltd, tel: +91 11 4064 6666, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.