A Taste of France in Mumbai

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Trident HotelThe elegant doors of the Golconda Ballroom at the Trident Hotel at BKC Mumbai were thrown open to wine aficionados on Tuesday. The chic interiors were the perfect setting to showcase an eclectic selection of wines put together by The Consulate General of Bombay, Business France; Tastin’ France, who joined hands to host an intimate tasting of French wines to bring a range of interesting wines closer to Indian wine professionals and enthusiasts.

Madame Sonia Barbry, Consul General of France, in her brief welcome speech, invited select wineries to present their vins to the discerning audience. Wines from three different regions were presented to the accompaniment of clinking wine glasses amidst well laid out tables bearing cheeses and breads displayed with French flair. Leopoldine Champagne, with its distinctive style proffered 3 champagnes to taste:

The first offering was Exaltation Blanc de Blancs 2013, made using 100% Chardonnay, redolent with brioche and biscuit notes on the nose followed by green apple & lemon notes. Dry and creamy possibly because of the extended contact with lees that seems to be evident on the nose & palate.

The Première Fois Brut 2013, was the 2nd one where the nose and the palate were dominated by green
and citrus fruit resulting in a lean, light and refreshing wine.

The Adoration Rosé was 60% Meunier with notes of raspberry, strawberry & grape fruit.

The wines from the Cahors region ‘Les Roques de Cana’, where the black grape Malbec dominates were also showcased. Historically these wines were known as ‘black wines’ due to the very high tannic
content & the longevity of these wines.

La Fiancée 2018, was an unusual rosé. Made from 100% Malbec, the skin is in contact with the juice for only 1 hour, for colour extraction. It has a fresh, fruity, lively nose although I found the alcohol on the palate slightly out of balance.

The reds, dominated by Malbec, were approachable, with soft tannins. This is unlike what is usually seen in the wines from Cahors, which are big, bulky, robust. Malbec however, is not a grape that has gained too much popularity in the Indian market.

St. Emilion is a magical little heritage village in Bordeaux producing rich red wine. The next winery,
Chateau Franc Cardinal, is located just 20 minutes away from St. Emilion. (St. Emilion already had
Sophie, the CEO, gushing over it, while I made a mental note to visit it once in France.)

Chateau Franc Cardinal is another certified organic producer, belonging to the most recent & smallest
Bordeaux appellations, ‘Francs Cotes de Bordeaux’. Among the reds presented by them, Ch. Franc Cardinal 2016, dominated. With 70% Merlot, it stood out with a lot of gamey, meaty farmyard characters. The palate was soft & rounded, tannins comparatively much softer than the comparable Boissonneau collection from the same region.

The white wine was a blend of Sauvignon, Semillon & Muscadelle with green fruits & grassy characters being dominant. I found however that the alcohol was slightly out of balance.

Vignobles Boissonneau, from Bordeaux & the South West region of France have been producing wines since the last 180 years, and have become a certified organic winery from 2010. The high humidity in Bordeaux results in fungal infections, and it is a challenging task to produce organic wines here. Nicolas, the CEO who was presenting the wines, mentioned they lost a whopping 70% of their crop in the 2018 harvest. Evidemment, being committed to organic farming comes with its own costs and risks!

Nicolas had a total of 8 wines to offer. The 2 whites were dry, fresh & well balanced. While one was a 50-50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon and therefore lighter & more refreshing, the other also had 10% Muscadelle which gave the wine a more aromatic nose. The palate was a notch heavier with acidity being more mellow.

Among the six reds, two that really stood out were the Chateau De La Vieille Tour 2016 Bordeaux Superieur, which was a blend of 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec with a lot of red & black fruit notes, spice, floral & a perfumed nose. I found it hard to believe that the wine was completely unoaked, yet had such a complex nose & generous palate. It's aged for 1 year each in steel tanks & bottle, before release. It is sold for a mere €5.50 in France which I thought made for superb value for money. The wine had a concentration of fruit flavours, good tannins & acidity which would make it age worthy for around 5-7 years.

The 2nd one that caught my eye, my nose & my palate was the Chateau De la Vieille Tour ‘Réserve Tradition’ 2016 Bordeaux Supérieur, which is a 50-50 blend of Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon. This one
saw 30% new oak for 12 months, and was redolent with red fruit, cinnamon, cloves and fennel. Well
structured, with an ageing potential of around 10-12 years, and again, priced at €7.50, it easily became
one of my favourites.

With France's historic wine-making knowledge and skills, the selection of wineries was well curated and showcased diverse regions with a wide spectrum of wines, terroirs and styles. French tradition is to pair
wines with food rather than serving it on its own, and the wines presented this evening would pair admirably with a range of international food, whether a French confit de canard, an Italian prawn ravioli
or a delicious tandoori from closer home!

With France’s historic wine-making knowledge and skills richly showcased, this was a tasting with French panache.

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