Cresting Nine Hills

ninehills1aa.jpg Wine enthusiasts had the opportunity to drink Nine Hills wine and chat with winemaker Jean-Paul Jacquinot (Read his interview, “I was born in a barrel”, SI-The Wine Magazine, March/April 2008) at dinners held in Mumbai, Delhi and Gurgaon. Suneeta Sodhi Kanga reports from Mumbai. Flamboyante was not overly dressed up for the wine tasting. In fact, the Arcade in Mumbai’s World Trade seemed decidedly small.

And as we walked in I felt it would soon get overcrowded. Tables were in short supply. Guests had to hang out in an open area facing the bar and the band. My apprehensions however were soon put to rest when the party got underway and Seagram’s Nine Hills started flowing.
The two delightful whites and two robust reds showed us why the hills of Nashik are alive with the fruity taste of the finest wines. Schubert Vaz’s five-piece ensemble, Jazz Nation, set the mood with soft music. Mellifluous musical notes, caressed lovingly, proved to be the perfect accompaniment to the Sauvignon Blanc that I started off with.
When you swirl the pale gold liquid in the glass, a perky whiff of citrus makes you want to capture the aroma and let it linger in your nostrils. Pineapple and roses, you think as you touch your glass to your lips and savour the tart taste. The freshness that covers your palate and trickles down your throat has the promise of a full evening.
To add to your bliss are helpings from the cheese platter and starters like Olive & Brie Croustades and you know you are on your way to having a memorable party.

Pictured above are Lavesh Jagesia, Jogen Chowdhury, Rukn Luthra, Suneeta Sodhi kanga, Russell Johnstone and Jean- Manuel Jacquinot
Flamboyante now boasts a full house but the steady stream of guests continues, making you wonder about the elasticity of the venue. You hear the buzz of conversation and the delicate tinkle of wine glasses. Well known media faces pepper the crowd. I noticed a lot of familiar faces. Gerson and Uma Dacunha talked with Karen Anand. Professor Khojesti Mistry was hobnobbing with Parvez Damania and the Consul General of Kuwait Mr. Talal and Mr. Waleed from Kuwait airways.
Suneeta Rao seemed to be enjoying the glass of white wine that she held in her hand. Renowned artist Jogen Chowdhury was seen enjoying a conversation with Russell Johnstone from Jacob’s Creek, Australia and Jean- Manuel Jacquinot, from France. And the waiters expertly slide through the groups with platters full of snacks. Amrish Arora, an ex Mayo student and the founder of this charming little place looked pleased as punch.
Suneeta Rao & Karen Anand at the Mumbai Nine Hills event
Much as I was enjoying my Sauvignon Blanc, I agreed to check out the rest of Nine Hill’s repertoire. There was Chenin Blanc, another white wine; and Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, two reds that had to be sampled.
Chenin Blanc was my next stop. And French Master Winemaker Jean-Manuel Jacquinot showed once again why there’s magic that comes alive in Nine Hills’ offerings. There’s that hint of gold that characterized the Sauvignon Blanc. The fruity and heady flavours again orchestrated with the taste buds to transport you to far away fairy lands. But here was a younger pedigree. One that rode rough shod over the blues that came from the soprano sax. There’s a note of recklessness in Chenin Blanc, a promise of a wild rodeo as a little bitterness cuts through the citrus fruit taste.
Karen Anand, Gerson D’cuna, Farzana Contractor, Uma D’cuna also at the Mumbai Nine Hills event
After the delicate whites, the red wines seemed more throaty. It was nice to make their acquaintance.
True to its name, Shiraz had traces of Middle Eastern origin. It was full-bodied. If you can imagine what would happen to sweet strawberry if it married green pepper, you will know what I mean. Exotica at 15 degrees centigrade. A perfect match for Nalli Nihari Gosht, Korean chicken or Lamb Galouti Kebab.
I tarried a while so that the taste could settle in my mouth before I went on to red Cabernet Sauvignon. A little more evolved and well balanced, I thought as I turned to the couple next to me. They turned out to be Cabernet Sauvignon people and it was easy to bond once they saw me swirling the same liquid in my glass. They eagerly offered me helpings of the Spare Ribs and Tai Chi Chicken on their table. Their smiles stayed with me while I walked away with my mouth full.
Guests at the Delhi Nine Hills event held at Tabula Rasa
The party was swinging. Schubert’s Jazz Nation set the mood. Nine Hills added the magic. And I was entertaining an orchestra on my palate, the notes and the bouquets tantalizing and teasing before climaxing.
Whispers that Seagram’s has a few more aces up its sleeve caught my ears. Jean-Manuel Jacquinot is determined to seduce India with his magic in the launch of the new Shiraz Rose next month. If he can do an encore with the fine grapes from the misty foothills of Nashik, all I can say is that I want to be there when he uncorks his new creations.

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