Tasting French wines in Mumbai at the Trident Hotel

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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. The chic interiors were the perfect setting to showcase an eclectic selection of wines put together by The Consulate General of Bombay, Business France; Tasting 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 wines 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 three 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 and lemon notes. It was dry and creamy, possibly because of the extended contact with lees that seems to be evident on the nose and palate. Première Fois Brut 2013 came next in which the nose and palate were dominated by green and citrus fruit resulting in a lean, light and refreshing wine. The Adoration Rosé that followed was 60% Meunier with notes of raspberry, strawberry and grapefruit.

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 and 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 one 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.

The next winery, Château Franc Cardinal just 20 minutes away from St Emilion – a medieval, heritage village in Bordeaux producing rich red wines – is a certified organic producer, belonging to the most recent and smallest Bordeaux appellation, Francs Cotes de Bordeaux. Château Franc Cardinal 2016 with 70% Merlot, stood out with a lot of gamey, meaty, farmyard characters. The palate was soft and rounded, comparatively much softer tannins than the Boissonneau Collection from the same region. The white wine was a blend of Sauvignon, Semillon and Muscadelle with green fruits and grassy characters dominant. Here too, the alcohol was slightly out of balance. The white wine was a blend of Sauvignon, Semillon & Muscadelle with green fruits & grassy characters being dominant. I found the alcohol, however, slightly out of balance.

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

Nicolas had a total of eight wines to offer. The two whites were dry, fresh & well balanced. While one was a 50-50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon and therefore lighter & more refreshing, the other 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 & perfumed nose. I found it hard to believe that the wine was completely unoaked, and 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 about 5-7 years.

The second one that caught my eye, my nose and 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.

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 serve it on its own. The wines presented that 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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