One counter of the breakfast buffet at my hotel in Athens had an exquisite decanter like bejeweled bottle which read ‘Tsikoudia’ and some shot glasses. I saw people pouring a 40% something alcoholic beverage and sipping it alongside their eggs, cheese and pastries. I had never seen this culture before. Greece, certainly not the oldest civilization but the Greeks were the birthplace of the western philosophy. The idea of democracy, scientific and mathematics principles, literature and drama and more emerged from here. Given their strategic location in the midst of Asia, Africa and Europe, the Romans, the Persians and the Ottomans had their eras in Greece thus giving us a rich history and a reason to visit Greece. Of course islands, beaches, party zones are as much motivation to go holidaying on the islands. I had a different motivation to visit Greece, it was the gourmet angle. Baklava, Gyros and Souvlakis to Greece are like Pizzas and Pastas to Italy and I had my share of those. After that breakfast with Tsikoudia, I set out to find more about what the Greeks drink! Apart from their incredible wines and commonplace beers, here is a list of beverages you should try on your vacation to the islands this summer.
It is a pomace brandy made from pomace which is the residue of grape skins etc from the wine press. It is also called Tsikoudia on the island of Crete, the same one I had for breakfast. Tsipouro is best had chilled and neat however many people dilute it with water and ice. The beverage comes as is or with Anise flavouring and these days aged ones are also common.
This is perhaps the most recognizable spirit outside of Greece, an anise flavoured spirit which turns cloudy when mixed with water. It takes its roots from Tsipouro which was created my monks in the 14th century and their anise version got to be known as Ouzo. Ouzo only became popular in the 20th century with the downfall of Absinthe. Ouzo is served with mezze or Greek appetizers and I loved it during the nip in the spring evenings.
It is brandy based liqueur which is flavoured with Mastic a resin drawn out of the Mastic tree. The resin also known as Arabic gum is known for its medicinal and antioxidant properties since millennia. The Mastica is produced in the island of Chios where the Mastic tree grows. Mastic translates to ‘gnash the teeth’ and is the root of the English word ‘masticate’. Mastica can be enjoyed in a variety of cocktails
Another drink with resin, this time pine resin used to flavour wine. 2000 years ago when wine used to be prone to oxidation, the amphorae or clay pots used to be sealed with pine resin , the pine kept the oxygen out but imparted flavour to the wine. When barrels came into the scene the resin became obsolete however the consumers enjoyed the resinous taste and Retsina stayed on and is popular even today.
It is a brand but I have included this here as it was the first Greek brandy which began selling in 1888 and since then survived both world wars, only one of the two companies to do so the other was a tobacco co. Metaxa is an oak-aged brandy mixed with fragrant muscat wines and then flavoured with natural herbs and floral extracts. Metaxa and Tonic and in cocktails Metaxa Juleps and other such long refreshing drinks are preferred.
The beverage industry is alluring to many from the outside and as beverage professionals we can confirm that it is as much from the inside however passion is the driving force to stay put in the industry. As a fresh hotel management graduate or as a student of hospitality, many are quite disillusioned as to what the industry has to offer based on their industrial training experiences or influenced by colleagues. For them they know that the hardships in hotels and restaurants are not their cup of tea however they do not know where to go to! Through this article we are highlighting career paths in beverages for hotel management students however we would like to reinstate that hardships are everywhere and passion is the key. There is no easy way out
1)Bartender: The more glamorous term is mixologist and even more is the Bar Chef doing the round these days! An experienced bartender with 4-6 years of experience can get over Rs 50000 a month in bars and a skilled bartender is always in demand. Don’t shy away from taking your first job as a assistant barman in a very good bar , the first few years are the foundation of a glorious career which could take your to various countries.
2)Sommelier: Translates to a wine waiter in English, the Sommelier’s role in India is still nascent and taking shape. The role initially would involve stacking of bottles, serving on the floor and as the career progresses once is also responsible for buying and P&Ls. A lot of Indian sommeliers are making their presence felt in the Middle East and South Asia and countries like Maldives and Seychelles. The minimum requirement to get on the floor knowledgeably is through a WSET ( Wine and Spirit Education trust) lev 2 qualification or a CMS ( Court of Master Sommeliers) both of which cost Over Rs 32000.For those who don’t want to spend as much as want to test the wine industry , The Happy High has an introductory course focusing on wine tasting technique for Rs 5500.
3)Wine Salesman: Which hotelier doesn’t like Sunday day offs! This job will give you 9 hr work days and a better work life balance. The flipside is the sales pressure and the hardships on the field be it summers, winters or rains and outside an air conditioned environment. A wine sales fresher could start at Rs 15000 and move up the ladder with experience. A wine tasting course will certainly help the aspirant with more jargons and move him/her ahead of the class in interviews.
4)Brand Ambassador: After having been in career option 1 or 2 as above for long, could be 6-8 years opportunities to be a brand ambassador for a liquor co or an import co come around once in a while. This job role entails one to be the educator and the spokesperson for the brand and offers a good work life balance and decent money many a time going to a lac plus. The downside of this role could be monotony and then inability to go back to the rigours of hotel or bar operations thus reducing your job options.
5)Beverage Journalist: For those who can paint with words a beverage journalist role could be your gateway to the world! Beverage journalists often get opportunities to travel to different wine and spirit regions around the world on invitation and taste the best of luxury. The flipside is the relatively less pay the profession offers. A wine course will help you with this , but the command over language and a crash course in journalism could help further.
There are gifts and there are gifts to impress. The way to the man’s heart is through his stomach believe some but some men with finer tastes in life have it through their liver. You got me; few things could be more impressive than the lady being proactive in setting up her man’s wine and spirit closet. One liver, so you better ensure that he is drinking the best. This valentine day here are some tipples you want to bedazzle your date with.
Johnnie Walker Green Label
An outlier from the JW portfolio, the Green is a blend of malts and has no grain whisky unlike other expressions from the range. You will find the elements from four corners of Scotland with hints of Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore and Linkwood.
El Dorado 15 year old
Always in the top rums of the world, this Demerara rum takes its name from a river in Guyana. The brand from the only distilling co in the country is made in century old wooden stills; a rare treat. El Dorado is a sipping rum best had neat.
With the essence of grapefruit and other citrus elements, this gin is best had with a dry tonic with a slice of your favourite fruit, preferably citrus. I love to put in a mogra or Arabian Jasmine flower for that extra burst of aroma.
The bottle stands out amongst bourbon whiskies and the liquid doesn’t fail to impress. Aged in barrels made in their own cooperage this elixir shows nuances of prunes and figs with the freshness of orange, it is well rounded but more crisp than luscious.
Paul John Bold
This homegrown Single Malt from Goa is available in over 20 countries and scores over 94 points in the whisky bible. At 40 ppm peat this smoky whisky is likely to impress those who love their Islay malts.It is a perfect blend for making penicillins and sours too. If you are in the mood to splurge then Goa has another expression, the “Kanya’ which was adjudged Asian whisky of the year in the Whisky Bible.
Lastly don’t forget to look into your partner’s eyes when clinking your glasses or it will be 7 years of bad sex as per a French belief! Wish you a love filled Valentine’s Day.
Last time the piece I wrote on how Indian bars cheat customers drew a lot of ire from unscrupulous bars who thought that as a beverage professional I shouldn’t have written it and let the beans spill. Thankfully, the good bars were a happy lot. Now there is the other side of the story where bartenders sweat it out to delight their customers but are driven to the edge by the same guests. Here is what the Indian bartenders hate about their customers
There is no alcohol in my cocktail After all that alcohol that goes into making of an LIIT or such tall drinks, it is irritating for a bartender to hear complaints of less alcohol being poured. Please remember, the sweeter the cocktail the less is the perception of alcohol. Some bartenders for the customer’s sake or insistence pour that extra alcohol however it just doesn’t help the customer to be in control of their alcohol levels.
I will make my own drink
In a busy bar, customer’s often use their loyalty and recognition as a tool to pull out a bottle behind the bar and helping themselves with a drink. Imagine someone intruding into your space at work especially when the bartender’s are responsible to pay for alcohol shortages.
I love to Snap
Whistling, snapping one’s fingers and other such condescending behaviors to seek attention of a bartender certainly shows one’s upbringing or lack of one. Give respect and take respect, an adage still holds true.
I love to order after closing time
The last drinks were announced repeatedly but there will be a few customers who still want to order post closing time and they literally pester the gullible staff. Please remember the bartenders don’t go home as soon as the last customer leaves, they have their closing checklists and tasks to clean the bar and make it ready for the next day. Please be kind and stick to the timing, the bartender does have a life outside of work!
Am I running away?
When asked to clear the bills after a round of drinks at a busy bar, “Will pay it at the end, here is my credit Card.” is many a times the response. When the bartender insists, “Am I running away” is a certain response. Please remember you may not be a fraud, but there are enough ‘respectable looking people’ who come with stolen cards, cancelled cards with a plan to plunder as much in a given night. All such unpaid bills are often paid by the bartender from his salary. Next time, clear the bills and don’t be fussy.
Don’t you know I love free shots/discounts
A discount/ free shots/freebies etc which were a tool to delight the customer have become a norm these days. Alcohol is expensive and there are considerable costs to run a bar, if you get a discount great, you may wan’t to ask once, no harm; but please do not be persuasive and bothersome.
I want my drinks in 3 seconds
Drinks take time to make and a good bartender will always give you a good drink without shortcuts. Please be patient especially on a busy night, moreover if you see the bartenders trying their best.
I love a private bar counter
The bar counter may be a prime position to be at, but don’t be a jerk to block it during a busy night as there are other people trying to buy drinks, be a little more socially responsible.
I love to poke my nose!
Do not interrupt conversations between the bartender and a fellow guest. Everybody is trying to get their drinks; you will get your chance.
Come 2019 and we look to yet another vintage for the Indian wine industry with a hope of favourable conditions! 80% of the wine is made in the vineyard and the remainder in the winery with an able wine maker at the helm. Each year the conditions in the vineyard differ and the winemaker uses all the experience to make the best possible wine given the vintage. Here are the Indian red wines from 2018 which left an impression on us last year.
Reveilo Shiraz reserve - Rs 1245
From the family-owned co, this wine aged in new oak barrel showcased intense ripe fruit with sweetness from the oak. A slight touch of smoke and sweetness makes this wine alluring for the Indian palate.
Krsma Cabernet Sauvignon – Rs 1500
It is certainly one if India’s best wine export. This red has the strenghth, the balance and the finesse to woo the seasoned as much as the newbie’s palate. It is currently available in Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
Chene by Grover Zampa – Rs 1850
This tempranillo –Shiraz blend from Nashik sees the oak barrel for over a year and certainly needs decanting of atleast 30 minutes before you drink it. And yes, Chene means Oak in French. One of the best wines in India.
Sula Rasa Cabernet Sauvignon – Rs 1850
A French oak aged Cabernet made with grapes from select pockets of Dindori, Nashik is one of the most exclusive from the Sula portfolio. Rasa takes its name from the initials of Rajeev Samant, they say.
Sula Dindori Reserve Shiraz – Rs 1095
Dindori is one of the most revered plots in the Nashik viticulture scene and the the Shiraz from Sula has been a workhorse produce a good wine with Oak nuances at a avery good price point.
Vijay Amritraj Shiraz Cabernet Viognier – Rs 1395
Named after the Tennis great, the VA red impresses with its depth and elegance. This award winning wine going by its name is an absolute Ace.
Reveilo Sangiovese – Rs 745
Reveilo with its Italian winemaking connection launched the Sangiovese; a Tuscan grape variety back in 2010 an it has been popular amongst patrons for its easy drinking style with a refreshing acidity and fruit.
Are cocktails taking you for a ride?
The cocktail scene in the country is picking up however we are far away from even making a scratch on the world scene. The reasons being, not so knowledgeable customer, not so knowledgeable bar management and the third are the knowledgeable but unscrupulous businessmen. In the city there are very good VFM bars, there are very good luxury bars, there are average bars across price points and then there poor bars. The scariest of them of all are poor bars charging you a luxury price for all the frills around than the cocktail itself. What helps these bars fool you?
Solid Carbon or dry ice was originally used and still is to freeze things in the f&b context. The usage then extended to the creating a fog like effect in food displays and in todays dates it is rampantly being used for theatrics in cocktail and food presentations. The question is, does the smoke let the establishment charge you more? Also if the CO2 is coming touch with your drink, is the dry ice food grade? Lastly even if food grade dry ice is put in your individual drink, do ensure that it has vapourized completely as pieces of it can cause burns in your mouth.
This potent liquid with a potential to freeze a la minute is seemingly child’s play today as any person with a chef coat or a bartender’s attire is using it like mayo in a footlong. No wonder that a hapless victim’s gut was burnt on consuming a drink with liquid nitrogen somewhere in Gurgaon. At -196 degree Celsius it is to be treated as carefully as boiling water, if not more. Liquid nitrogen can enhance a cocktail or food experience but it is not the core of the food or drink. Why pay more for a gimmick?
Burgers in a mini truck, drinks out of a ceramic skull and other such presentations are great to catch ones attention but the point to ponder upon is; how are they cleaned? If you look at the crevices, no brush but only roaches and mould can reach there. Stay away from such glassware or ask the question… how do you clean them? Also in darker places, switch on your mobile torch and take a good look at the ‘train’ or ‘tractor’ that your food/drink was served in. You may be taken aback!
It is science meeting the art of cooking to create something wonderful but only if it is done right. With DIY molecular kits available, many are trying to get molecular to attract customers, but are they getting their act right!!! Next time you eating a sphere or a sphaghetti shot,ask yourself if you really enjoyed it and the taste or were you wowed by the term ‘molecular’. Most good bars have shunned this and gone back to basics with real fruit.
‘A monkey wielding a sword’ is the idiom that stands true for the usage of smoke guns today. The smoke from the gun is used to add that extra nuance to the drink but these young boys decimate it as there is no proper guidance. Most places use it as a gimmick than put it to real culinary use. It is all smoke and no fire.
These days with drives to cut down on sugar in soft drinks to packaged food, Cocktails can be offenders too. Many cocktail places lace their cocktails using cheap spirits with a variety of syrups, packaged juices and aerated drinks and these ticking sugar bombs will sooner or later grip you by your pancreas!
India is slowly waking up to the wine phenomenon, the single malt rush, the gin madness, the brew craze etc and Indian are going out than ever before and drinking with family and friends, with bosses and clients as drinking is gradually gaining acceptance as a social activity than a medium to go into oblivion after the daily struggles of life. However the aspect that still needs a second look is the one of knowledgeable drinking and this is where the moneyed brands take over the reins and people drink brands than experiences, be it wine or whisky.
We at The Happy High educate people on the art of drinking well and responsibly. We get people who are already drinking to savour their drinks with more authority and order one with aplomb. We curate workshops on wine, whisky, beer, cocktails and more for corporate India. These workshops work as great client engagement tool especially in the luxury scheme of things as much as it provides a pedestal to a young sales professional managing foreign markets to engage with his/her clients and close a deal over a glass of a fine Barolo or a 20 year old Islay. Beverage workshops also help make employee off-sites quirky, get the associates educated on the finer aspects in life and also make employee soirees memorable. With cocktail making competitions for example, the team coherence improves via a fun medium.
The aim of these workshops is different for different people, in some cases it is 4 hours of gyaan and in some, 45 minutes of masti. We offer options based on your need and our understanding of the audience based on our experiences. Give us shout on email@example.com for some spirited assistance at your next employee/client endeavour.
The Sirt Food Diet a book released in 2016 talks about a diet comprising food that activate Sirtuins. Sirtuins are proteins in the body which regulate metabolism and red wine is a part of the diet, it is speculated that singer Adele lost oodles by following the Sirt! Here are some pointers on wine and health.
Red Wine and Reservatrol
Red wine is often hailed as a healthy drink and that is true. Red wine contains the polyphone Reservatrol which is also found in peanuts and some berries and this reservatrol is what make the difference. As per a paper from the Oregon State University, Reservatrol which is found in grape skins is an antioxidant which absorbs free radicals and is known to help prevent coronary artery disease by increasing HDL Cholesterol (good cholesterol), helps mitigate risk of type 2 diabetes and help ease depression.
So is white wine not healthy?
Indeed it is, Tyrosols and Hyroxytyrosols both found in white wines are as per a research by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry have been found to have similar effects on the improving cardiovascular health. A research says that European whites are found to be richer in both the antioxidants as mentioned above.
Wine and Weight!
On an average Cola has around 100 gms of sugar in a liter, packed juices over 100 gms and all dry wines less than 10 gms of sugar which make is around 2gms per glass that is less than half a tea-spoon as opposed to 5-6 in a serving of the above. Wine certainly doesn’t give you as many calories as other sugary drinks and sweet cocktails! Now speaking of role of wine in weight loss? Harvard Medical School endorses the Mediterranean diet for a healthy lifestyle which includes moderate wine consumption for long term benefits. As a per a co-authored study by researchers from three American universities , red wine helps burns fat , it is good news for people with weight issues.
Last words, moderate wine drinking constitute about 250 ml of 12% v/v wine per day for men and around 175 ml for ladies and anything over that will start another battle of keep your liver alive. Remember, one liver!
‘Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong…. ’continuously played on my mind as we drove through sharp turns and hairpin bends in the region of Priorat, a 2 hour drive; down south from Barcelona. Priorat a wine region is like that buried treasure which was excavated and is now hogging the lime light and rightly so. I was on my first trip this summer only to leave happy high with my teeth stained with the big and bold reds. Not to forget my lunch with Alvaro Palacios at his winery in Gratallops drinking L’Ermita the most expensive wine from Spain and this one the 2014, going at a cool 800-1000 Euros a bottle.
Priorat lies in Tarragona, Southern Catalonia and it is flanked by Mont Sant mountain range in the North, the Figuera and the LLoar peaks in the west, Mollo mountains in the east and the south opens up to river Siurana. The region has a total area of around 17629 hectares of which only 1900 hectares is worked on by 576 grape growers. The terrer (terroir in French) with the highlight of Licorella, an easily breakable slate which forms the top soil is what the regions basks in. One of the only two DoCa s (highest ranked wine region) in Spain, Priorat’s wine making history actively began in the 12th century when the monks of the Carthusian order established their Priory in Scala Dei and ruled over seven villages, giving the region its name. These monks brought the knowledge of viticulture from the time in Provence France. Priorat wine continued to get popular and were exported all across Europe till Phylloxera struck in the 19th century. Vineyards were lost, the rugged terrain was then planted with nut trees, the region got depopulated and poverty beckoned! The good times are here and the region has seen a renaissance in the last 20 years. It being awarded the DoCa in 2006 was a major boost to the sheer quality of wines the terroir can produce.
95% of the wines made in the region are red with Garnacha or Grenache and Carinena or Carignan being the forerunners. Carignan gives wine body, coupled with astringency and high pigmentation and Garnacha is more suitable for fine, aromatic wines which are full bodied, have little colour and which are easily affected by oxygen. It is a popular grape variety for making “vins rancis” and “generosos” or old wines made using the solera method like in Jérez. In the last few years, other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah have been introduced and have yielded good results. I witnessed it on tasting the Le Tercera 2014 from the house of Alvarez Duran of Porrera.
Priorat is divided into 12 villages and each with a different topography climatic influences and they are recognized by the term ‘Vi de Vila’ (village wines) and the rare ‘Vi de Finca’ (Single vineyard wine). The villages being, Bellmunt, Scaladei, Gratallops, El Lloars, El Morera, Poboleda, Porrera, Torroja, Villela Alta, Villela Baixa, Falset and Molar. Even ‘Torres’ a brand that is synonymous to Spanish wines in India have their winery in El Lloar and their Perpetual 2014 impressed.
Albeit the differences in the meso-climates, one of the few elements that helps the region to ripen the big reds and retain the flavours is the long ripening season caused by the diurnal temperature variance of more than 25 degree Celsius with night temperatures dropping to 12 and the morning racing to 40. The second being the bush-trained viticulture happening on tortuous and rocky terrain based on schist soils with many vineyards going at an incline of 60 degrees and hence the need of terracing. And lastly the low yield which can be as low as 300 Gms a vine is a result of old vines and poor soils thus yielding concentrated fruit and commanding a price.
I really hope to see Priorat wines in India soon, but price could be a deterrent. A certain ray of hope is Torres banking on its brand awareness to create a category. Until then on your next visit to Barcelona, take a day trip to Priorat amidst the ravines, rivers, steep vineyards and a lot of wines. If not for anything else, Spain better retain Catalunya for the mighty Priorat!
15 REDS from Priorat to try -
La Tercera 2014 – Alvarez Duran – Porrera
Finca Dofi 2014 – Alvaro Palacios – Gratallops
Petit Mas Sinen 2013 – Cellar Burgos Porta – Poboleda
1270 a vuit 2009 – Celler Hidalgo Albert – Poboleda
Los Torrents 2012 – Celler Pasanau – La Morera de Montsant
Porrera Vi de Vila 2014 - Celler Vall Llach – Porrera
Font de la Figuera 2014 – Clos Figueras – Gratallops
Clos Galena – Clos Galena – El Molar
Ferrer Bobet 2014 – Ferrer Bobet – Falset
GV5 2010 – Gratavinum – Gratallops
Mas Mallola – Marco Abella – Porrera
Cirerets 2014 – Mas Alta – La Vilella Alta
Doix 2013 – Mas Doix – Poboleda
L’expressio Del Priorat 2016 – Vinitum – Poboleda
Les Brugueres 2014 - La Conreria – Escaladei
Valentine ’s Day is here and it gives another reason for people to manifest their love. In many of the Continental cultures it still signifies the advent of spring however in the modern times Anglo-American culture connects the day to romantic love. And going out with your loved ones on a special day can’t go wrong. Here are some of the places I would prefer all year around for a cozy meal.
Romanos, J W Sahar
One of the most tastefully done restaurants in town, the Romano’s has the charm of a fine-dine with plush banquette seating, wine displays and of course top service whilst the upstairs has a very interactive bar making it a good space for a pre or post dinner tipple. With Chef Zorzoli at the helm, you will see a different/modern side of Italian cooking.
Good Wife, BKC Bandra
This is a high energy cocktail space with crafted food. Tucked in the corporate hub of BKC, the Good Wife is not a space for a quiet fine-dine dinner. Good wife is casual with a great cocktail culture and comforting food with cuisine spanning Asian to Continental, no Indian though. Gastro-pubbing could be the new Valentine thing!
Shizusan, Phoenix Mills
After a round of Valentine shopping at the Phoenix, this Asian Bistro is great sport for some quality sushis, dimsums and other Asian Fare. The wooden décor blends in the experience and the drinks menu with Asia inspired cocktails complement to make the evening gastromantic!
Kode, Kamala Mills
This bar and eatery boasts of a 130 plus whiskies and 30 plus gins on the menu and I would start my evening with the latter and tonic and end with dram of the former. The food is modern presentation and multi-cuisine and you will love it. Beware the music levels go up as the might progresses, for a quieter dinner with conversations, you must be on your dessert course by 9pm.
A restaurant by the beach this one serves European fare with some brilliant sunset-views if you are there in time. They have an open-air and a indoor section, cover charges could apply on busy nights. Food and wine is my call for Estella.
The restaurant emerged in the top few of the Indian f&b scene at some recent awards and their food, drinks and service certainly vouch for it. Food with attention to detail, sustained cocktail (g&t) culture and a robust wine scene are the hallmarks of this place. Be prepared to shell out a lot more.
South of Vindhyas, Orchid Hotel
With the sitar and table playing the background, this restaurant helmed by Chef Bala for the last two decades will enthrall you with its food from the south India. In a traditional Mangalorean home like setting this place is the one you can enjoy your Valentine day with your family with conversations, food and music.
When was it the last time you tipped your dentist or your accountant?? Of course they also offered service but you didn’t seem the need to. Why? Did you feel they are as rich as you or perhaps richer? Did you think they might take offence as they are ‘professionals’? So many questions playing on my mind, I am sure they are playing on yours too now. To make things easy, when did you tip your waiter last?? If you did tip the waiter then why not tip an accountant?
Tipping these days euphemistically called the service charge is my opinion the cause of certain unsaid divide or classification of the society based on profession. Certain professions like in this case waiters or bartenders rely a lot on their tip for their day to day living; they yearn for those at the end of the day or month. This tipping culture in India I feel strips the profession of the self-respect that each profession should carry. Tipping is done more out of sympathy aka charity than it is out of delight considering tipping is applicable only in certain professions and those are not preferred work options for people.
Restaurants may argue about a mandatory service charge as they want their employees to get paid for service, of course I do not deny that but isn’t it their job and aren’t they getting a salary to do it??? Why should a customer pay that extra 10% over host of other taxes?? If the organizations think their associates deserve more; then why not hike up the menu by 10% and distribute amongst staff as sales incentives. You wouldn’t want to leave them to the mercy of the customers, you would want to become that company that cares and respects their employees.
On the flipside, baksheesh raj also affects the levels of service; customers receive it based on their looks, the way they dress, the color of their skin and more and the hotel or restaurant associates are more likely to cling to those who are more likely to tip based on their naïve judgment and this is potentially harmful for the brand. So many restaurants where I feel foreigners get better treatment that their Indian counterparts purely based on an assumption of the former’s propensity to tip.
No job is menial and each job should be perceived with equal respect. Tipping or no there are enough divides and tipping just adds to getting a particular profession that ‘sympathetic’ angle. Pays in hospitality are low and given there is no self-respect too, not many people want to associate with it and if this persists the industry shall struggle to get skilled workforce to join then and this will take the standard of the entire industry down.
If you are an organization that wants to make a difference, then start sales incentives and have a no tipping policy. You will be the change!
As we peer into the Celtic twilight to figure the history of today’s whisky, we realize that it is as cloudy and misty as the Scottish highlands. The modern history of the liquid which goes back 600 years tells us that it all began in Ireland and then travelled to the Isles of Scotland and then the mainland. The word whisky derives from the Irish ‘Uisce beatha’ or Gaelic ‘Uisge Beatha’ both meaning ‘water of life’. This World Whisky Day celebrated every year on the third Saturday of May, here are my five whisky picks you should try if you haven’t already….. Just gives us Indians another reason to drink our favorite dark spirit!
Blender’s Pride - India:
A very popular brand which uses the fashion route for surrogate advertising is a blend of Indian grain spirit and Scotch malt. Considering the molasses and ENA (Extra Neutral Alcohol) whiskies that India is infamous for, this brand does great justice and in fact is good alternative for many blended Scotch whiskies. Do not undermine it considering its measly price of Rs 1150 a bottle, try this whisky blind with your imports and you will know.
Woodford Reserve – USA:
The bottle stands out amongst bourbon whiskies and the liquid doesn’t fail to impress. Aged in barrels made in their own cooperage this elixir shows nuances of prunes and figs with the freshness of orange, it is well rounded but more crisp than luscious.
Wolfburn – Scotland:
This is mainland Scotland’s most northerly distillery and it is built 350m away from the ruins of a 19th century distillery from where it gets It name; making the Wolfburn one of the youngest too. The whisky is aged in ex-Islay cask which gives the dram that smoke and the maritime character is induced by proximity to the sea, a factor often seen in highland malts by the coast.
Paul John Bold – India:
This one is making India proud. This Single Malt from Goa is available in over 20 countries and scores over 94 points in the whisky bible. At 40 ppm peat this smoky whisky is likely to impress those who love their Islay malts. It is a perfect blend for making Penicillin and sours too. It is available in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Chandigarh and now Delhi.
Chivas Regal 18 – Scotland:
‘Get me two bottles of Chivas on your way back from your trip abroad’ is a common request I am sure many of us are familiar with. However this is for the 12 year variant, have you ever tried the 18 year old elixir?? A rich liquid reminiscent of orange peels, vanilla, sweet spice and dried stone fruits will surely get you indulging.
Whiskies or any other spirit which has taken that long to age demands our time to be enjoyed and that too very slowly. I say a small shot of aged whisky should go for 30 minutes, sip and bask in the wooded glory for sometime before the next sip. A neat dram of whisky at around 15 degree Celsius is the perfect shot and if you think otherwise then drown it in milk, soda or whatever, you are the paying consumer and you have a choice to have it your way!
In a room full of corporate honchos at the members-only Chambers at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bruce Cakebread the owner of Cakebread Cellars, Napa Valley showcased his effort; his wines, one after the other as the top brass of the city enjoyed a sit down meal and spoke about their Napa sojourns and of course the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. At another august gathering on the same evening at Yuuka the Japanese restaurant at the St Regis, patrons enjoyed a glimpse of Robert Mondavi wines , the institution in Napa which revolutionized the American wine industry and Mondavi thus got to be known as the Father of American wine. Is this the beginning of the American wine story in India, I thought to myself!
Despite America as a country more recognizable in India than some of the below mentioned its wine failed to find space on shelves and if it did find place on the wine list they moved very slow. Why? In the recent past American wines were represented by Iconic brands like Beringer, Stag’s Leap, Stag’s Leap Wine cellars, Cakebread etc and consumers weren’t ready to pay as much for an American wines as much they were for the French and Italian. It is changing now albeit slowly! Indians are slowly starting to wake up to wines in general and the last six years have been crucial in the overall wine culture growing. I accredit this to the many Indian wineries who have been making superior quality wines every passing year and also the top importers and modern retail who ensure that wines are reaching us in good condition, it wasn’t the case in the last decade. In the 21st century the French and Italian wines ruled followed by an era of inexpensive Australian and then the Chile, South African and the Argentinean wines. Is it time for America?
Kendall Jackson from Sonoma and Chateau St Michelle from Washington state have been trying to take a share of the market but have been able to only scratch the surface; below which rule the Jacob’s Creek and the Two Oceans of the world. As much as we need might of the likes of Bruce Cakebread to tell us about the purity of Napa so do we need the presence of an Export manager of a commercial cos to tell us stories about 50 million bottles a year! People may say that I’m advocating ‘2 buck chucks’ but the point remains that money and taste can’t be equated and an option should be provided at every price point and America has those options. I sipped on a Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Chardonnay paired with the Avocado Tartare and thoughts of my Napa visit enthralled as I viewed the Mumbai skyline from the 38th floor of the St Regis!
P.S: Look up ‘Judgement of Paris’ and you will know what happened in 1976
On November 22, 2013 the Australian trade mark office quashed the European Commission’s appeal to register Prosecco as a GI produce coming from Italy as the members of the Winemaker’s federation of Australia rejoiced. Had it not been the case, I woudn’t have relished a glass of the crisp Prosecco sparkling from King Valley, Australia on a hot Mumbai afternoon.
De Bortoli,Australia’s second largest family owned wine co’s wines were unveiled in Mumbai over a Yum Cha replete with wines and devoid of tea. The afternoon began with the glass of Prosecco (Rs 2650), it gave a refreshing start whilst adding enough fuel for conversations to begin. Prosecco & Oz!! Darren Blood, Export Manager for APAC and emerging markets wasn’t surprised and soon put the prying minds to rest. A refreshing Pinot Grigio from Riverina (Rs 1850) soon followed with some truffled edamame money bags.
De Bortoli wines comes with a bigger portfolio this time, the mouthful Shiraz from Heathcote;the Woodfired (rs 3500) , Riorret the silky single vineyard Yarra valley Pinot Noir (Rs 8000) and for a fascinating end to the afternoon was ‘The Noble One’, a botrytis Semillon (Rs 5950 375 ml) bursting with dried apricots, orange zest and citrus notes with bracing acidity. De Bortoli wines are imported in the country by Prestige wines and spirits popular for their Spanish heavy weight Torres. Hope that De Bortoli wines, family-owned with an Italian legacy resonate with the Indian wine lovers and are able to make a mark too!
After the Andersen series Flipsydee launched Chateau Timberlay, Bordeaux wines from the house of Robert Giraud at a magnifique soiree at the Sofitel Hotel, Mumbai.
In an evening of music, gourmet food, glimpse of cabaret artists from the Lido Paris and art; the wines from Chateau Timberlay flowed to enchant. The venue Hriday was transformed into a beautiful French garden with a majestic replica of Arc de Triomphe in the entrance. Cremant de Bordeaux, Bordeuax Blanc and two variants of the rouge were unveiled. The wines start at Rs 2990. Chateau Timberlay an estate from the 14th century when the French were ruled by the British takes its name from the strong Atlantic winds that would knock down trees enroute ,'lay the timbers' as the Brits put it. Nonethless the Brits were the one spread the Claret word around and this wine is available in over 75 countries. To Claret, Cheers!
Flypsydee one of India's popular wine and spirit importers held the first tasting of the H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales inspired wines from the House of Robert Giraud a popular name in Bordeaux, France.
The series comprises a range of wines from the Languedoc region in Southern France with the labels inspired by Hans Christian Andersen the world famous writer of popular fairy tales such as “The Little Mermaid”, “The Wild Swans”, and “The Chimney Sweeper”. As a tribute to his work, Robert Giraud created 6 varietals and assigned a reputed Danish artist Pia Kryger Lakha to create illustrations for the 6 corresponding labels. From the fairy tales range three wines are now available in India Chardonnay Columbard, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. At the price of Rs 2390 a bottle the reds are quite a steal,Cabernet Sauvignon was our choice!
Ventisquero, the 5th largest family owned wine company in Chile makes a comeback into India with a more affordable under Rs 1500 Clasico range. A cool climate Sauvignon Blanc, Chile’s classic Carmenere and their approachable Cabernet Sauvignon are now available in India and are imported by Aspri spirits.
Vina Ventisquero started in 1998, despite being based in Maipo valley they make wines from grapes grown across the wine growing region as far as the arid Atacama Desert up north and the best part, their source is 1800 hectares of their own vineyards or some they rent. Ventisquero’s first stint in India was with their Grey range didn’t seemingly go well because of prohibitive pricing due to taxation and adding it to it was the perception of premium Chilean wine; which is yet to sink in . Mr Nicolas Kowalski, Area Sales Director –Asia of Vina Ventisquero on his maiden India trip echoed the same thoughts, ‘We are restarting our India story and this time with our Clasico range. Given the taxation and the market readiness we would be exploring Grey and the premium ranges for the duty-free segment. We have more in our portfolio like the Pangea, a collaboration of Felipe Tosso our winemaker and John Duval the ex-Chief of Penfolds . We will unleash them gradually if the market responds well. At the moment our focus is to let people explore a good Chilean wine, the Clasico range”
‘This Father’s Day the perfect gift for your dad is whisky’ would be one of the many ads that might pop on your social pages. I am sure that one’s whisky loving father is happy anytime you get him a bottle of liquid sunshine. Moreover many even would like the same brand over years! So this Father’s day why don’t you help him open his horizons and get him know more about whisky, a different elixir with a different history, the Bourbon. Perhaps this will stay with him longer than that bottle of whisky …
Bourbon whisky was named after the Bourbon, one of the original counties of Kentucky when the latter was still a part of Virginia. The early settlers in the 1700s, the Scots, Northern Irish, the Germans and the Americans from the east (who were used to rye) quickly understood the positives of producing a spirit based out the native-corn considering corn was in plenty and difficult to transport due to bulk. This corn spirit transported in wooden barrels down the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans aged during the voyage and was appreciated at the final destination and began to be called the ‘Bourbon Whisky’. In the 1780s Reverend Elijah Craig; the father of Bourbon whiskey took a step further to char the barrels from inside which today is responsible for the distinctive nose and color of a Bourbon. Now why did he char it has its own line-up of lore. Bourbon is now recognized or believed to be the only ‘native American spirit’ and can be made anywhere in the United States.
Now what does it take to be a Bourbon!
Minimum 51% corn
The Mash bill as they call it is the proportion of grains the distiller uses to make the whisky. To be called Bourbon the whiskey has to contain at least 51% corn. Different distillers would adjust the mash bill based on the nuances they wish to achieve. For example the Woodford Reserve uses 18% Rye in its blend which lends spicier notes to the finished product and in Bulleit it is 28% which make it spicier. The other grain used is Barley and some Bourbon distilleries are tried their hand at malt whiskies too.
Aged in charred new oak barrels
‘Straight’ is the word you need to look for on the label. When it says straight Bourbon it has to age for a minimum of 2 yrs in charred new American oak barrels and it can just go in for a day for it to be called only Bourbon. Bulleit has no age statement but is typically aged between 6-8 yrs and so is Buffalo trace for the same average period. Some distilleries also experiment with different oak influences like the Maker’s Mark 46 which sees French Oak Staves for that French elegance.
Whilst Bourbon can be made anywhere in the USA, 95% of it comes from Kentucky. The iron free water which is rich in calcium and magnesium is most preferred for distillation and that has kept the industry flourishing over the last 200 years. Jack Daniel’s, you finally hear it! JD is a Tennessee whisky which starts its life as Bourbon and then undergoes a process of Maple Charcoal filtration also called the Lincoln County process which finally renders it to be a Tennessee whiskey. To be a Tennessee it has to be made in Tennessee unlike bourbon. So JD is not a Bourbon!
To be termed Bourbon it has to be bottled at more than 40% alcoholic strength and can go into the barrel at no more than 62.5%. This lower strength of alcohol while going into the barrel is to ensuring slow and steady aging than leeching of flavour with a high alcoholic spirit. The Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is bottled at 54-57% ABV (alcohol by volume)
No Caramel, No Colour!
‘Straight bourbon whiskey’ doesn’t allow the use of any additives, just water. When it says only Bourbon then it does allow a small percentage of additives to enhance the liquid.
Now all of the above being a given for bourbons, distilleries try and differentiate themselves with the shape of stills they use, pot stills in addition to a column, the location of the warehouses, years in aging and of course the water source, these contribute to the final elixir in the bottle. I will leave you with a few images from our recent Kentucky visit and some brands to lay hands on your next visit to the USA.
Pappy Van Winkle
Makers Mark 46
Woodford Double Oaked
(The last two also make fantastic Rye whiskies; I will leave them for some other day)
P.S: Use of Whisky or Whiskey is completely at your discretion. Nobody cares as long as the whiskeee is good!
I may have already stirred up a hornet’s nest with the title! With only 4% of Californian wine production, Napa provided 27% of economic impact. One of the smallest ‘world class’ wine regions of the world, Napa is 8 kms broad and 48 kms long and around 58 kms from the coast. The highest vineyard areas like the Howell Mountain are around 750m above sea level; however 85% of the plantation is on the valley floor. 45000 acres in all which is 1/6th of that of Bordeaux! The tipping point for the Napa or the American wine industry came in with one historic event on 24th May 1976 wherein Californian reds and whites were pitched against top Bordeaux and Burgundy wines and the American trounced in both reds and whites; Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in the Red and Chateau Montelena with its Chardonnay. I was fortunate to partake in their 40th anniversary celebration week, of course with tasting of their winner blend.
What makes Napa Special?
Cabernet Sauvignon it is, Cabernet forms 12% of California’s production but 40% of Napa’s and yielding 55% revenues. The others are Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Petite-Sirah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir. Needless to say the soils and the diversity play a role in the final nuance of the wines, it is also the weather. Napa has a Mediterranean climate, less than 2% of the world land mass has it where most of the rain occurs in winter giving it a dry warm growing season with diurnal temperature shifts leading to big and bold grapes. After all of these nature’s endowments the onus thoroughly lies on the keeper’s of the industry to come together make wine which is consistent and high in quality and Napa vintners are just managing to do that. Lastly, the role of wine tourism and hospitality in the regions as a subset of marketing can’t be ignored one bit. As Robert Mondavi once said, ‘We want to raise the art of living well.’ Try booking a room in Napa and you shall know.
Napa Valley was the first AVA to be recognized in California in 1981 and since then 16 nested AVAs have been identified. The Northern most Calistoga, Diamond and Spring mountain districts and the Howell mountains, Rutherford, Oakville and St Helena on the valley floor and Chiles valley district up in the Vaca ranges. And further South are the Yountville, Stag’s Leap District and the Oak Knoll regions. The Mt Vedeer, Atlas Peak lie in the Mayacamas and the Vaca ranges respectively. Coombvilles, Tiny Wild Horse Valley and Los Carneros lie in the southern reaches, the Carneros regions also extends in to Sonoma and is known for its Pinot Noirs due to the Maritime influence. The AVAs define regions but unlike the European PDO’s they give a free hand to the winery to express creativity and experiment. For instance The Paraduxx, a Zinfandel blend in 1994 from Duckhorn vineyards a Merlot powerhouse created quite a stir. Proprietary red wine they call it.
150 years of Napa Valley
Napa just like Sonoma was established much later than its southern Californian neighbours. George Yount, founder of the Yountville a town now in Napa city was the first to plant commercial vineyards in late 1830s, It was only after the independence of California from Mexico in 1850 and the Gold Rush during the same period that saw San Francisco’s population surge from a meager 200 in 1846 to 36000 by 1852 thus bringing in wine know-how. The first renaissance came when the vintners got Vitis vinifera vines in the 1860s, until then they were mission vines used by missionaries to make wine for the church. Charles Krug opened the first commercial winery in 1861; the same was bought by the Mondavi family in 1943. The rail connection then helped Napa ship wines out to Francisco and help get tourists to Napa. You must have heard of Napa Valley wine train as a must do when in Napa!! The industry prospered and evolved. Gustave Niebaum a wealthy Finnish trader in 1879 opened Inglenook a French Chateau style winery and was the first to sell wine in bottles. Inglenook wines attracted global attention and put Napa on the global map for the first time. The same era Crabb planted 400 grape varieties in the famous To Kalon (means ‘the beautiful’ in Greek) vineyards, today parts of the same are owned by Robert Mondavi winery, Opus One and a wine grower Andy Beckstoffer.
Phylloxera, Earthquake, the Volstead act, the great depression, world war …..
First phylloxera decimated Napa completely by the 1890s and any hope of recovery was only thrashed by the San Francisco earthquake which destroyed 30 Mn gallons of wine and then the Volstead act eased the last nail in the coffin , brought in the American prohibition which lasted till 1933. The convalescence was during depression and then the world war kept Napa bed-ridden. During this time some wine cos continued the show some with Wine Bricks during prohibition and some by pioneering initiatives post repeal. Mondavi, George Latour of Beaulieu vineyards and John Daniel of Inglenook led the pack as they formed the Napa Valley association in 1944.
Mondavi, Judgment of Paris ……
In 1965 Robert Mondavi moved away from the family biz to start his own the Robert Mondavi winery in Oakville and ever since he made attention grabbing wines and moreover his marketing techniques, his cellar door hospitality etc made Mondavi the face of California. It only took the aforementioned tasting in Paris also made into a movie, the Bottle Shock to drive home the point for Napa. There has been no looking back for Napa ever since as they stand at over 500 wineries most of which are family owned and producing fewer than 10000 cases per annum.
Napa is an hour’s drive up north from San Francisco and if you are an oenophile then you better not miss it and the other way of looking at it as American political commentator and comedian Bill Maher puts it ‘New Rule: The Napa Valley is Disneyland for alcoholics. Be honest, you're not visiting wineries in four days because you're an oenophile, you're doing it because you're a drunk. It's the only place in America where you can pass out in a stranger's house and it's okay, because it's a B&B and you paid for it.’
‘All the Gold in California ‘ sang the Gatlin bros in 1979, it was the time when American wines were seeing a renaissance and garnering global confidence with California leading the way just like it does today. With 90% of US wine production and 90% of US wine exports California is a goldmine contributing over $25 bn in retail sales in the US only, whilst capturing a 60% market share which include foreign and other domestic wines.
California – Back in time.
With 49 of 58 counties growing grapes, 231000 hectares of vineyards, 4100 wineries, wine is certainly a statewide industry for California. It all started in the 1700s when the Spanish missionaries began growing grapes and making wines for religious services in Southern California and slowly it stretched along the coast northwards till Sonoma. In the 1830’s first Sonoma and then Napa, two top regions of the US wine scene began making wines. 1857 saw the opening of Beuna Vista in Sonoma and 1861 Charles Krug opened the first commercial winery in Napa. The historic Gold rush led to a 150% growth in vineyard area , it was a result of immigration which in turn got in wine expertise. America was drinking all the way to the 1900’s until prohibition struck and California lost 94% of its vineyards.
Resurrection began in 1933 post repeal and E&J Gallo, the world’s largest winery today set shop then. The next few decades the industry limped but moved up. Only in the 60’s that it gathered pace as stalwarts like Robert Mondavi showed confidence in the industry and opened a winery in Napa, the first major one to open post prohibition. He led by example and endeavored to name wines by grape varietals which became a new world norm and his oaked Sauvignon blanc which he called the Fume Blanc (smoked white) became synonymous for a Sauvignon.
Quality wine making had arrived in California and it showed in the momentous ‘Judgment of Paris’. The increased demand 1980s and 90s saw push for quality and of course the number of wineries grew at a rapid pace. In a bid to take control the US government demarcated 50 areas as American Viticultural Area (AVA) based on growing conditions, soil and history. Today there are around 230 AVA’s in the US and around 136 in California. The turn of the millennium saw mushrooming of wineries, from 1000 in late nineties to around 4100 as of today in California and it produces 250 million 9 liter cases of wine.
California – Geography
With a 1300 km coastline, California boasts of one of the longest coastlines of the world adjacent to a wine growing region. This proximity to the sea is what makes the region special. The cool oceanic breeze helps to cool the inland regions and this influence can well be seen over 25 kms inland, as result the nights are cool and the morning warm thus extending the ripening seasons and yielding good quality fruit. The warm inland air meeting the ocean breeze is also responsible for the fog which covers many of the regions including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Broadly California is divided into 6 macro-growing regions and they are further broken up into AVAs. Below are the 6 regions with some popular AVA’s they comprise
North Coast (54 AVAs)
Mendocino County, Los Carneros, Napa Valley (18 AVAs), Sonoma County (18 AVAs)
Central Coast (41 AVAs)
Livermore Valley, Paso Robles, San Louis Obispo, Santa Barbara (of Sideways fame), San Francisco Bay
Southern California (11 AVAs)
Los Angeles, San Diego, Temecula, Malibu Coast
Inland Valleys (18 AVAs)
Lodi the most famous of the regions and is the fastest growing in the state. It is known for its Zinfandel.
Sierra Foothills (6 AVAs)
Situated inland the region was the epicenter of the Gold Rush. The El Dorado county is known for its Old Vine Zinfandel.
The northern most region, home to the ‘Lost Coast’. Manton Valley is one of the better known sub-areas.
Wine styles and grapes
California is endowed with 2800 different soil types and varied geography comprising mountains, valleys, deserts, and coasts, and this allows a myriad grape varieties and wine styles. California grows around 110 different grape varieties. In reds Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir lead the pack with Zinfandel being their signature red. In white the kind of whites, Chardonnay rules the roost followed by a surprise, Pinot Grigio and then the Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling and Moscato are gaining feet well too. If you were to stereotype Californian wines, they stand for big and bold reds, opulent and tropical whites and lush and perfumed roses.
California is the heart of America’s wine, so if you are anywhere in California you know you are close to wines. I was one of the 21 million tourists who visit Californian wine country each year, I ended up Happy High. As late Mr. Robert Mondavi declared, ‘Wine has been a part of civilized life for some seven thousand years. It is the only beverage that feeds the body, soul and spirit of man and at the same time stimulates the mind.’
India was looking for affordable options for Riesling and Pinot Noir, this was when the market seemed to be getting ready for wines some time in 2011 and there were no options but for the mighty French. This was when Cono Sur a Chilean brand was introduced in the market, a brand which offered a Pinot, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and more at a sub Rs 1600 price point then and it hasn’t changed much since.
Cono Sur was a brand established in 1993 with a vision to serve the foreign market and given Chile’s wine growing conditions, perhaps the best in the world; it didn’t take much time for Cono Sur to rise to the top making it the best selling wine in the UK in 2001. Of course this would not have been possible without the finesse in the product and their effort to go the organic way in managing their vineyards making them the first carbon neutral winery in South America. . In India Cono Sur has their Bicicleta series, the bicycle here represents the company’s commitment and respect to the environment. The entire series is about making very expressive and fruity wines in the modern style. They have Chardonnay, Pinot Not, Merlot and Cabernet sauvignon easily available on retail shelves or restaurants alike. Our pick; the Pinot Noir!
P.S: They have discontinued the Riesling but if you can find a 2013 vintage on the shelves, just grab it!
Radico Khaitan one of the biggest liquor cos in the country may have tasted first blood when they introduced Suntory the Japanese whisky giant to India in 2011 or maybe it had something envisaged already, as the casks rested at the foothills of the Himalayas. Radico Khaitan has finally unveiled ‘Rampur’ a Single malt whisky at the WSWA convention in Las Vegas.
Radico Khaitan was formerly called the Rampur distillery, the distillery was established in 1943 and it takes us back to the time of the raj. A 15 Gun Salute princely state of British India - Rampur is known for its rich heritage and royal traditions. Rampur is one of the homes of Urdu poetry and Hindustani music and is also the home to a very distinct style of architecture, cuisines and interestingly, knife making. Taking forward the rich heritage of Rampur and the 75 years of distillation expertise, the pioneers Radico have carefully hand-crafted the Single Malt- Rampur. “Our aim is to create a valuable customer experience, consistent with the company’s brand assurance. We are adding a new step to this wonderful journey with Rampur Indian Single Malt. Let this gift of the Royal Heritage give you a 15 Gun Salute!” said CMD Lalit Khaitan.
The malt will be available soon in international markets and travel retail with India to follow. Prices awaited!
More power to India and Indian whisky!
It welcomed us with a vegetal note and the Indian ‘terroir’ and then as it spent more time in the glass it starting unfurling itself and blazoned its fruit, mostly ripe whilst playing with very soft hands on the tannins. Ladies and Gentlemen, India sees yet another addition to its wine portfolio, The Daily Dose; a Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Daily Dose (TDD), is a brainchild of Vishal Kadakia who runs the Wine Park a co which imports premium imported wines. Made at Oakwood winery in Ahmednagar with organic grapes from a 2 acre plot in Solapur, TDD will release 12000 bottles of its 2015 vintage. In course of the wine soiree Vishal beamed, ‘We have been working on it for 2 years. We aimed for a wine that would appeal to the Indian palate, a simple no-fuss fruity wine with easy tannins and I am glad we finally made it.’ We indeed loved the wine and the label which has an infographic on the wine making process however the thing that played on our mind was the price, at Rs 750 a bottle, could it be the daily dose of an Indian consumer!
Indian wine and spirit distribution goes through three tiers and with the kind of margins that the tertiary level is what forces most wine cos to hike up their MRP to make up for schemes and margins. Nonetheless with Wine Park’s penetration in the Indian hotels and restaurants we sincerely wish that this wine becomes the daily dose for consumers albeit at a price which is lower than other Indian brands on the menus thus justifying the apparent brand philosophy!
One of the most trusted wine brands in the world; Torres has always fascinated me with their consistency in doling out great value for money wines. It was only in late 2014 when I got to taste many from their range, Vina Esmeralda, Mas Rabell series, Gran Vinasol, Gran Coronas and the gran papa; Riserva Real from 2001, and I had my vote for Torres.
Prestige Spirits who imports Torres wines organized a wine dinner last weekend presided over by Josep Plana, Area Manager, Torres and Siddhartha Tandon General Manager, Prestige at the Vetro, Oberoi Hotel. The soiree began with a perfumed Vina Esmeralda and then arrived a host of labels from their portfolio, Milmanda; a French barrel fermented Chardonnay, Mas La Plana; a big but rounded Cabernet Sauvignon, Altos Ibericos; a 100% Tempranillo from Rioja and lastly the aromatic and sweet Floralis Muscatel Oro. The wines were paired with some exquisite dishes from Adriano’s Kitchen and the whole experience went into Cinderella’s hour.
Torres as Josep Plana put is known for its ‘value for money’ philosophy and they will continue their march in India. When probed about a Cava from the house of Torres, a wine yet eluding them given that they are from Penedes the heart of Cava, Spain’s Sparkling wine, ‘ May be end of this year, we have been talking about it and we shall release it once we get the desired results in the wine.’ said Plana
India is now seeing entry of Spanish wines and Torres has surely paved the path!
I always knew the importance of glassware when it came to appreciating a wine; it makes a world of difference. My knowledge got reinstated and I understood glasses better at the Riedel glass tasting organized by Aspri Spirits who also deal in Riedel glassware.
Riedel an Austrian brand has been in the business of production of glassware and for 260 years and spanning 11 generations and is renowned and established worldwide for designing and producing the highest quality glasses and decanters for the enjoyment of wine and spirits. In the late 1950’s Claus J. Riedel was the first person ever in history to introduce and develop wine friendly stemware which delivers the bouquet, taste, balance and finish of a wine to the senses. He also introduced the concept of grape specific glassware. A glass consists of three parts- the bowl, the stem and the base, Riedel works on the different dimensions of these to create distinct glassware for a range of grape varieties.
We tasted a Sauvignon blanc out of the right glass and subsequently in glasses designed for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet, all in the room could tell why the Sauvignon Blanc glass was worth all the halo. And we repeated the same with a Pinot Noir, a chardonnay and Bordeaux. Riedel goes by the saying that ‘The content commands the shape’ and with the tasting we could see why!
Many hotels in the country use Riedel stemware to give you a good wine experience however none may offer you a glass typical for every varietal. So it up to wine lovers to slowly build a collection of glassware in their home bar, you will tell the difference!
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