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The Smart Person’s Quick Guide To Wines

Wine culture can come across a little snobby and shrouded in jargon, but millennials are bringing a refreshing change to this. Purists may still have their pedestal, but they have less say over how wine culture is developing. Millennials like to transform traditions into trends and that has meant a fairly significant change in wine drinking, too. Their demand for new flavours, authentic and high-quality brands, has given more confidence to winemakers who want to break through with unorthodox wines.

Traditionally, wine culture was restricted to more refined settings. But now millennials are discovering wines in unconventional settings like jazz bars, open air festivals, posh flea markets, contemporary concerts, and theatre. Many have discovered wines by experience rather than by research or study. Sometimes that can be a stumbling block actually in fully enjoying the world of wines. And it can get limiting when you meet more serious wine connoisseurs.  So it helps to just get a quick grasp of the basics.

The Basics

We all know that wine comes from fermented grapes, but what many don’t know is that wine grapes are different from the usual ones we eat. They are small, have seeds, taste sweeter, and come with thick skins; and there are over a thousand varieties. They are also used in different ways so that we get distinct types of wine -- sparkling wine, light-bodied and full-bodied white and red wines, sweet white wine, rose wine, and dessert wine.

Reds vs Whites

The difference between both is simple, isn’t it? They obviously look different. They taste very different too. ‘Tannins’ or the bitter-tasting ingredient found in grape skins, seeds, and stems give the wine its colour and taste. White wine will mean less skin contact and hence, less tannin. Red wines are fermented with the skins for a longer period of time, and hence the colour and the bitter taste that the tannins add. Oak barrels can also contribute tannin to wines, both reds and whites.

Rosé that is pink in colour is simply captured by fermenting the red grape with their skin for a shorter time than the red wine and therefore, low tannin.

Tasting like A Pro

Break your wine tasting into – look, swirl, smell, and sip.

Look: Take a close look at the wine in your glass. Light white wines will be pale in colour while the ‘full-bodied’ ones will have brighter tones. With reds, a light hue will mean light-bodied while dark hues are full-bodied red wines.

Swirl And Smell: The aroma plays a big part in wine tasting. Before you smell the wine though, swirl it in the glass to bring out the aromas. As you take a whiff then, you will take in unique smells added by the grapes and the winemaking techniques. The primary aromas are the one derived from the grapes. These could be fruity, floral or herbal. What comes from the making process are the secondary aromas, while the ageing process (in oaks or bottles) give wines their tertiary aromas like leather, vanilla, roasted nuts etc.

 

Sip: It’s time to take a sip now. As you do so, what do you taste? Note if the wine has a strong sweet, acidic or bitter taste. The feel of the wine in the mouth is its ‘body’. Higher the alcohol content and tannin, the fuller the wine’s body. You should also note the ‘length’ of the wine. Do the flavours and textures linger on your palate? If they do, the wine will have what you will call a ‘lengthy finish’.

Other things to be noted are the glassware (it matters) and the right temperature (to store and serve). There are glasses that bring out the wine’s characteristics. Light-bodied white wines, for instance, are best had in smaller-bowled glasses that preserve the aroma and keep the beverage chilled. When it comes to the right temperature, sparkling wines are best served at between 3° and 7° Celsius, white between 6° and 11° Celsius, and red wines around 11° to 20° Celsius. Remember, lighter wines are served cooler while oak-aged or more tannic wines are warmer.

Trending Grapes

It’s easy to disregard wine’s basic ingredient but once you turn your attention to the different variety of grapes you realise there is a lot to learn. According to the report State Of The Wine Industry 2018, red blends continue to sell, which has consequently given winemakers the leeway to experiment with the choice of grapes.

Airén:  Airen is a white grape, native to Spain, whose plantation is soon being replaced by grapes that make for easier plantation. Airen is planted at low vine density and as Spain’s wine trends begin to move towards the red wines, Airen is being uprooted. Its scarcity is exactly what is resulting in the demand.

Aromella: A fairly new wine grape that was announced in 2013, it produces aromatic white wines that range from 'floral' to 'Muscat,' Aromella is highly wintered hardy and productive.

Syrah: This is a dark-skinned grape grown around the world but primarily used in the production of red wine. With medium acidity, the wine from Syrah contains Blackberry, Blueberry and Boysenberry taste tones.

Grenache Noir: This red grape has pepper-spice tones, is red berry-flavoured and soft on the palette. It also has a higher alcohol content than most other red wines.  

Noiret: Officially released in 2006, Noiret is a hybrid red wine grape that ripens mid-season. It is richly coloured with hints of black and green pepper, with raspberry and mint aromas tantalizing your senses.

Trending Regions

Bordeaux, Tuscany, and the Napa Valley shouldn’t be the only wine regions on your bucket list. Globally, new vineyards have cropped up and managed to get connoisseurs to sit up and pay attention. These new hot spots are using upgraded technology and are being groomed in accordance with the shift in wine trends. Here’s a quick lowdown on the wine regions that have created a rift in the scene:

Yarra Valley, Australia: Yarra Valley, the region surrounding the Yarra River in Victoria, engulfs you with its beautiful vineyards and cellar doors. Known for its lighter and brighter red wines, it is also an educational retreat as you get to shake the hands of those who pick the grapes.

Marlborough, New Zealand: This region offers a beautiful wine trail you can follow to explore the collection of white wines. From the purity of the wine to the exotic aroma, no wine tastes like the wine in Marlborough.

Stellenbosch Vineyards, South Africa: While you can shop the famous reds from this region online, there is nothing as exhilarating as the tasting room where you can enjoy the view of the Helderberg mountains while sipping on a glass of chilled white.

Colchagua Valley, Chile: You will find yourself spoilt for choice at Colchagua Valley as you pick between tasting boutiques and the modern architecture. Known for its bold, full-bodied Cabernet, Malbec, Carménère and Syrah, their reds are what hold onto our taste buds.

Trending Wines This Year

Once you’re more familiar with the basics of wines, start pushing your taste buds and try these exciting recommendations.

Krsma Sangiovese: This medium light-bodied wine will thrill your senses with its spicy and fruity aroma. From Krsma Estates in Hampi, some of the finest wines in India come from this place.

Fratelli Sette: Matured in French oak barrels, the Fratelli Sette is one of the most premium red wines from Fratelli vineyards. Pick up the Sette 2011 and this elegant red wine is bound to please you.

Reveilo Chardonnay Reserve: The first Chardonnay from India, and very premium. Aged in French oak barrels, this fruity white balances acidity and sweetness just right. Pair it with any meat and you will find this one delightful.

Charosa Viognier: Short-aged with fruity and spicy aromas, this white wine has a full palate and soft texture. It pairs beautifully with Indian and Chinese food.

Fratelli MS Rose: Rich on fruity flavours with a refreshing finish, the Fratelli MS Rose was adjudged Best Rosé Indian Wine at the India Wine Awards 2018. Need I say more?

Cool Wine Gear To Display Right Now

Once you’ve carefully selected your favourite bottle of wine, learn the art to enjoy every sip of it.


Bottle Stopper: For the (rare) occasion when you want to stop mid-way through a bottle, you’ll need this stylish bottle-stopper to preserve it.

Agate Bottle Stopper - Grey
Agate Bottle Stopper - Grey
INR 950 at Nicobar
BUY NOW

Wine Bowl: Unlike others on this list that focus on utility, this one lends a touch of effortless style to your bar. Add this textured nickel plated wine bowl to your bar.

Mandalay Wine Bowl
Mandalay Wine Bowl
INR 18,000 at Good Earth
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Decanter: Often the flavour of young wines can be closed on the nose. This unique bar addition, with its wide bottom and a narrow neck, helps to air the wine and open up its aroma.

Wine Decanter with Stopper
Wine Decanter with Stopper
INR 1,850 at Nicobar
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Wine Pourer: This little accessory is a definite conversation starter. While a decanter is an easy way to aerate wine, it can flatten the taste if you keep it out too long. This tiny instrument helps air the wine while it is being poured into the glass.

Wine Aerator Pourer
Wine Aerator Pourer
INR 1,008 at Amazon
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Go-To-Books On Wine That Look Very Good

We’ve got the literature that’ll teach you a thing or two about your favourite poison and double up as the prettiest accessory on your coffee table.

The Wine Table By Vickie Reh

Vickie Rei takes us one step closer to understanding the world of wines, by introducing us to local winemakers of France and Italy. He tells us about what they eat during the harvest season and how they celebrate their holidays. With The Wine Table, you get to learn about their stories and enjoy their recipes.

The Wine Table by Vickie Reh
The Wine Table by Vickie Reh
INR 2,448 at Amazon
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How To Fake Your Way Through A Wine List By Katherine Cole

Expert Katherine Cole explains easy strategies that’ll help you navigate the wine world. Use her insider tips (and mnemonic devices) to find your perfect bottle.

How to Fake Your Way through a Wine List by Katherine Cole
How to Fake Your Way through a Wine List by Katherine Cole
INR 1,080 at Amazon
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Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World’s Top Wine Professionals By Jordan Mackay and Rajat Parr

Rajat Parr, a renowned wine director, along with the award-winning journalist Jordan Mackay reveal the inside secrets of the wine world. Pick up a copy to for a quick course in tasting, strategies on how to find a rare bottle at the right price, and understanding food pairings.  

Secrets of the Sommeliers by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay
Secrets of the Sommeliers by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay
INR 1,897 at Amazon
BUY NOW

Godforsaken Grapes By Jason Wilson

New York Times contributor Jason Wilson takes us on “a Slightly Tipsy Journey Through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine”.  With him, we’re visiting famous wine neighbourhoods and meeting the people who produce and protect the grapes.

Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson
Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson
INR 1,273 at Amazon
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Luxeva Recommends Best Places For Wine Lovers Across India

Wine truly is a drink you don’t just taste, you have to experience it. We’re listing here some tried and tested places around the country that'll take good care of you in the wine department:

Image Credits: The Piano Man Jazz Club
Image Credits: The Piano Man Jazz Club

In New Delhi

The Piano Man Jazz Club

The venue to catch some of the best jazz, blues, rock and folk artists in the country, PMJC is notoriously strict about patrons not chit chatting during performances. An intimate setting, you’ll frequently find Delhi’s elite and creative crowd sitting shoulder to shoulder, or knee to knee, here. The wine list is modest but has some really nice labels from trending estates.

Contact: +91 11 41315181
Address: Commercial Complex B 6/7-22 Opp Deer Park, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi 110029

Depot 48

Good music, Sangria, and Mexican food, make this one of the most enjoyable and unpretentious settings for wine lovers. A cafe-like atmosphere means the atmosphere is wonderful for both lunch and dinner. Even if you’re not fond of Sangria, there’s an excellent wine list that features a very good selection of sparkling and rose wines.

Contact: +91 9717450029
Address: N3, 2nd Floor, N Block Market, Greater Kailash 1, New Delhi 110048

In Mumbai

The Quarter

When they refurbished and reopened the beautiful Royal Opera House, The Quarter was one of the most delightful new additions. An integral part of the new Opera House layout, The Quarter invites international and local jazz and blues artists, all round the year. Over time, their wine list has greatly improved, especially their selection of new world and Indian wines.

Contact: +91 8329110638
Address: New Queens Rd, Opera House, Girgaon, Mumbai 400004

The Wine Rack

In Mumbai’s rather packed skyline of hip bars and restaurants, The Wine Rack has already gained a loyal following. Patrons include Lower Parel’s creative cool set, as well as A-listers from up in the suburbs. A great place to go after work, the first thing that gets everyone’s attention as soon as you enter The Wine Rack is their, well, wine rack. Wines sourced from across the world dress an entire wall, and validate the restaurant’s claim of being one of the best places for wine lovers.

Contact: +91 8452833377
Address: No 8B & 8C, Groundfloor, High-street Phoenix, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400013

Image Credits: The Quarter
Image Credits: The Quarter

In Bengaluru

Bflat

There are always some places where you mostly go for the vibe and the drinks they serve. Where the food is nothing to talk about, but the atmosphere is great. Bflat is a perfect example. Live music, an eccentric vibe, and a fairly decent selection of Indian and new world wines provide a great setting for wine lovers.

Contact: +9591126639
Address: No. 776, 2nd Floor, Above ING Vysya Bank, Opposite Arrow Showroom, 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar, Bengaluru 560008

 

Glass House

A glass and iron cube set in the middle of a beautifully manicured lawn, The Glass House is quite the dramatic design marvel on Bangalore’s Lavelle Road. Soon after its opening, it won the Kyoorius Blue Design Award and a few international awards too. They offer authentic European cuisine, elegant interiors, and a very good wine list. A wall in the restaurant features bottles sourced from across the world as well as their own in-house wine, eponymously labelled.

Contact: +91 8065418888 or +91 9880322266
Address: 25/2, Lavelle Road, Bangalore

In Pune

Shisha Jazz Cafe

A delightful alfresco restaurant in Pune, that serves delicious Irani dishes, has fairly talented jazz, blues, and folk artists, a rustic setting, but an elegant wine list.

Contact: +91 2065200390
Address: ABC Farms, North Main Road, Koregaon Park Annexe, Koregaon Park, Pune 411001

Image Credits: The Corner Courtyard
Image Credits: The Corner Courtyard

In Kolkata

Myx

Since it’s opening, Myx has been a hot clubbing destination for cool Kolkattans. It’s not the usual setting you would expect for drinking wine, but it keeps topping lists for one of Kolkata’s most rocking rooftop bar and restaurant. Their wine list is well rounded, the views of Park Street with its heritage buildings and the big name DJs playing in the house, make this one of the city’s more cooler venues for wine lovers.

Contact: +91 9681920795
Address: 20G, Park St, Park Street area, Kolkata 700016

The Corner Courtyard

In the leafy and upmarket end of Landsdown road, The Corner Courtyard is a really elegant restaurant, part of a boutique hotel of the same name. The heritage property dates back to 1904, and once belonged to one of Kolkata’s zamindar families. It serves European dishes with a Bengali influence, and servers have excellent wine-pairing recommendations.

Contact: +91 9903999567
Address: 92B, Sarat Bose Rd, Hazra, Bhowanipore, Kolkata, West Bengal 700026

In Chennai

Radio Room

Pop art, black couches, vintage grunge decor make the Radio Room a rather unorthodox venue for drinking wine. The name of the restaurant is its theme, of course; you see this expressed through over 50 white transistors stacked against the bar counter, microphones that work like light fixtures and imagery of rock stars.

Contact: +91 85000 05672
Address: Somerset Greenways, 94, Sathyadev Avenue, RA Puram, MRC Nagar, Chennai 600028

The Velveteen Rabbit

Most people come to The Velveteen Rabbit to for its classy chic vibe. Small tables, hipster decor, and a delicious spread of cafe dishes. There’s a quieter space on the first floor, perfect for unwinding over a glass of wine with friends.

Contact: +91 44 42827882
Address: 57, 2nd Main Rd, Govindaswamy Nagar, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai 600028

Got a question about wine? Turn to Vaniitha Jaiin. Passionate about wines, Vaniitha is the expert restaurants, hotels, lifestyle brands, and HNIs trust for all things wine and spirits. Having learnt from practices across the finest vineyards in the world, she is the founder of The Perfect Pour, a wine, spirits and lifestyle firm, is an international wine judge, conducts wine education, is a regular on luxury shows on TV and online, and writes actively on the subject.

 

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