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Looking for a Good Bottle of Wine
Since my arrival in Kolkata, Saturday afternoons have been defined by my pilgrimage to Spencer’s in South City Mall to stock up on my weekly supplies. Spencer’s has the distinction of not only being my go to place for difficult to find food items and treats but, even more importantly, the one place in the city that consistently carries a reasonable selection of wine.
Since our dinner ritual has always included the opening of a bottle of wine to accompany whatever was on the plate, looking for a well-priced wine has become a necessary practice. Where there are always special bottles to go with special occasions and special food most evenings are not special occasions and call for a more reasonably priced, everyday selection. As much as a lot of us would love to drink nothing but first growth well aged Bordeaux wine every evening, realistically this is not an option - these wines are reserved for special occasions. Since moving to Kolkata, our weekly wine bill is costing far more than it used to and if I am to enjoy wine more than twice a week and not dive into the retirement funds, I suddenly need to become much more price conscious.
This last Saturday while browsing the Spencers wine department I was approached by a young man offering to help me with my wine selection. Although I have been a Sommelier for almost 20 years and guided thousands of customers in their wine choices, I am always curious to hear advice from other wine professionals. He proceeded to show me a nice selection including an Alsatians gewürztraminer, a 07 Bordeaux, an Amarone and a few others. As much as the selection he gave were all nice wines the pricing had made them not necessarily what I would call a “a good bottle” and definitely not something that I could justify opening on a daily basis. These days price value has become one of my most important criteria is choosing wine and it makes it that much more fun and challenging, especially in India where I feel there is a false perception that spending under thousands of rupees will provide you with something only slightly better than “bath wash”.
I have discovered some interesting wines that fall in the Rs 1000 area.
From India I like to open, 07 Grover Le Reserve (Rs 550). It is nice to see an aged Indian wine. The additional years give this wine much more complexity and nuance. It has wonderful spice and dark fruit flavors and a toasty finish with a nice layer of oak. It goes especially well with my cook Queenie’s amazing Goat curry.
A friend had recommended that I try Sula Dindori Reserve. It’s a 2010 and normally I would shy away from such a young red but at the recommendation I tried it. It turned out to be a delightful wine; Very dark in color, aromas of red current and just a touch of Oak. Palate was very concentrated with dark berries and more of the oak, but again just gently applied, a nice smooth velvety finish. Had it with one of my guilty pleasures, Dominos peperoni thin crust pizza. Divine!
For imported reds I find it hard to go wrong with Argentinian Malbec. These are some of the best price value reds out there.
Norton’s 09 Malbec (Rs. 805) is a deep red coloured wine with a hint of violet. The wine has sweet and spicy aromas of black pepper, and has a flavour of ripe red fruit on the palate with smooth, harmonious tannins.
For a little bit more at Rs. 1165, the 07 Alamos Malbec is a lovely wine with rich dark fruit flavors, a jamy spicy palate and good structure with a smoky finish. I always find Argentinian malbecs are best with a few years of age for it all to come together. I tend to shy away from anything strait from the barrel, ideally with at least 3-5 years age. The 07 Almos is drinking wonderfully now. These wines I like with any meat from the BBQ, most recently Lamb Tenderloins marinated in Garlic, olive oil, rosemary and coriander.
TarapacaTerroir Chardonnay 09 Rs 950 was a great find. A really well structured Chardonnay with wonderful honey, stone fruit and mineral notes. It finishes with this toasty and slightly herbaceous character. Was amazing with a pan fried Basa fish that Queenie made and even held up to her broccoli and cauliflower side that inevitably gets a nice dash of heat, which I have come to enjoy in India cooking. This wine is very dense and that is a requirement with any white wine that get paired with Indian food. I think the mineral tones really help to carry this wine with the lightly spiced food.
I have always used two very important considerations when evaluating a wine. One, do I like it. Two how much does it cost. Both of these are so important when choosing a “good bottle”. A nice tasting wine that costs well over 5000 rupees probably won’t be a wine I would buy often. While a decent tasting wine that costs me 1000 rupees will find its way into my cart again and again.
Remember a wine always tastes better when you drink it with someone you love. Cheers!