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by Ashiqa Salvan
The wine etiquette is rather unique in Goa with an extremely mature and rich wine culture. One will notice high levels of knowledge and awareness of wines here.
Britto's: A must-visit place while you are in GoaWine is no stranger to the Goan palate, as can be recognized from their local history that is dated back to the ancient times. The cult culture of wine drinking and making has been discovered in Goa even before the time of the Portuguese rule. The Portuguese settlers, in the 16th century when they came to Goa they not only improved the local sweet drink discovered here but also brought in a variety of new wine from this smallest landscape in India called 'Vindaloo'. The practice was started by these Portuguese sailors. They kept meat in barrels of wine that was laced with garlic and properly mashed with the local spices which gave birth to this new range of Indian origin wine that was originally called VIN d'Ail. Funny how Vindaloo is only associated with a delicious pork local food preparation. If one were to ask a Goan local of his ideal celebration food list to bring in the new years, Mr. Vincent (Owner of William Guesthouse, Baga ) would nostalgically reply; "Pork Vindaloo, Fish Sorpotel, some rice or pau and of course some home made wine." Noticing my mouth slurp and drop he politely offered lunch at his home and I promptly agreed. So there I was sitting at a local Goan home and not just tasting home made grape wine that was sweet, full bodied and hot, but I also got the opportunity to taste two other very unique wine flavours. The banana wine that tasted extremely sweet, fermented and dry. And the apple wine that is meant to be had warm was extremely flavorsome.
Towards the sunset: A great ambience to enjoy an equally great wineThe wine etiquette is rather unique in Goa with an extremely mature and rich wine culture. One will notice high levels of knowledge and awareness of wines here obviously because of the Portuguese old heritage and that the locals have grown up exposed to the wine culture. You can travel anywhere else in India and have food without even the thought of accompanying it with wine. If one asked a host which particular wine blends well with which curry, one will never find a straight answer. The story is different in Goa. Wines here are made from almost every fruit right from bananas and apples to cashews nuts and coconuts. They are distinctive and cheap and mix brilliantly with the local sea food dishes. The Goan locals have their own favourites like the potent 'San Andreas Port Wine' though some how the chic Indian tourists and the hippie European traveler traditionally do not seem to see eye to eye with the locals. To Mr. Vincent's discontent he sticks to the popular brands Sula, Four Seasons and the new Big Banyan. So I hitch hike from one popular restobar to another with a sole operation in mind. The operation was to investigate the disengagement with local wine.
Kamaki: Offers a unique blend of food and wine to the visitorsI gradually begin to notice that wine is extremely popular except that what are popular are the new bottled chic Indian brands. Café Lila, the German eatery and bakery on the Baga river creek is exclusively known for its breakfast. One can sit at a table facing the calm creek and laze in this white curtain draped shak-like space for long hours in bliss. Lila the German café owner would recommend fried eggs and bacon with freshly baked croissants and a Mandera white wine (Rs. 150/glass) for drink to compliment the food. So I agreed and went with the suggestion. On the wine’s arrival I dwelled on how different in nature, smell and taste was the home made red wine and the smooth Mandera, gradually finding myself in favor with the traveler’s palate.
Infantaria: A bar-cum-bakery-cum-24 hr dining serviceAfter the lazy breakfast and a whole day on the beach, I hopped into the chic Britto’s restaurant for a quick supper. This place surely has transformed from being a good-small-beach restaurant to a big-expensive-popular-beach restaurant and it surely deserves the acclaimed ascend. Britto’s has today become a must visit place in Goa. As the sun sets one begins to notice herds of tourists enter here to taste the restaurant’s famed prawn vindaloo. In no time I ordered for the vindaloo with pau and chose the Mandera red wine (Rs. 300/glass) from the Sula dominated wine list. Keeping my operation in mind I tried to avoid the sweet port wine (Rs. 30/glass) and the house wine (Rs. 195/glass) on the list but I simply couldn’t resist. So came next the sweet port wine. It was sweet indeed! The Madera wine from the Sula Vineyards was easy to drink light and fruity. It blended perfectly with the strong-spiced vindaloo dish. Whereas the port wine was extremely sweet, full bodied and very heady. It was a bit much to have with a spicy Indian dish.
Café Lila: Enjoy a calm morning with freshly baked croissants and a Mandera white wineDebating my preferences and reasons for my preference; I was distracted by a group of young giddy Indian girls. They clued me in about the Saturday night party with DJ Nikhil Chinnappa. His plan was to start the house music night and welcome 2010 at Café del mar at Baga beach, and then take the crowd to Mambo’s till 5am. What better way to dance to great music and have wine from two different places. So I freshened up and rushed to Café del mar. This beach shak is without doubt the classiest beach shak in Baga with the best ambiance. I relaxed, chilled and ordered for some red house wine (Rs 150/glass) with a few chicken spring rolls. The food wasn’t too bad; the drink was nice and sweet. A typical Goan house wine. And the sea view was simply splendid.
Café del mar: Truly the right place for a Saturday night partyIt was 9pm and the night was young. Nikhil graced his way to Mambo’s. Mambo’s being a part of the Tito’s group as is Café del mar was truly the right place for a Saturday night party. The club was filled with Europeans and Indians. Their contrasting colours and tapping moves blended beautifully with each other in the tiny club space. I rose to the occasion and tried the new Chateau de Banyan Shiraz wine (Rs. 250/glass). This dark red drink smelt spicy, tasted soft and juicy and left a strong berry flavour behind. The drink was perfectly quaffable without food. That night the party was smooth and the drink smoother.
Laughing all the way: The key is to enjoy the local wine as Goans doThe next day began at Infantaria and with a glass of wine again, or two to be more precise. Infantaria located on the Calangude road label themselves as a bar cum bakery cum 24 hr dining service. I'm not very sure what that means but they sure know how to get their guests to try out their drinks. This morning I stumbled upon the 1+1 house wine offer and I went for it with no second thought. Every trip to Goa has been unique from the previous. This time I went wine and dine hopping. I aimed at the port wines but finally settled for the Sulas and the Banyans. I wouldn't dare say that the local port wine is unbearable. No they aren't! The Goan local port wines and house wines be it grape or cashew are unique. And as Mr. Vincent would agree one needs to acquire the taste and discover the right foods to relish them with. My piece of advice, enjoy the local wine and when in Goa do as the Goans do!