When I decided to study wine, I remember being astounded by the words that I saw. Of the hundreds of wine grape varieties that existed in the world, I, until then, could hardly name 20. Even today, I consider my knowledge of wine grapes a mere drop in the ocean. I can now tell the difference between Gewurztraminer and Grüner Veltliner but when it comes to Cserszegi Füszeres or Hondarrabi Beltza (from Hungary and northern Spain, respectively), the encyclopaedia is dragged out.
Then comes the problem of how to get ones tongue around them, figuratively speaking — though I think it will be a long time before we see either of these grapes in India. Nevertheless, the following brief list should help you navigate your way through hotel wine lists with more ease. And if in doubt, just ask. Even a sharp waiter should have a little bit of information about the wine for you.
Grüner Veltliner (Grooner-VELT-leener) is the native white grape of Austria. Its pale in colour but can have an intense aroma of white pepper and white flowers. If it looks slightly towards a lemon-gold colour then look out for more honeyed and ripe citrus characters on the nose. It means the wine has some age to it. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied with refreshing acidity, urging you to take a second sip. It can be a little apple-ly on the palate with pepper and some floral notes. Its also known for its grip in the mouth due to the acidity, making it very food-friendly.
Pinot Noir hails from Burgundy in France. Despite being one of the most difficult grapes to grow, its found all over the world, including India. Its thin skin makes it susceptible to extreme temperatures and its also particular about the soil it is grown in. It thrives in a marginal climate and like a petulant, but talented child, if nurtured and controlled, it can produce some spectacular red wine. The best Burgundies command towering prices and can age for decades. They have perfumed aromas — everything from strawberries, cherries and rose petals, to mushrooms, truffles and spices. The wines are usually light in colour with refreshing acidity. The best examples slide down your tongue leaving a gorgeous, aromatic flavour in the finish. Best enjoyed with duck.
Brunello di Montalcino (Broo-nello dee Montal-cheeno) is not a grape but an appellation — based on the Sangiovese grape. Montalcino, in Tuscany, Italy, is home to Sangiovese. Brunello is very trendy around the world and also, quite pricey. Atypical to the other styles of Sangiovese produced in Tuscany, Brunello is full-bodied, dark and fruity. Its very oaky too and goes well with robust, meaty dishes. Sangiovese in general is medium-bodied and smells like sour cherries and violets. Its more savoury like herbs and tea leaves than it is fruity, but its acidity makes it very pleasant to drink. Other styles where Sangiovese is the dominant grape variety include Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Rosso di Montalcino.