|Keith W. Edgar
Art, food and wine made for a fun afternoon for the ladies of YFLO (Young FICCI Ladies Organisation) at Gallery Kolkata on Shakespeare Sarani. Conducted by Canadian sommelier Keith W. Edgar, the members of YFLO tried a food-and-wine pairing with five grape varietals from Four Seasons –– one rose, two whites and two reds.
With Blush Zinfandel Rose, Keith discussed what is wine. He began with the basics and then weaved in fun facts. “Unlike whisky, which is extremely popular in India, wine is a living, breathing thing. If you open a bottle of whisky you can have a drink and return to it after months. You can’t do that with wine,” said Keith.
The appreciation session was followed by a discussion on the other grape varietals –– Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz Merlot. Asked what goes best with a rose, Keith said: “Think of it as a picnic wine. What do you normally eat during picnics?” Roast chicken, salads and cheese. “Why do wines need to be acidic?” asked another member. Keith came up with an even cooler answer. “I consider acidity as something that gives wine structure. Compare it with the bamboo structure that holds up a pandal. The light acidic wines are like your pandals which just have a thin cloth over them; the full-bodied ones are thicker,” said Keith.
Madhu Neotia and Shuvaprasanna also dropped in for the event. “I think it’s a good thing that youngsters these days not only have so much experience but also experiment and learn different things,” smiled Madhu, the “almost teetotaller” who only likes a glass of red wine!
Pictures: Pabitra Das
This professional wine taster certainly doesn’t like champagne! t2 caught up with Sovna Puri, head taster and trainer at Sula Vineyards, who was in Calcutta on a four-day training trip.
Tell us about Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses that you conduct.
Sula’s the first Indian company to get affiliation to conduct the course. This happened two years back. At present we conduct (from time to time) the level 1 and 2 courses every year. WSET level 1 begins in February and level 2 in April.
Are the courses open only to professionals?
Level 1 and 2 are amateur courses and you needn’t do the first to qualify for the second. It gets intense level 3 onwards and it’s more for professionals. So far these courses are held only in Mumbai. In fact, one of the reasons I am here is to check if these courses can be conducted outside Mumbai.
Many new companies have entered the wine market. Who do you consider your closest rival?
No one really. We’re enjoying the number one position for over two years now. New wine companies keep coming up every few days but no one has really been able to sustain their growth. We enjoy about 70 per cent market share.
What next for Sula?
We’re concentrating on tasting and training. Tasting is our biggest marketing tool. The idea is to spread wine education and awareness. We’re focusing a lot on two- and three-tier towns. We feel small towns are interested in wines. Varietal trials and tastings are done with two kinds — Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Any wine-drinking trends in India?
Red wine is more popular. There is very little awareness about roses, sparkling or dessert wines. Some don’t even know these exist.
How has your target audience evolved?
The awareness level is increasing. People travel more these days. But if you compare it globally, we have a long way to go.
Chill red wine. Don’t have it at room temperature if it’s 30 or 40 degree Celsius outside.
The age-old rule of red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat doesn’t work with Indian food. With spicy red meat have a food-friendly wine like Pinot Noir instead of a classic Italian red. Tannins and spices clash.
When pairing dessert wines, the wine needs to be sweeter than the dessert. If the wine is as sweet or less sweet than the dessert, it gets lost.
Top three pairing tips for Sula wines
1. Sula Riesling with something creamy, fatty or fried
2. Sula Viognier with seafood or food that’s slightly spicy
3. Shiraz Dindori Reserve with tandoori dishes