The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Like with like, for love of wine

Rajeev Samant says that drinking wine can be a rather intimidating affair, swirl, twirl, roll and all. “But it’s time we made it simple,” says the young CEO of Sula Vineyards. Yes, it is time. The statistics show it. The party people prove it.

The city has witnessed a “distinct upturn”. Wine consumption has gone up in Calcutta by 40 per cent from last year. And we also have the city’s first wine club — Roxy Wine Club. Girls or guys, they all have a glass of wine in hand. Some to complement a good meal. Some to make up for a bad meal.

But then, what the other metros did yesterday, Calcutta does today. “Yes, Calcutta is lagging behind but things are about to change,” says Samant.

Wine is bringing about big changes the world over, too. Wine drinkers have outnumbered beer drinkers in the United States, reveals the Sula man. “It was waiting to happen. The pattern always moves from spirits to beer to wine. Calcutta is no different.”

The Sula sales split in the city shows retail accounting for 60 per cent of total sales, implying high home consumption, and institutions making up the remaining 40.

Demographically, more men are taking to wine, “purely for lifestyle reasons”. And good wine with a good meal is always a connoisseur’s combo, properly paired of course.

“When it comes to wine pairing, follow the cardinal rule — always pair like with like,” Samant says. So red wine goes with red meat and white wine complements fish and chicken. Likewise, spicy food demands spicy wine.

“Sweeter cuisines like Chinese and Thai, and some tamarind-based sauces, go best with a sweet wine,” he adds.

Having had his first taste at 18 (of Goan Port Wine) and then a “proper” wine experience in California at 25, Samant set up “India’s first French Sauvignon Blanc and Californian Chenin Blanc”.

Now, with 10 Sula brands under his umbrella, he is now on the verge of launching his third one million-litre winery.

Here he lists some pointers for Goodlife readers to enjoy their wines better.

• Red wine is not best at room temperature here. “Indian room temperature is way too hot for red wine. Warm wine is too heavy to enjoy and is very volatile.”

Tip: refrigerate for 15 minutes.

• Vintage worries are useless. “Ninety-five per cent of all wines are consumed within two days of purchase. And that’s how it should be.”

Tip: look for a nice, fresh and young fruity wine.

• Cork wines are best stored horizontally. Sula is soon going to boast a Stelwin Screw cap, an aluminium closure. “This will tackle storage and oxidisation issues.”

Final sip: There’s way too much stress on the fashionable aspect of wine. “All it needs to do is pleasure your five senses and the wine should go down easy; smooth enough to get you to the next sip. And the next glass… And not at all an intimidating affair,” signs off Samant.

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