This is my first post in my redesigned website. It is really cool to see what is possible in web design these days and the tools keep changing and growing.  

Unless you are in the company of oenophiles, the problem with wine talk is that no matter what you say, it sounds pretentious. You can wax eloquent on about the aroma of a good Barolo or the greatness of the 2009 vintage. For the average person you might as well be talking about Einstein’s theory of relativity. Terms like bouquet, mouth feel, tannins, finish, and terroir mean specific things to wine connoisseurs but are meaningless to the general population. How then to decode wine talk?

In India, the problem is compounded by the fact that storage is shoddy.  Imported wines are stored and transported in warehouses that have no concern for temperature-control. Red wines can end up too tannic and white wines too sweet or “baked” as some call it. How then to figure out the original bouquet of the wine?

Consider Chilean Merlot. Most people say that New World wines are young and ought to be drunk fairly quickly. With Indian wines, you would think the same rule applies.  Well, that depends. Some of the blended reds that wineries in India sell are too raw, leaving the sandpaper edge in your tongue. They have to settle down for a few days before you can drink them. Of course, you can decant. But what if you are the only one drinking? I found a solution. You open an Indian wine bottle, pour yourself a glass and leave it in a cool place, in the back of your cupboard (if you don’t own a wine frig). I find that it ages well while in the bottle so that it tastes best three days after opening the cork. My brother opens the bottle and puts it in the fridge for a day before actually drinking the wine. A friend’s solution has been to decant it for 3 hours; pour the (Indian) wine back into the bottle, and drink a glass or two the following day, after it has calmed down. 

Palate is a term that sounds pompous but really isn’t. In fact, it is the simplest way by which you can decide what wines you like. Some of it is practical or logical and some of it is just you. Being vegetarian, my taste veers towards aromatic, dry and off-dry, cool-climate wines. Low alcohol content (under 12%) is nice to have but not always possible, particularly in New World wines. After trying out several, these are my current picks. Torrontés, Viogniers, Alsatian Rieslings, Vouvrays from the Loire Valley, and Pinot Gris (Navarro Vineyards of Mendocino if you can get them). These in my view go well with light vegetarian food. I used to like Gewurztraminer but haven’t had a decent one lately.  Like most people, I am picky about my chardonnays, perhaps the most ubiquitous of white wines.  I liked unoaked Chardonnays. I haven’t met a Chablis or Sancerre I haven’t liked, perhaps because its alcohol content hovers around 10%.

The opposite too must be true. If you relish a heavy juicy steak or a rich complex biryani, I imagine that your palate veers towards heavy-bodied French, Italian and Spanish wines made from grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo.

Tolerance for bitterness is an underrated aspect of your palate. If you are one of those who can tolerate karela or bitter gourd and revels in 85% dark chocolate, then it opens up a whole range of wines that have a tinge of bitterness. Austrian Gruner Veltliners are a start, as are some Italian reds. I drank a wonderful Amarone at a dinner at the ITC Grand Chola’s Italian restaurant in Chennai. It was high in alcohol (14%) but had a delicious tinge of bitterness. Wine wisdom says this bitter tinge is due to the phenols in wines and otherwise moderate people have devoted reams of prose supported by chemical equations to describe exactly why wine becomes bitter (and they say this as if it is a good thing). Most people describe Cabernet as bitter but the Sauvignon rounds it off. Another quixotic phrase is “minerally with hints of asphalt”, which is akin to saying that you are drinking concrete. Somehow, this is viewed as a positive by wine critic Robert Parker and his acolytes. A phrase and type of wine I like is “dry wine”. To me, this means that the wine is not sweet. Then again, I don’t have a sweet tooth and if I had to pick between gulab jamun and bhujia sev, the latter would win each time.

La laitière de Bangalore

[The Milk Lady of Bangalore]

    • Traduction (Anglais) : Johanna Blayac
Après plus de vingt ans passés aux États-Unis, Shoba rentre en Inde avec sa famille. Dans les rues de Bangalore, hommes d’affaires côtoient vendeurs à la sauvette, mendiants, travestis et… vaches! Shoba se lie bientôt d’amitié avec Sarala, sa voisine laitière dont les vaches vagabondent dans les champs.
Mais lorsque Sarala propose à Shoba de participer à l’achat d’une nouvelle bête commence une drôle d’épopée! Acheter une vache en Inde n’est pas une mince affaire… Il y a des règles strictes et d’innombrables traditions à respecter. Et comment choisir parmi les quarante races indigènes de bovins – sans compter les hybrides! De foires aux bestiaux en marchandages sans fin, Shoba redécouvre l’omniprésence de l’animal dans la vie indienne : on boit son lait, mais on utilise aussi sa bouse pour purifier les maisons, son urine pour fabriquer des médicaments…
Dans une succession de scènes cocasses et émouvantes où les vaches ont le premier rôle, Shoba Narayan évoque aussi les mantras, Bollywood, la médecine ayurvédique, le système de castes, et dresse ainsi un portrait contrasté de l’Inde d’aujourd’hui.
  • Bibliothèque étrangère
  • Paru le 27/02/2020
  • Genre : Littérature étrangère
  • 304 pages – 140 x 205 mm
  • EAN : 9782715253964
  • ISBN : 9782715253964

Translation (per google translate)


After more than twenty years in the United States, Shoba returns to India with his family.

In the streets of Bangalore, businessmen rub shoulders with street vendors, beggars, transvestites and … cows!

Shoba soon befriends Sarala, her dairy neighbor whose cows roam the fields. But when Sarala offers Shoba to participate in the purchase of a new beast begins a funny epic!

Buying a cow in India is not an easy task …

There are strict rules and countless traditions to follow. And how to choose from the forty native breeds of cattle – not counting hybrids!

From cattle fairs to endless haggling, Shoba rediscovers the omnipresence of the animal in Indian life: we drink our milk, but we also use our dung to purify homes, our urine to make medicines …

In a succession of funny and moving scenes in which the cows have the leading role, Shoba Narayan also evokes mantras, Bollywood, Ayurvedic medicine, the caste system, and thus paints a contrasting portrait of India today.