These are a few of my favourite things
As Covid bids its long goodbye, many of us are heaving sighs of relief. But here is a secret. This year, I drank very well. Partly because I was drinking at home, I decided to make a celebration of it. Here are some of the things I enjoyed.
Grover wines: Earlier this year, Reuben Kataria, the general manager of the newly opened Leela Bharatiya City hotel in Bengaluru invited me to a tasting of Grover wines. They wanted to commission a Grover custom blend for their restaurant, Falak, he said. So we went, the F&B team and me to sample pretty much every Grover wine that was available. And what a revelation it was. I have to confess that I had stopped drinking Grover wines partly because I had drunk them all and took them for granted. They were my “neighbourhood winery” as it were. What was new here? Well, here are some things I learned after tasting 30 bottles. Well, the Insignia 2018 was terrific of course, with aromas of fennel and vanilla (Rs. 6000 for the 1500L magnum, Rs. 3000 for 750 ml bottle). But this was one of their high-end wines. But I also loved their modestly priced Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc, which, unlike New Zealand Sauv-Blancs, was not herbaceous (Rs. 860 for 750 ml and Rs. 495 for 375 ml). The other wines I ended up purchasing were their La Reserve Fume Blanc (Rs. 1225), and their Syrah-Grenache (Rs. 1225). Here’s what I would recommend. If you happen to be in Bangalore, take a drive to their tasting room which is beautifully set up. Spend an afternoon sampling multiple wines and buy what you like.
Tel Machfi Single Vineyard Series, Carmel Winery, Gewurztraminer 2019. This storied winery in Golan Heights reflects, as they say, the story of Israel. Three future prime ministers of Israel– Levi Eshkol, David Ben Gurion and Ehud Olmert– worked in the winery as youths. Their 2Vats Rose and Shiraz Kayoumi wines have been winning a slew of awards recently. It makes sense because aromatic rose wines do well in Israel’s hot climate and also with fresh Mediterranean cuisine. With a tinge of viognier, the Shiraz works well with goat cheeses and meat. Trained in Italy, current winemaker Yiftach Peretz, seems to have figured out how to balance climate, cuisine and in this case, Kosher proclivities. The wine I tasted was their 2019 gewurztraminer, a gorgeous dessert wine from Golan heights with rich aromas of lychee, guava and pineapple. Israel’s consul-general for South India, Jonathan Zadka, gifted me this bottle. I had this wine, not with dessert, but with rich (non-spicy) Mughlai food. The wine balanced my dal makhni, paneer and flaky kulcha with ease and grace. It costs 90 Shekels or Rs.2100 in Israel.
Perry Road Peru distilled cocktail: In spite of the name, this drink doesn’t have anything to do with South America or the Amazon or indeed, the country named Peru. Instead, it is an ode to that most distinctive of Indian fruits, the guava. Two beloved brands joined hands to create this. Stranger and Sons is quirky and creative– just visit their website to see what I mean. They make gin-based cocktails and are one of the few brands helmed by a woman: Sakshi Saigal. The Bombay Canteen is something that I, as a Bangalorean resent– a) because it is not based in my fair city and b) because I am tired of Bombay friends posting photos of their luscious dishes on social media. Recently though, we got a taste of their food in Bangalore when the two brands did a road-show of sorts. They took their food and drink across India and treated a bunch of journalists to it. Now, I don’t generally like blended cocktails because they tend to be too sweet and too– what’s the word– lowest common denominator blended and nondescript. This one though has a strong flavour of guava or “peru,” which is great if you like the fruit (and not if you hate it). Serve it with a rim of salt and chili-powder. You can have it with one cube of ice, or neat– which is how I drink it. But then, I grew up in hot Chennai. (Costs Rs. 2999 in Mumbai but available in all Indian metros)
Paul John Mars Orbitor: I met Paul John years ago at my friend, Issac Mathai’s home. Issac runs Soukya, a wellness centre in Bangalore. Since then, the brand has grown into resorts and hotels. But it whiskeys travel well and are perhaps a good ambassador for the brand. Disclosure: my friend, Heemanshu Ashar too is the global ambassador for the brand. The Mars Orbitor is well-named in that it reflects the ambitions of the man and the brand. I used to hesitate to gift a Paul John to my snooty single-malt drinking friends abroad. That changed a year ago when I offered it up during a blind tasting and this bottle came our with shall we say, flying colours. Or to keep going with the pun, this bottle hit the ball not just out of the park but out to the orbit. (Rs 38,000 in Goa)
Amrut Greedy Angels 12 YO Chairman’s Reserve: This is an expensive bottle, not just for India (costs $1000). But people who have bought it say that it is worth every drop. I have only sampled it at a friend’s home and I have to say, it blew my socks off. Their newer offering Amrut Neidhal is more suited to my palate and pocket. It brings to mind the salty air and brine of coastal Tamilnadu. (Rs5,996 in Bengaluru but available in other metros also).
Happy 2022. Drink well. Stay hydrated. Wear a mask and stay safe.
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