Rarely has there been the sort of pressure on us in India as the pressure to ‘appreciate’ wine these days.
Even for folks who have grown up in an era where one was under pressure to appreciate one’s family elders, the almighty, having food on the plate, the value of education, electricity straight for two hours, colour television and of course the blessings of The First Family of India.
None of this was remotely comparable to the pressure to appreciate wine now.
Last month I went to a wine pairing with Indian food event at Neel which was held in association with a group called All Things Nice if I remember right. Lots of glasses of many hued wines from many nations. Food plated really well for Indian food with chef Rahul Akerkar himself working the lines in the kitchen.
I got back to receive an email the next day from some folks who were planning to do a wine appreciation session with canapés a few days later. And then there was someone else who proposed to do wine pairing with Indian food.
If one was to guess, I would say that 80 percent of invites to food events that one gets, and as a food blogger at Mumbai you get invited to an average of three food events a day, are to do with wine pairing and tasting.
That’s a hell of a lot of hard sell.
Does wine have such a huge handicap that it needs so much of handholding? Or are the stakes so high in wine?
I like to lay biases out straight in the beginning and here’s the thing. I drink wine. I don’t mind it. I would rarely reach out for it. It occasionally gives me a headache. I don’t see what’s the fuss about wine.
Which probably slots me as a philistine.
A month back we were discussing this on the Finely Chopped facebook page when I put up a bite of mine which came on the wine pairing with food in the Mid Day, coincidentally I am told, a couple of days before the Neel event.
Some of the discussion that followed was interesting.
Sue who spent a few years in Australia, after England, before moving into Bandra, had this to say:
“Nicely said! It's a shame that in India we seem to have taken the wine culture from Europe and not Aus. In Aus it is far less stuffy... less about using the right words to describe the wine and more about actually drinking it (and Aussies also don't believe in spitting out the wine at a wine tasting which I am totally in to!) Saying all of this... I would very rarely pair a really good red wine with anything even a little spicy! (KK: a point Chef Akerkar stressed too…keep the chillies down for wine)
Indian wine often gives me a headache too - not sure what chemicals/processes are used here, but more than I am used to with new world wines most certainly. Other problem in India that keeps wine as a snobbier thing is the price of course ... I can have a very good bottle in Aus for about the same price that I have to pay for a bottle of mouth-wash plonk here... We had an NZ white with quite a heavy dish at Ziya a few weeks back and it worked wonderfully so yes, agree with you @ Kalyan Karmakar that it can work with Indian food - just think you have to be a little more selective.”
Sue seemed to hint that the wine drinking culture in Australia is similar to probably the beer drinking one here.
Well, when was the last time that you wanted to hang out with your friends after work and reached out for a chilled red instead a chilled lager?
In the same discussion Anurag Mehrotra, who seems to know his food, made a very telling point when he said “Personally, I think in India we don't have a culture of drinking with our food. Alcohol is consumed in copious quantities before dinner with finger foods.”
Going by this one could argue that wine doesn’t sit well with ‘Indian culture’ if you get what I mean.
Which is when one begins to feel a bit sympathetic towards folks who are trying to enlighten us to wine.
But then go ahead, make your own choice, don’t get influenced by what you read here, I am after all the guy who once got bored at a wine tasting and asked for a single malt.