21 December, 2012

Kochi Bloggers on a Wine Trail

Wine is the most natural alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of freshly picked wine grapes. Yes, you heard me right, made only from grapes, the rest of the fermented fruit beverages (Gooseberry, Orange etc) that are made at home are not technically wine. This and much more information was provided to us about wines, during the Wine Trail lead by Amit Chavan, Sommelier at United Breweries exclusively for the bloggers in Kochi.

It was the first ever blogger meet that happened in Kochi and all of us were equally excited to meet each other. We all sat around tables, as Amit went ahead and explained about wines. There are different types and styles of wines, Still/Sparkling/Fortified, Red/ Rose/ White, Dry/Medium and Sweet. Classifications of wines based on the kind of grapes used are called varietal wines. Chenin Blanc and Shiraz are varietal wines made of the single grape variety Chenin Blanc and Shiraz. The reason the wines are region specific is due to the Terroir (geography, geology and climate) of the place. The wines growing in a particular climate will have specific taste and thus will produce the wine that tastes different from the same variety of grape grown in a different region. Most old world (France, Italy, Germany and Spain) wines are labelled with terroir and hence the region is fixed. The New world (Australia, India, New Zealand) wines are mostly based on the grape variety. 

Our waiter served us the Chenin Blanc (Pronounced: Sheh–nin Blo(n)), white wine in the shorter glass. As Amit joined us, I argued that it was wrong to serve white wine in such glasses. It seems Amit tired to get the right glasses for the wine but would not get them in time for the event. The glass our wine was served in was usually the once used for serving juice. 

It is believed that the shape of the glass is important, as it concentrates the flavour and aroma (or bouquet) to emphasize the varietal's characteristic. Generally, the opening of the glass is not wider than the widest part of the bowl. The white wines are usually served at temperature lower than that of red wine and therefore have longer stems, so that we hold the glass at the stem to prevent the temperature of our hand from affecting the temperature of the wine. The mouth of the bowl is not wide to prevent oxidation unlike in the case of red wines which are served in glasses with shorter stems and wide mouthed bowls to enable oxidation. 

The Juice glasses used to serve Wine

Shalet took her first ever sip of wine Chenin Blanc. I waited eagerly for the response, she actually liked it. We agreed that the wine was light yellow-golden, fruity-citrus smelling sweet wine. 

Verdict: we like the Chenin blanc better than Shiraz

To appreciate a wine it should be served at the right temperature, white wine is served at 8-12 degree Celsius while the red wine at 16-18 degrees Celsius. Sparkling wines and sweet dessert wines are to be served at 6-8 degree Celsius. I wasn't too sure if the temperature of the wine served to us was right but it was freezing inside the Ava lounge in Dream Hotel, despite our request to increase the temperature of the room a few times.

Amit then showed us how to find out if the wine is light or full bodied, by swirling the glass on the table and watching the wine run down the sides of the glass. The slower the wine runs down, the more viscous it is.

To see the true color of the wine tilt the glass at an angle against a white background, a white napkin worked fine for us. Now see the change in color from the center to the edges. We could distinctly see the edges were lighter.

After we swirled the wine to see the "legs"

We were served appetizers along with the wine. I pointed out that I am a vegetarian, they served me Paneer. I'm still not used to saying that I'm Vegan coz most people around here don't understand the term vegan. I apologized to my waiter and he said he will get me something. 

As they kept explaining about, what kind of meat, seafood and Paneer to pair with wine. I kept on gulping down, the best sweet tasting wine, which I have had so far, usually I always end up with dry or medium wines but this was pleasant. I would recommend anyone, who wants to try out wine, to start with Chenin Blanc. 

Most important, the right wine should be paired with the right food unless it's a dessert wine. It helps us enjoy the food better by refreshing our palette, so every bite feels like the first one. Unlike other alcohols, wine should be served with food. I couldn't really experience it that day coz by the time I got something to eat (awesome potato poppers which I've got to try making at home) the wine had already made me light headed and my stomach was growling.

What wine can be paired with Vegan food? I asked Amit. He explained that it is important to take into consideration, how the food was prepared (grilled, roasted etc) all these factors will influence, the kind of wine paired with it. To be truthful, I still have no clue what vegan food I can pair with what wine.   

Next we were served Shiraz, the deep maroon red wine, it was quite dry. I was familiar with this kind of wine but I preferred Chenin Blanc. Amit said women tend to prefer the sweeter wines. 

Shiraz and Chenin Blanc

They also talked about my second favourite topic after food, the health benefits of drinking wine. I've heard about the antioxidant content of red wine is considerably more than white wine. I don't think it is ethical to popularize wine using its health benefits. To a limit everything is healthy but you need to decide what's the limit is for you. There is responsible consumption limits fixed by the WHO for women are 230ml 2glasses and 310ml 3glasses for men. Personally speaking even 2 glasses of wine interferes with my system, I get high and I'm sluggish for the next 24 hours. I don't consider this kind of a reaction healthy, so the limit varies from individual to individual. I certainly do not recommend drinking alcohol, to gain health benefits even though it's pure Vegan. I would prefer wine over other alcohol any day, that's a fact.

Having a good time
Corks on wine bottles are being replaced by screw caps for the ease of use but I'm old fashioned. I still prefer corked bottles, the reason cork is used, is to let the wine breathe and to prevent the build up of carbon dioxide. It is important to store wine horizontal, to keep the cork wet. This helps in preventing the cork from drying and hence prevents the danger of oxidation of wine. 

Most of the wine in India is grown and made in Pune, Maharashtra. They have wine grown in Nandi Hills in Bangalore but are not as good as Pune. Currently there are studies going on to see if wine can be grown in Himachal Pradesh by replacing the soil with a suitable mix since rest of the factors are favourable for growth of many varieties of wines.

The bloggers I couldn't get a chance to meet (Photograph Courtesy: Tom)
Our time was up, I think one day was not enough to understand wines. I couldn't meet the rest of the bloggers who had gathered there, as I was too light headed to make sense of what was going on. 

It was getting late, so I rushed out picking up the bottle of Chenin Blanc given to each one of us. Christmas wine is Taken care of by Four Seasons, now all I need is to start baking the cake.

“One should always be drunk. That's all that matters...But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.” 
― Charles Baudelaire

Update: just found out we had a vegetarian blogger among us who did some research on what vegetarian food to pair with wine, you can read about in in this post... A Tale of two Wines


  1. Oh God, you have covered almost everything. Salute to your memory...

    1. Tom... I actually asked Amit for the PPT to refresh my memory coz I was really struggling to get started on the post.. :)

  2. For someone who can't write long, this is super long. And super good. It was fun recollecting all those details. I don't get it though, was it really freezing inside the Ava? I didn't really find it all that difficult.

    1. U were probably warm coz of the wine... Santhosh and I kept requesting to turn down the AC... I struggle to write especially to get started but as I wrote I felt like its a food blog I need to explain everything I learnt to my readers... i feel I still missed out on a few things... :)

  3. Gud goin anisha... :) btw... i googled on vegeterian foods (not vegan) that go with wine...and put it on my blog

    1. Thanks Shrijith... I will link your post to this, so others can also read it.. :)

  4. Can guess how you would have enjoyed this meet, lovely.

  5. Came here from the Cochin Blog Society on FB. I didn't know there was so much to wine. I just gulped them down the moment I saw them :D I mean even the wine glasses had so much meaning? There is a lot of information here and it is taking time to digest. :)


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