Today’s topic is wine appreciation. That is to say you will encounter a lot of French words, which you can feel free to ignore, because we used them just to sound fashionable and realistic. Also, we are not sure how a word from one language can make sense in another? As they rightly say, ça ne fait rien.
Wine is unlike any other alcoholic beverage, in that when you get high on beer or rum or vodka you will make a silly clown of yourself, but in the case of wine you can prove yourself to be a bigger jerk even without tasting a single drop of it.
Wine drinking is a fine art that should not be attempted unless you have a well stocked —- why not? —– wardrobe. To drink whiskey, you need whiskey. To drink gin, you need gin. To drink wine, you, of course, need a tuxedo. I base this statement out of my personal experience at a swanky watering hole in Hong Kong, where I was denied entry because I was clad just in a formal shirt, pant and shoe.
I tried explaining to them that I was not there for drinking and was just accompanying my friends. But the management put its foot firmly down, quite probably coming to the logical conclusion that with me around, without sporting a coat or jacket, all the wines in their cellar ran the risk of turning into nannari sarbath.
Another cardinal error that amateurs commit at a wine bar is to order wine. You go to a wine bar, settle yourself comfortably, and you order —- this is the rule —- for the sommelier, who is the powerful French Federal Minister for Wines. Well almost.
When you go to a wine bar you, as a novice, can be confused by the dazzling choices arrayed in front of you. But when you have a professional sommelier around, the choice of wine will not stump you. But in all likelihood, the sommelier will.
‘This one, a 1976 Bordeaux beauty, able-bodied, full of spunk and spirit. Will stay with you all night. Guaranteed to provide full satisfaction and sensation.’ This is a typical line you can expect from a cordon bleu sommelier. When I heard it the first time, I had to check twice whether the item described was indeed wine or something else that France is supposedly famous for.
The sommelier generally runs his palm around the upper part of the neck of the wine bottle, leaving the rest of the bottle slanted on the forearm so that you can read the specific details of the grapes used, the year it was cultivated, the ATM password of the farmer involved and the private contact number of Carla Bruni, just in case.
Okay, I am exaggerating. But you get the idea. The kind of details that are provided on a French wine bottle are generally possible to acquire only through repeated RTI applications in India.
There two types of wine: The white wine, as its name makes it unequivocally clear, is pale gold in colour while the red wine, needless to say, is brown-hued. Both white and red wines have their natural and unique characteristics that are determined by what you eat with them.
And then there is Champagne, the quintessential douceur de vivre, the bubbly meant for those happy moments when you don’t feel like drinking but would want to douse others with a sticky liquid. (In Tamil Nadu, champagne is known as panneer, conspicuous at the entrance of wedding halls).
Also, the older the wine, the higher is its vintage. This should make it clear to everyone that good wines take their taste from the spiders in the cellar. Okay, also probably cockroaches (Chardonnay de roach et spider).
Anyway, after ordering the wine, and upon it being served in that sui generis long-stemmed wine glass, the thing you should take particular care in avoiding is —- pay close attention here —- start drinking it. As a drink, wine is primarily meant for smelling. In other words, a true wine connoisseur is a person of nuanced tastes and has evolved to the level where he would be happy sipping eau de cologne.
After the smelling ritual, comes the —- it’s not hard to guess —- the rinsing routine. You pour a few drops of wine, tilt the glass, twirl it stylishly and spray all the contents on the table. Well, at least that is what happens when I try it.
After you twiddle the glass, you let the liquid settle, and then pour a small gulp into your mouth and start —- patently this should be the most obvious thing —– gargling it. This is important to understand the flavour and texture of the wine. It could be sour or piquant or tart. Frankly you wouldn’t care.
After all the effort and endurance, you will be just happy to have something to wet your throat. You wouldn’t mind even if it were just kerosene.
And just as the drink gets in, you will thank God that your local TASMAC doesn’t sell wines even though it is actually a ‘wine shop’.
Simbu was right when he said enna vazhkai da. In other words, it’s le mot juste.