The Wine World in my Eye!

Whats the first thing we think about when we talk about wine? Is the taste, type or the region? Well I think of France though I shall talk about others as well! I know I have a great connection to this country since I studied, ventured and worked for a little bit amongst the Alps. But even then, France is one country predominantly known for its wine! But tell you honestly, Italy is the biggest producer of this majestic drink!

Wines around the World

Let me explain why France is so closely associated with wine. It is because, it is the first country which protected its reputed wines with tight regulations. And since French invented them, we should turn our attention first to France. Fortunately, I had a chance to study them to a small extent. In my two years, I knew that France had vineyards in regions like Bordeaux, Loire, Beaujolais, etc. I tasted many wines and learnt a little from my experience and the techniques of finding out how good the wine is. Pairing it foods came in a bit later. Some of the popular regions in France that I had a chance to visit and taste one of the best wines in the world were from the region Bordeaux, Alsace and Rhône.

Bordeaux

Wineries in Bordeaux

Upstream the Garonne river provides the damp climate suitable for botrytis. A little later I shall explain what this word means but for now Bordeaux sweet wines are the most celebrated wines of its kind. Because of the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean, this region experiences humid misty mornings during the arrival of autumn relieved by the late sunshine during the day. This gentle process of dampening and drying is ideal for this wine. This is how my knowledge of Bordeaux Sweet wine began. My friend scrapped out 3 bottles of wine from his basement. I was impressed by his mini cellar since I didn’t know how important and valuable wines are for the French! He preserved his precious preserves! He made me taste all 3. They looked different though they tasted quite the same. I was confused, I thought they all were from the same family of sweet white wines but couldn’t identify anything. Then came the surprise! He told me that those bottles were 15, 11 and 7 years old! He gave me a small tip on these wines. He said they last for 20-30 years and the very top ones are virtually indestructible! They turn rich yellow to burnished orange and then distinguished deep brown..all still edible! I could only say one thing – ripe and rich was the wine from these 3 bottles as we drank under the deep blue skies with  Gruyere and goat cheese fondue!

Alsace

Enjoying the Wines of Alsace

A place of great history and a constant tug-of-war between France and Germany, has left this region culturally distinct. It is a unique blend of both the cultures and grape varieties. They produce medium or very dry wines. Though I am not such a fan of dry wines, I didn’t want to miss a chance to taste one. After I did, I thought they had a deep colour and a fine aroma with rumbustious alcohol content. Just a glass did make me a bit tipsy! But, right after that I was fed a rosé, which had pastel pink colour and I loved it. It is one of the most famous wines in Alsace called the Pinot Noir! Since I lived in this part of the country, this wine was in abundance! I was happy to know that I liked something from here as well!

Rhône

Grape picking and choosing the best ones!
Honestly, they all looked the same to me! 🙂

North and south Rhône are known for their spicy, rich reds and intriguing whites! I had never tasted spiced wines before. Infact I didn’t even know something like that exists since India never had a big wine culture back then. In Grenoble, the city in the Alps, and the wonderful place I lived in, had a cozy pub which served wines only. I guess they had about 100 different varieties. A bunch of us who practically had no knowledge of wines ended up here and got a bit greedy in tasting everything that we thought sounded cool! Fortunately, the bartender realized our sense of nonsense and started recommending what was different and which could suit our taste buds. Since I was the obvious and the only Indian around, he asked me if I wanted to taste something spicy! I was just happy with the word spicy and asked him to bring it on! As always, I was asked to smell and then sip. It smelled a bit heavy but slowly after a few swirls a musky grape smell arose from the glass. Then came a subtle taste of wine. It made me reminiscent of India, my land, my home!

United Stated of America

Wines from the rest of the world seem to attract me after my experience in France. The next place I ventured was the Unites States of America. And of course that is the Napa Valley in California. I realized that people here were very enthusiastic and were so willing to encourage people to drink wines and also went out of their way to help understand this drink. California is the epicenter of the US for wines. Vineyards spread from north to south along the cool hillside on the side of the ocean. Again a new wine was introduced to me, the Zinfandel! I was surprised that my knowledge of wines didn’t take to me this one, so what was this? A red-purple wine, high in alcohol, with heavy fruit concentration  was this wine! It had sub categories in this like the blush which tasted like a little sour raspberry punch, then a flavour strangely herbal and what not! Despite the fact I liked it, I thought it was made for style and fanciness!

In the Napa Valley – California

Cincinnati

Meier Wines – known for 45 types of cherries

The Meier Wines is a little winery in the heart of Cincinnati. A very cozy place with the best sherries and port wines. They had so many varieties that I couldn’t really count them on my fingers. They had 33 Cream Sherry, 11 Pale Dry Cocktail Sherry, Ruby Red Port, 22 Golden cherry and the list goes on. All these wines are unique to this place. This winery sprouted in the early 19th century and is still going strong. is best known for its 44 Cream Sherry and produces over 45 kinds of wines and a premium line of sparkling non-alcoholic grape juices. The uniqueness of this Cream Sherry comes from its ageing process – it is aged in whiskey barrels and this subtle taste of whiskey makes this sherry interesting. The other interesting fact, especially for people staying in USA, is that Meier Wines ships their product to your doorstep.  The only memento we carried back with us were its simple wine glasses.

Canada

Ice Wine from Canada

During one of our trips to Canada, to the beautiful city of Toronto, we had a chance to taste a very interesting variety of wine called Ice wine. Chilly as it was outside, we rushed into a local winery to warm ourselves. We hadn’t come across anything like an ice wine before. Even though it was ice cold, it did soothe us from the windy chill of the city. This wine was sweet tasting which is made from grapes that are frozen while still on the vines. The grapes are usually picked very early in the day, around sunrise, to ensure the grapes are in frozen condition. These wines are very crisp and refreshing, as if they have trapped the freshness from the morning air when the grapes were picked.

Barrels for picking the early morning grapes needed for Ice Wine

Switzerland

The Wine Cellar

Apart from its natural beauty, Switzerland does have a wine culture. Somehow, they have vineyards long its border with France, Germany & Italy. It is believed by the rest of Europe that Swiss wines are very expensive. Since I lived on the borders of France, I got a chance to visit the city of Geneva quite often. Sometimes it became a backpackers trip, sometimes a clubbing trip and once with Bipin. Since I went there so often and since I was picking up so much about wines, I decided to spend a bit on a bottle of Merlot red. Infact I am not too fond of Merlot but nevertheless I wanted to own one. This was the cheapest and it permitted my students budget. I was told that this came from a region called Ticino which was almost Italian. When I went back to Grenoble, I decided to open it with some friends. I had quite made up my mind that I would not like it, but to my surprise, it was different and had a very pleasing after taste. It was light and grassy with a tinge of the oak barrel taste.

Turkey

Mulled Wine of Turkey

Turkey produces a lot of wines despite being its Islamic population. I was quite surprised! I was also told that it is one of the first countries to produce wine. Anyway the one wine I had in Istanbul was a mulled wine which tasted delicious even when it was warm. On one of our last days in Turkey, we decided to have a nice dinner in a cozy cafe or a restaurant. I think we picked the prettiest cafe restaurant on the Taksim Square of Istanbul. Since it was a bit chilly, I decided to taste the warm mulled wine. I had never heard of this before! Apparently, this wine is made by heating and mixing wines, liquors and spices and is traditionally had on holidays. I was excited to taste this one and also surprised to be served in a coffee mug! The chilly weather, cozy cafe, my loved one and warm cup of wine. It was bliss!

Along with the the usual wines and blends, Turkey has a vast choice of fruit wines. Apple, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Apricot, to name a few. These are quite interesting especially to people new to wines since these are sweet and fruity. We did get a bottle back – one of the locally produced Pomegranate Wines, made an interesting after dinner dessert wine.

India

A pretty display barrel

Yes yes India! 🙂 Wine is an emerging culture in my country! A glass of wine hardly was heard of 10 years ago! Now, it is considered as a sophisticated drink and rates higher than other alcohols . People here still don’t have complete knowledge of wines but generally prefer white wines since they are a bit sweeter. Now and then, we go for a lot of wine fests which happen often during the month of November and December. So, wine and cheese marks the end of every year!

During one of the wine fests, I gathered some information that I didn’t quite believe. As soon as I came back, I looked through google and was astonished to know that wine was a part of India during the Harappan civilization. It was called Somarasa and was consumed during religious festivals. It sounds very strange indeed because generally Indians do not consume alcohol on the day of a religious festival.

The lush greens of the Sula Winery

Then, a  few years back we visited the Sula vineyard in Nasik, north of my city of Pune. A beautiful lush greens, neatly aligned grape vines looked gorgeous! The whole ambiance of the place was pretty. I think Sula wines did bring a small revolution among Indians and introduced the wine culture. From my knowledge it seemed like they made good wines. None of the wines were hazy and didn’t have floating particles in them. The swirl gave a a crisp aroma which made me believe that wine has begun its journey in India.

I agree that I don’t have a far-fetched knowledge of wines but these were some of my experiences and memories of this mystique drink. I think once you pick out the flavour and store them in your memory, you can enjoy it better. Also, I believe that if you like it, just sip it!

PS: Botrytis are infected grapes by strain of fungus. Damp conditions are needed for its growth. 🙂

For a cool wine quiz, click on to http://www.lively-wood.blogspot.in/2009/07/all-about-wine.html

Rhythms & Beats a Part of Our Homes

Music & decor…is strange combination right? No no..it ain’t strange at all! Somebody has said “Music enhances homes and always resembles something!” So, in my post, there is music and some good homes and studios with some wonderful musicians!

The Beat of the Drum!

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Varun Venkit from Taal Inc is a friend who believes in connecting to the inner rhythms of your body. Through his music and drums he focuses on areas of health and well being of people. He conducts regular drum circles for various populations and ages and helps people in participating in a community activity, a stress buster, and behavioural intervention technique.

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Since Bipin is a part of Taal Inc. I got a chance to visit Varun’s home. I loved it the moment I entered his little room with a very interesting sound proof studio. He told me that a lot of his friends coloured and helped him with the graffiti on its walls.

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Since the whole place was full of different drums like the Drum Set, Djembe, Doumbek and so on, I wanted to capture as much as possible. What interested me was also how he had decorated his room with other little things that showed his passion and inclination for music!

Rhythms at Home!

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A lot of beats and rhythms begin in my own home! There is rhythm on the table, on the drum set, on the Djembe or anything that helps the beat! My study has various drums from Tabla, Djembe, Doumbek, the Drum Set, Dholak and some more accessories to go with the tempo! Well you may ask me why the collection? The collection is a part of Bipins passion as well. All along his day and life, he thinks of rhythms.

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All these drums occupy a lot of space. Also living in an apartment doesn’t allow too much liberty to have a sound proof room. Hence we decided to place them in such a way so that our neighbours don’t fear earthquakes very often. So, we broke a wall, framed a glass on it, raised a platform in order to absorb the sound. And voila, the room is a shared asset with a book shelf, my study, our shot glass collection, a funky bar and a collection of beautiful carved drums!

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DJ Amah & his Didgeridoos

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As much as fun and playful Amar is, he is one sombre guy when it comes to music. We call DJ Amah since it sounds so cool! He is an ardent lover of almost every musical instrument right from guitars to drums and to didgeridoos. He is the lead behind his group called The Ajala Dhwani Project. This group attempts to interpret the Earth,and its sounds and the existence of mankind on this planet.

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As much as how musical instruments look good, they can be very messy and unorganized due to the wires and belts and all the other accessories they come with. To flaunt them better and to keep them intact, Aditi, his wife, plays a very important role. She manages this music room making it interesting by looking into the aesthetics of her home.

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A very unique thing about their decor is the simplicity in which it is displayed despite the mixture of so many instrument which are a part of Hindustani, Carnatic music, Indian and World Folk. Both Amar and Aditi have done a good job!

Inheritance of a Violin

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Deepa, my sister almost inherited a violin from her parents on her birthday. As much as she wanted to learn the violin, she put her family at priority and overlooked her passion for quite sometime. Then came a day that she put her hands to work on this art with great traditions behind it. A tradition followed by almost every member in her family. A family of musicians!

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Obviously, for a creative person like her, she couldn’t help but use this harmonious instrument to be a part of her beautiful home. She cares and keeps it in such a fashion that the more she sees it, the further she wants to play it! Violin is where she finds her happiness, preserving it as a part of her decor is her practice.

Lost in time – The Tambora

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Roopa, my mother-in-law goes back into history. History of certain instruments lost in time. Her melodious voice and a unified evocative rhythm of the Tambora soothes the beautiful garden and home she lives in.

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Through her artistic sense, she constantly works on projects around the house and surprises all of us every time we go home. There is a new painting or a patch work or a comfortable seating to practice her music! When I visited her last, she played her melodious Tambora in her garden by the Tulsi Vrindavan ( a pot or a holder of a type of auspicious basil considered holy). I loved the melody and the arrangement she made to practice her song.

The art of arranging sounds amidst the natural environment of her home accompanied by music is something I tried capturing!

These are some people I thought are very interesting! They have a great aesthetic sense of decorating their homes, stirring the rhythms and beat of music in different forms! I loved them, their homes and their passion for music that comes from within!