Four Seasons Wine Tasting | A Simplified Guide to Wine Tasting
The more I understand wine the more I start noticing the human side of it. It can narrate stories- of its lineage, of the farms it belongs to, of the winemaker involved; its love of food is unparalleled and it finds a way to be paired with food of all varieties; it’s colorful, sparkling with energy and bubbly at times. But more than anything else desires thoughtful attention and accompanies intelligent conversations.
Last week I attended a wine tasting featuring wines from Four Seasons, produced in a vineyard based out of Baramati, India. The event was hosted by Shamita Singha at Neel (at Tote on the Turf) at a strikingly chlorophyll green Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai.
Shamita comes across as an extremely warm and knowledgeable host. Throughout the sessions she chose her words carefully, was open and candid about her experiences related to wine, and avoided lots of glossy terminology associated with this art. As compared to few experts I have come across, Shamita is much less opinionated and focuses on the wine-drinker evolving their own language for enjoying wine. This brings us to the first lesson from the event:
Wine tasting is a very personal experience, and you need to evolve your own language to understand it.
Before we started the tasting, Shamita introduced us to the French style of wine-making which Four Seasons follow, also touching upon the production process for different varieties of wine. I was curious and wanted an answer to a series of questions, mostly related to pairing of food with wine, especially Indian food. Literature on this topic tends to highlight the pairing of wines with other cuisines and tends to avoid to provide a meaningful view on spicy Indian food. Shamita along with the Chef at Neel had created a salivating menu for the event. A look at it and I thought for second, maybe I can chuck the drinking and concentrate on just food today. The talk of food and wine bring us the second lesson from the event:
The pairing of food with wine is ideal when you are able to taste both the wine, as well the food, without any one experience overpowering the other.
When it comes to tasting the wine the 4S method provides a simple approach:
- See the wine. Notice its color especially against a well-lit background. Check for a clear liquid without any signs of cloudiness. Also notice the tears which wine deposits on the glass wall.
- Swirl the wine. This is done so as to release all the flavors and aromas locked in the wine. There are two ways of doing it, one by lifting the glass holding it from its bottom and swirling it, and the second by holding the glass by its stem against the support of the surface. I prefer the second one as I tend to spill the wine using the first technique.
- Smell the wine. Dig your nose deep into the glass and smell the wine. Try to relate the aromas with fruits and spices. White wines would give a whiff of white tropical fruits, like Litchi or Guava; red wines would give a feel of red berries; and the aged wines tend to release a spicy, woody fragrance. Again create your own language.
- Sip the wine. Let the first sip stay in your mouth for some time, roll it around, relate to the the flavors you feel and then push it down your system. Just let your mouth do the thinking for some time before you actually gulp it.
The process of tasting the wine brings us to the third lesson from the event:
4S method provides an effective approach to taste the wine, try it, the interpretation still remains your own, just that giving the process a structure helps.
Coming to the wines we tasted, here is a summary of what they were, how they were, and what they were served with:
- Four Seasons Chenin Blanc. Served with Aloo Panch-Foran (Sigdi barbecued Baby Potatoes marinated in Mango Pickle) and Murgh Nawabi Tikka (Tandoor roasted yoghurt marinated Chicken). The wine reminded me of fruity aromas similar to that of fruits like litchi. It is a kind of wine which would go well with lightly spiced food. Both the Aloo and Chicken Tikka dish were mildly flavored and gave good company to the wine.
- Four Seasons Blush. Served with Bhoona Paneer Kathi Roll and Tulsi Patte Ka Jhinga (Tandoor cooked, Holy Basil flavored prawns). I personally love Rosé and its my favorite variety of wine. The wine is produced from the same grapes, but the skin of the grapes is left in contact with the juice for some time before it separated, inducing the wine with a pinkish tinge. This wine goes well with the hot humid weather of Mumbai, and the mild berry flavors of the wine are refreshing. Again given its mild flavors it pairs well with flavorful seafood. Overall the Basil flavored Jhinga was the dish of the evening for me.
- Four Seasons Shiraz. Served with Peshawari Paneer Tikka and Bhoona Gosht Kathi Roll. Shiraz reminded me of the flavors of deep red berries (such as mulberries, raspberries, ripe strawberries) and left a Jamun like after taste. The wine leaves the mouth dry and couple of glasses can create a very dry effect in the mouth. It would go well with strongly flavored dishes like garam masala based curries and well-spiced Biryani.
- 2009 Four Seasons Special Barrique Reserve Shiraz. Served with Kesari Khumb Tikka and Lucknow Seekh Kabab (one of my favorite dishes anyway). The Reserve Shiraz was smoother and carried an oakier and woody feel to it. This is aged for about 9-10 months before its bottled. The color is slightly paler than the Shiraz. More than the berries I could visualize aromatic spices such as cinnamon in it. The aftertaste was similar in dryness but with a stronger flavor. This would be a great company for heavily spiced dishes (not loaded with masalas, but more like the single spice dominated flavor).
Another lesson from the food-wine pairing:
Red meat with red wine and white meat with white doesn’t always hold true. Also it is not always about complementary flavors, even similar flavors of wine and food can click, the base rule remains the lesson #2, one should be able to enjoy both the flavors of food and wine without any flavor intruding in others territory.
The tasting ended with a Rabdi Kulfi which could have been slightly smoother, maybe it wasn’t well churned and was a bit icy. Also as a parting gift Shamita handed us a bottle of blush, which I plan to have with basil flavored baby potatoes cooked by me. Also looking forward to visit the Four Seasons vineyards in Baramati sometime soon.
Met some really nice people at the event, here are their blogs:
- Shamita Singha, a superb host and my go to person from now on when it comes to wines. Looking forward to visit her new place, “The Bar” in Bandra. @ShamitaSingha on Twitter
- Karishma, a simple girl from Doon here in the complicated world of entertainment. Blogs about fashion and lifestyle on Ginger Snaps. @karishmarawat on Twitter
- Deepak Sir, a really passionate photographer who posts one picture about Mumbai life every day. Blogs on Mumbai Eyed. @magic_eye on Twitter
- Jaswinder, a travel company marketing manager and a stand up comic. Blogs on Latin Sardar. @LatinSardar on Twitter
- Karina, Hyderabadi Maadu interested in alcoholic beverages, interesting!!! Blogs on Giggle Water. @Giggle_Water on Twitter
- Nikhil, a very warm and simple person, a great person to have a conversation with. Blogs on Nonchalant Gourmand. @nikhil_merchant on Twitter
- And the awesome Ashrita, blogs on Caramelwings. @Caramelwings on Twitter
Featured image by Mumbai Eyed.