So, you like knocking back cartons of wine while showing off slick B-boying moves? Enjoy Barolo with drippy barbequed chicken wings? Have a nifty champagne-through-a-straw habit to keep your lipstick in place?
Well, usually the rule of thumb is: don’t admit to any of this in a gathering of wine connoisseurs. Instead keep your head down, and pretend to detect breakfast-croissants, fresh-hay-recently-occupied-by-horses and the inside-of-an-old-boot lurking in your wine.
Unless the man in charge is Magandeep Singh - certified sommelier, wine writer, trainer and columnist. (“But please call me Magan. The only time my full name is used, it’s followed by either ‘We need to talk” or “Sir, you’re making a scene.”) A sommelier with pierced ears, tattoos and a startlingly extensive collection of risqué jokes? Actually, it’s strangely reassuring – especially for those of us who greet pink chardonnay, brooding Nebbiolos and sparkly stilettos with equal enthusiasm.
As more Indians get interested in wine, passionate promoters of the drink are working on making it less intimidating. So, despite the inevitably stodgy setting, complete with a fancy course-by-course dinner (and enough wine glasses to make any lush do a happy little dance on the table) at Taj Mount Road, the Terroir (‘The Madras Wine Club’) event is relaxed, laid-back and animated. Especially by the time the fourth wine is poured. It is, after all, virtually impossible to look high-brow while gargling violently.
“The more crassly you do it, the better you are,” says Magan, swirling the first wine, an easy red Bardolino from Italy. Demonstrating how to hold the stem to look suitably sophisticated, he gives a step-by-step guide to tasting wine like the pros.
Pour. Take one tiny sip, which will probably make your mouth pucker up, as it gets used to taste. Then swirl, holding the bottom of the stem, to enable the wine to open up. Next, stick your nose into the glass for a quick sniff. This is the point where you’re supposed to wax eloquent about scenting summer, straw and steel, like a particularly dainty Doberman. Magan suggests throwing the wine snobs off balance by coming up with your own metaphors: hing, sambar, turmeric, anything goes.
Trust your senses. Put them before everything else. Magan stresses on how vital it is to keep an open mind, and trust your own judgment. Only you know what you like, and you really don’t have to be embarrassed about your preferences.
Hence his Snob Test, a presentation that was all about breaking traditional snooty wine myths. Think wine cocktails are for kitty parties? “Wine’s a great instrument. Why must it always play solo?” Think only philistines put ice in their wine? It’s one way of cooling the drink at a garden party. Would you rather slather caviar in ketchup than decant champagne? Well, serious wine bars decant since too many bubbles tend to distract from the wine’s many other merits. Think glasses are as essential as metaphors to wine? In Europe, the drink’s served in ‘cutting chai’-like tumblers.
And yes, there’s a producer who is packing his fancy wine in cartons, because it’s so much cheaper and easier to transport.
Parting advice? Well, work on being languid with your wine at a tasting. Sniff. Sip. Sniff. Gargle. It should coat your mouth gently. “If the wine hits the back of your lips and front of your stomach, that’s not tasting. That’s tequila.”
* Drop a copper coin into a difficult red wine, and it will open up, becoming much more drinkable. The oxidation also makes your coin shiny!
* If you need to cool wine quickly, wet, wring and wrap a towel around the bottle. Then pop it in the freezer for half an hour.
* Red or white, it’s better to serve a wine that’s too cool, rather than too warm. Guests can always warm it with their palms once it’s poured.