If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s growing older. No seriously, I’m a natural. Over the course of these years, I have done many things that you do when you grow older: I’ve paid taxes, got my own place, managed to not burn down my own place and so on. But even then, something was missing – something that would make me feel truly old.
So I went to a wine tasting.
The event was one of a series of monthly evenings organised by a company that aims at educating people about the finer aspects of wine, especially the part where you spit in the faces of people who don’t drink it. Now I have nothing against wine, because it is impossible to hate a wondrous cosmic energy that helps women lose both their clothes and their standards.
But the snobbery associated with wine had always put me off. For the longest time, it just seemed like the only way you could enjoy wine is if you had a French person lodged in your throat, critiquing it for you.
This is also partly because I started drinking the hard way: as a broke college kid, in seedy bars named after Hindu gods, where if you sat around sniffing your glass and wondered what aromas you were getting from your Cannon 10000, the big Shetty dude who owned the place would stuff masala papad into a place that wasn’t your mouth, because that’s what you deserved for acting poncey. (Oh, and the aroma from that beer was always ‘Sulabh Shauchalaya’.)
But of course, things are different now, which brings us back to the wine tasting. I walked in to see elaborate questionnaires placed at every seat, which listed every wine that we’d be tasting, and under each name were about 500 aspects that one was supposed to identify, including colour depth, colour hue, clarity, aroma intensity, body, finish and body odour and toenail yellowness of guy who stomped on the grapes.
To take us through this maze, we had the help of co-host Aneesh Bhasin, who is what you would call a Serious Wine Person. Saying Aneesh likes wine is like saying Poonam Pandey has cooties. Aneesh is the kind of man who would refuse a blood transfusion if the colour of the donor’s blood didn’t match his favourite Pinot Noir (pronounced ‘ratatouille’) In fact, a major part of his job involves travelling to exotic locales for free, and drinking wine. Sort of like an alcoholic Pratibha Patil.
So anyway, after about twenty minutes of foreplay with the wine, which involved swirling, tilting, sniffing and basically getting to know the wine to the point where I was about to confess my deepest fears to it, we finally
chugged tasted the wine. My reaction differed slightly from that of the expert:
Aneesh: Hmmm… I detect a moderate amount of rose, and some strawberry on the nose. There’s a hint of lychee in here, as well as subdued hues of melon and pineapple, not to mention a whiffling of escargot and the taste of L’Arc de Triomphe, marinated in a Monet of the joie de vivre of the bourgeoisie of the Viva La Resistance. Ashish, what do you think?
Me: Grapes. There’s definitely grapes in here.
Me: Oh, and sunlight! I’m sure sunlight was involved!
I got better with the second wine, which was a Trapiche Pinot Grigio (pronounced ‘Chardonnay’) Aneesh’s assessment was “mango”, while my opinion was “hospital disinfectant”. We compromised on “mango grown in a bed pan”.
As the evening progressed, things became less about paperwork and more about getting drunk, which is also how Parliament functions. We sampled wines from across the world, including one from Africa, which tasted of Bono’s tears.
All in all, it was a superb evening and a fun Bombay thing to do if you’re a fan of wine, or of waking up the next day and exhaling enough alcohol to power a Mars rover. After all, it’s about discovering new things. Or as the French put it, “Zinedine Zidane”.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 26th August 2012. Cross-posted from here.)