All posts by Rakshit Khurana

About Rakshit Khurana

Rakshit Khurana is with the MMI Bar Academy in Dubai. Prior to this, he worked with Tulleeho in New Delhi. Prior to working with Tulleeho, Rakshit spent more than 5 years working on board Princess Cruises, where he was last an Assistant Sommelier.

Letter from Dubai – #Ginspiration – Rakshit Khurana

[vc_column width=”1/1″]What comes to your mind when you think of Dubai? While opinions will vary let’s look at some commonly shared thoughts: a huge sandpit, sky scrapers (definitely!), super cars or scorching heat. While all of that is correct, mostly (if not always) Dubai is synonymous with luxury and the growing hospitality business here seconds that. With a population of approximately 2.5 million residents (and an additional 5 month tourist season) the sandpit is home to roughly 500 licensed bars (if not more) with some drinking holes taking luxury to a whole new level. While the liquor companies (like many other FMCGs) enjoy this boom there is always a spirit category or two which is more popular than others.

Historically referred to as ‘Dutch Courage’ by the English, Gin is one of Dubai’s favorite (and fastest growing) spirit categories in the running year. Apart from the big fish (Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater, Plymouth, etc.) there is a plethora of new and not so new brands finding a place for themselves on display at some of the talked about bars in town. Referred to as Boutique Gins these brave boys are experimenting with a variety of botanicals from olives to pomegranate, including unique production methods such as cold / vacuum distillation and going as far as dilution with Icelandic water (if you think your mineral water is pure, read more about this). There’s a Gin Race amongst some bars who are stocking up to 50 different labels and keen to take that number higher. The MMI Bar Academy (my office) back bar has over 60 gin/genever labels on display (when I counted last) which made it difficult for me to pick out a favorite one or two but here are some interesting ones that caught my attention.

Back Bar at MMI
Back Bar at MMI

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]

Oxley
Oxley

OXLEY – This super premium gin is a Small Batch Production bottling only 600 bottles a week. Oxley is also one of the first gins to be credited with the cold (vacuum) distillation method of distillation. After 8 years of experimenting with 38 different recipes Oxley debuted in 2009 under the Bacardi portfolio. In addition to the traditional botanicals like Juniper, coriander, angelica and orris this London dry gin uses cocoa from Ecuador and grains of paradise from West Africa amongst other botanicals. With notes of grapefruit and grassy juniper, give this gin a shot with premium tonic water with sliced grapefruit wheel or a rocket leaf.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]

Opihr
Opihr

OPIHR – Pronounced as O-Peer, this one was an easy pick for a letter to India for more than a reason. This London dry gets it’s name from a legendary region which was believed to be somewhere on the Ancient Spice route which included North east Africa, India and the Middle East (now you know why I picked this one). It was this spice route which the East India Company used to transport the rare exotic spices from east to west. Some of the botanicals used in Opihr such as the Indonesian Cubeb berries, Indian Tellicherry black pepper and Moroccan coriander (all of which fall on the spice route) make their way to the oldest working distillery in England (G&J). With its bold flavor and spicy undertones Opihr will be well suited for the tolerant Indian palate and makes a refreshing G&T with Fever Tree Indian Tonic garnished with Ginger, Star Anise or black pepper (your pick!).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]

Gin Mare
Gin Mare

GIN MARE – Hailing from the world’s number one gin market, this Mediterranean style gin is a good example of a blended gin which was inspired by the use of local Mediterranean botanicals. This Spanish gin’s botanical pot includes thyme, juniper, rosemary, basil, citrus and Olives (Arbequina olives which is the main local ingredient) amongst others. The citrus botanicals which are a mix of sweet and bitter orange peels along with lemon peels (all from different locations) are macerated in neutral alcohol for a whole year before it is distilled. The other botanicals are macerated and distilled individually before they are blended together with additional water. Gin Mare has a herbaceous character which is a good balance of juniper, thyme, rosemary and olives (sounds like a good gin for dirty martinis). When looking for a refreshingly simple G&T, try with Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic garnished with a sprig of rosemary or thyme.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]received_1195392107142890I’ll leave you now (just for now) with one of my favourite views in the city.

Until next time

Tulleeho!

Rakshit Khurana[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Tulleeho Grapevine – 6 Wine Myths busted by Rakshit Khurana

With an enriching history of over 10000 years today wine is produced in almost every country of the world where the law permits. It’s not surprising to see how wine cultures are different from one country to another but alongside these differences there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding wine. While every country would have its own I have listed below some of the most commonly heard myths surrounding this drink of the gods.

  1. Old is Gold

    While there are some wines which do mature over the years when stored correctly, majority of the wines today are meant to be consumed young. Most of the wines available in the market today are best consumed within a couple of years of the harvest or the vintage mentioned on the bottle. Be it red or white each wine needs to have certain characteristics to be able to age them and unless you are sure about that do not store your wine away for long.

  2. Wine and Food
    Wine and Food

    White Wine, White Meat and Red Wine, Red Meat

    It’s funny how people reconfirm this with me during our interactions and I often answer this question for them from a vegetarians point of view. This statement can be considered a guideline but can never go down as a rule. Some of the most popular fish delicacies match red wine perfectly while there are many other meats which can be paired with a red or a white wine. Wine and food is all about experimenting and exploring a combination that culminates your dining experience.

  3. Leaving a bottle open allows it to breathe

    While some wines do improve with breathing hoping to achieve it through an open bottle is being over optimistic. The little surface area of wine in contact with the oxygen will not allow the wine to reach the desired results. Wine breathes a lot better in a decanter or even a wine glass. These days there are wine aerators which can be used to aerate one glass at a time.

  4. Screw Cap means indicate inferior quality

    Natural corks have been a preferred choice for

    Screw cap or Cork?
    Screw cap or Cork?

    sealing wine bottles for centuries now however it was a shortage in the supply of quality corks in the 80’s which led to popularity of cork alternatives such as synthetic corks and screw caps. These days screw caps are a closure of choice for many wineries across the globe (including the premium ones). Just like the natural corks, some screw caps also allow the wine to develop in the bottle through micro oxidation.

  5. Red wine is best served at Room Temperature

    Who ever made that statement was sitting fn.cs.bottle.2012in a cool location somewhere in Europe many years ago. What they actually meant was 18 – 20 degree Celsius, which is the ideal temperature for having full bodied wines like a Shiraz or a Cabernet. Lighter bodied red wines are best enjoyed at 14 – 16 degrees Celsius. So if you are living in the unforgiving heat of Delhi (like me) it’s best to give your red wine about an hour to chill in the refrigerator once you get it from the store (do not put the wine in the freezer, be patient).

  6. images (4)Knowledge about wine is needed to enjoy it

    It’s true that the world of wine is like an ocean (deep and wide) but just like you don’t do an analysis of the ocean before taking a cruise you don’t have to be a connoisseur to enjoy a glass (or bottle) of wine. Just like you don’t need a professional course in culinary arts to enjoy and appreciate a good meal you don’t need to know everything before appreciating a wine. For some of us these experiences do drive us to learn more about the subject, but this is not a pre requisite.

Just remember what you like and stick to it but if you are an adventurous kind(like me) this beautiful world of wine has a lot to offer.

Rakshit Khurana

Tulleeho Grapevine – 3 reasons your wine smells funny – Rakshit Khurana

“Do you think that bottle of wine is still good to drink?” I get asked that question by tens of people on a weekly basis and I totally understand their concern. It’s disappointing to know sometimes that people still associate wine as a special occasion beverage (but why?) and they end up storing a bottle of wine for way too long waiting for that special day. So if you have one such bottle just pop it open before you read ahead and discover if your wine is “still good”.

Wine faults occur due to various reasons and there are different methods how you can pick them up. Out here I have mentioned 3 of the most common wine faults and how to identify them (you don’t have to be an expert for this).

  1. HEAT & LIGHT

    Being the most delicate of all alcohoIic beverages wine needs special care (from bottling to consumption). Part of that special care involves keeping the wine under right temperature and away from strong light, which is why most wine bottles have coloured glass to mitigate effects of light. It goes without saying that one has to be extra careful about wine damage from heat & light in a country like ours. It’s not only the hot weather, but also the merciless conditions in which the wines are stored across majority of the liquor stores that calls for us (the consumer) to be more observant. Be careful the next time you are out to buy wine (always analyse the conditions in which the wine is stored).

Wine bottle with a protruding cork
Wine bottle with a protruding cork

These unfriendly conditions may give the wine a cooked effect. The faults in wine due to this can be identified by first looking at the bottle. A cork seal with the cork protruding out of the bottle or swollen or wine stains on the sides of the cork are easy ways to spot the damage.

These faults may also cause the wine to lose its luminous character and look dull. On the nose these wines will smell like cooked sweet sauces and unpleasantly jammy. This might also make the wine taste / smell like a wet carpet.

  1. OXIDATION

    This is a fault which occurs due to excessive contact of oxygen with the wine however this is a fault which at times is desired, surprised? Let me explain. Some wines (mostly red or some fortified) benefit from controlled oxidation. This contact with air (also referred to as “breathing”) allows these wines to open up and display more character and flavours of the wine.

If not desired oxidation can occur because of faulty packing (poor sealing of the cork), mishandling (heat & light) or due to oneself. Yes, please don’t forget about your wine bottle after having a glass or two from it. Even if you are refrigerating it but not using a proper wine preservation system don’t leave it for over 48hrs (unless you want to use that wine in a vinaigrette dressing or for cooking).

Oxidised wine can be spotted by the colour. Reds will start turning brick red or dull brown and whites will tip towards amber or an unusual gold. On the nose these wines should instantly remind you of vinegar, wine will also lose the fresh aromas and might have a bitter tinge on the palate.

 

Oxidised Wine on the right
Oxidised Wine on the right

3. CORKED WINE

aka Trichloranisole (TCA) is a chemical formed due to fungal reaction with chlorine. This can affect oak barrels also but are more commonly found in wines with a natural wooden cork.

OMG-All-The-Corks
OMG-All-The-Corks

This is one of the most commonly occurring wine fault and can be identified with aromas like that of musty newspaper or even a smelly dog (that shouldn’t be hard to spot).

Apart from the above mentioned faults there are a few more things that can spoil your wine but I will leave that for another day. Since we rely a lot on our nose while tasting / drinking wines always keep your nose sensitive to other unpleasant odours such as a rotten egg, varnish (nail polish remover), cabbage or horse stable smell which if found in your wine indicates spoilage.

However one should always remember that wine is a pleasant experience and the smell and taste should remind you of pleasant things. Always back your senses and keep in mind that the only way to be an expert is to keep trying new and good quality wines responsibly.

Tulleeho!

Rakshit Khurana

 

 

Tulleeho Grapevine – Wine Labels made simple

Be it a packet of chips, a bar of chocolate or a can of soda our reason for looking at the label is clear, but is it the same when it comes to wine? I guess it’s a bit complicated if you are not a discerning wine drinker, a wine enthusiast or someone like me who loves to tipple on wine.

Aren’t you often left wondering what those fancy terms on a bottle of wine mean? How does it affect the taste of the wine and most importantly the weight of your wallet?

Out here I have tried to explain the most common wine terms which you would come across in the simplest way possible, but always remember that if you are unable to decode what’s there on the label don’t hold yourself from trying a wine you otherwise would have picked up. After all the best way to increase your WQ (Wine Quotient) is by trying as many different wines as possible.

Just like wines, their labels can broadly be classified as Old and New World. The Old World consisting of countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain and some others (mostly from Europe) which have been making wine for hundreds of years. The New World will include other countries like USA, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, India and many more some of whom have also been making wine for a number of years.

Old World v/s New World

Chablis
Old world wine label

Old World: When it comes to old world some of them consider their labels as a piece of art rather than a mere source of information, which is great but can be confusing at times. They believe in classifying their wines by the regions which is why you will see the name of the region prominently marked on the wine. For eg. If you have been thinking what grape goes into making a “Chablis”, it is Chardonnay which is usually not mentioned anywhere on the label(see below).

 

Chardonnay
New world wine label

New World: On the other hand most of the new world labels would clearly mention the grape variety/varieties which have been used in making the wine. Thus making your choice of picking the wine you like less complicated.

But there is more to the label than just the grape variety, some of which have been discussed here (see below).

The Winemaker: Paying attention to this is important as it is not just the grape variety and the weather conditions, but the wine maker which adds a great deal of character to any wine with their own style of production. And eventually picking a good wine from a reputed winemaker will come at a premium.

 

Vintage: First of all it’s not vin-taaage, it’s “vint-age”, just as it reads. The vintage year on a wine label is simply the year in which the grapes used in making that particular wine were harvested. The vintage year is important in case of wines which are meant to be aged (not all wines are meant to be aged). So if you are factoring the vintage year for your next purchase you better be up to date with the world agricultural info. But if I was you I wouldn’t bother much about it as most of the wines readily available in the market today are meant to be consumed young.

Appelation/ Quality Factors: Terms like Reserva, Gran Reserva, Classico, Grand Cru, AOC, DOC, DOCG and the list goes on are terms which indicate the quality of a wine from the Old World. These terms can only be put on a label with the consent of local bodies governing the wine laws of that particular country. And needless to mention that wines marked with such superior terms will come at a premium.

On the other hand ‘Reserve’ is a word which in some places mean that the wine has been aged longer. However these days in places which are missing serious wine laws some producers use this word to add a premium to their wines or portray them as superior products.

Champagne & Sparkling Wine: To start with only the bubbly which says Champagne on the label can be referred to as “Champagne”. To be called Champagne the bubbly should come from the Champagne region in France made using the permitted grapes in a particular fashion (traditional method) and aged for a minimum no. of years. Now you know why Champagne always costs more 🙂

Some common terms on a bottle of champagne

– Brut means dry
– Extra Brut meaning extra dry
– Sec means medium dry
– Demi Sec means medium sweet and
– Doux meaning sweet

A champagne which says “Vintage” on it will be far more costlier than a Non-Vintage champagne.

All the rest are just sparkling wines or in some cases they would mention popular terms like Prosecco (from Italy) and Cava (from Spain). Just like champagne, Prosecco and Cava can only come from the respective countries.

Hope you’re empowered enough now to start mastering wine labels!

Rakshit Khurana

Tulleeho Grapevine – Clooney, Willis, Amritraj! – Serving up Wine, the Vijay Amritraj way

007_Armritraj_Grover_jun14_

Tennis as a sport is not without it’s share of TLA’s (three letter acronyms!) and back in the day, they used to be known as the ABC of tennis, B for Bjorn Borg, C for Jimmy Connors and A for none other than namma Vijay Amritraj, tennis star. As Kapil Grover said in his witty introduction to the launch of the Vijay Amritraj reserve collection launched by Grover Zampa vineyards, the wines we were drinking today, were the result of a journey that took 7 years and we’re truly fortunate that the wines

“have turned out silky smooth like his backhand, and not erratic like his forehand!”.

With the launch of this wine, Vijay also joins the rather short list of sports personalities with their own wine labels which includes Ernie Els and Greg Norman. And of course as a movie star in his own right (remember Octopussy), he’s also got George Clooney (Casamigos Tequila) and Bruce Willis (Sobieski Vodka) as company! Grover’s tell us that the star tennis player is not only endorsing the brand but has worked very closely with the team at Grover’s in developing the style, quality and even the design over the last couple of years.

The global launch took place earlier this year at the Taj, London, with a tennis theme, as Wimbledon was on at the same time, and we were present recently at the Delhi launch on a balmy October evening under the stars on the Terrace of the Leela Palace Hotel.

We started the evening with a glass (or 2!) of the Grover Zampa Soiree Brut , a delightful sparkling wine (priced at INR 1000 in New Delhi) and then moved on to The Vijay Amritraj Viognier Reserve. The perfect balance between the floral and fruity aromas of this one got me excited for the taste. The honey and apricot with a lingering taste of peach made for a good rich and powerful barrel fermented wine which had been aged on lees for about 4 months. Overall, in my opinion it lacks some acidity to hold the wine together. With its off dry sweetness this wine can be a good match for lightly spiced Indian dishes as well as creamy cheese or fruity desserts and is available in Delhi retail for INR1200.

As the band played under the stars, we spent our time snacking away, and sipping at our wine, while we caught up with friends and professional acquaintances.

As a practice I save the best for the last. Very hopeful about the Vijay Amritraj red reserve I asked for a glass and was very happy to hold it as I hadn’t been served a red wine at the right temperature in a very long time. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Viognier presented aromas of black fruits and sweet spices up front. The taste of the wine didn’t vary a lot from the nose to the palate with pronounced flavours of blackberries, black cherries and plums and a hint of spices like pepper. The tannins of this one were soft and well integrated which in my opinion is due to an year long ageing in French Oak Barrels.

Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection Red

I would personally go in for some Indian style kebabs with this one or a mildly spiced mutton curry holding on to very spicy stuff due to its 14% alcohol percentage. Overall I think this is an excellent wine available for just INR1200 a bottle in Delhi retail, but do remember to serve it at the right temperature, which would be around 18 degrees celsius.

The Grover Zampa Vijay Amritraj reserve collection is already available in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Delhi and Gurgaon and will soon be available in Goa and West Bengal.

Here’s wishing them all the success.

DSC_0716

Tulleeho!

Rakshit Khurana