• Introduction
  • Wine cocktails
  • Important Wine Regions of the World
  • Wines Dos and Donts and Wine Shopping
  • Wine Laws and Classifications
  • Champagne - Know your bubbly
  • Wine history and important events
  • Cocktails


For purposes of being technically correct, let’s begin by broadly  classifying wines and then go on to discover what taste experiences to expect. There are four main classifications of wine;

Table or still wines: To these belong most wines, the whites, reds (hyperlinked to red wine), roses; the simple everyday ones and the more complex and great vintages.

Sparkling wines:

Under this category are wines that are carbonated either by natural secondary fermentation or by artificial carbonation. Champagne and other bubbly wines belong here.

Dessert or fortified wines:

These are spiked wines, wines to which alcohol is added to stop fermentation, mostly to retain some of the sweetness in the wine.
Sherry, port, madeira are classic examples.

Aperitif or flavoured wines:

These are spiked too, but are also aromatised with herbs and other flavorings to create unusual wines. Vermouth, Lillet etc. are a part
of this group.

Fortified Wines 

Fortified wine differs from wine in the way it is made. A long time ago someone discovered that if a neutral spirit was added to wine half way through the fermentation process, the resultant liquid was sweet as well as had a much higher alcoholic content. Eureka! Fortified wine had arrived. The top quality fortified wine will be made with a neutral spirit that is distilled from grapes basically flavorless brandy.
The top tamales of the fortified wine world are:

Port: From the port of Oporto in Portugal. This is normally made from six to seven different types of grapes, which are crushed at the quintas or estates. At the top end are Vintage Port and Tawny Port. Both these varieties have their own fanatical fan followings and both benefit from agings that can run into decades. Very expensive.

port wine - served in small wine glass 160

Sherry: From the Spanish town of Jerez. The types to know are Fino and Oloroso. The Fino will have two more varieties within it – Amontillado, which should be aged for at least eight years and the Manzanilla, which is made at Sanlucar. Oloroso are made with Palomino or Pedro Ximenez grapes. A word about the Solera system. Partly to control the wine making process and partly to maintain a consistent house style, the winemakers follow an elaborate aging system. Think of it as rows of barrels stacked one on top of the other. The bottom
row will be the oldest (the solera). At a few times in a year the winemaker will take some wine out of the oldest barrel and puts it into the second oldest. He’ll then take some from the second oldest and put it into the third and so on and so forth. We are telling you this extremely non-value additive stuff not because of our love for trivia, but because that is the explanation for why  a bottle of sherry will never have a year. If any year appears on a bottle of sherry that would be the year the Solera has been started.amontillado style sherry served iina special Copita glass

Madeira: From an island off the coast of Portugal. If the wine is made of at least 85% of any one single grape it will be labeled Sercial, Verdelho, Bual or Malmsey with Sercial being the driest and Malmesy being the sweetest. If it has less than 85% it will just be called dry, medium dry, medium sweet, rich or sweet.Madiera 160

Other fortified wines include Vermouth, Vin Doux Naturel and Vin de Liqueur.

The Way to Wine- How grape become Wine


God only made water, but man made wine.” –Victor Hugo

Background Before we move forward, lets spend a little time
understanding the fundamental difference between the approach
of an Old World producer (say a Frenchman) and a New world
winemaker (say a Californian). The Californian came to the
entire process of winemaking with a completely open mind.
No weight of tradition lay on his shoulders. The focus was
on the process of winemaking, the scientific approach to grapegrowing and clear communication to the final consumer about the wine.
This led to the creation of ultra modern facilities.
Grape growing techniques (the mecca of this is the University
of California at Davis) acquired a lot more science. Marketing
focused entirely on the grape variety and the winemaker. Winemakers became superstars and the consuming public, long lost in the
maze of Old World labels, became more knowledgeable about
the grape that they were consuming. The Frenchman on the other
hand believed that the most important factor in the production
of wine was all those elements, which influenced the growing
of the grape. The soil of the vineyards, the micro-climate,
the skill of the grape grower and so on. This according to
them is what resulted in one wine being better or worse than
The analogy here would be your grandfather saying that the
mangos from one village being better than those from anotherThere are a lot of merits on both sides. The Old World has
definitely benefited from adopting modern methods. In the New World there is an increasing realization that differences
in grape-growing conditions do result in differences in the

We’ll keep this as laymanesque as we can.

As grapes grow, they get riper (like all fruits). This means that the sugar level keeps increasing. This is what causes a ripe fruit to be sweeter than an unripe one. Grapes need a moderate climate, long ripening periods and no rains before harvest to really give their best. These factors combine to determine if a year is a vintage year or not. As the grape ripens, the winemakers will check regularly to see if the correct sugar levels are reached. The winemakers would ideally like the grape to remain on the vine as long as possible in order to maximize ripeness. The wine-grower on the other hand would like to bring the crop in quickly. This is due to the fact that rain during the harvest is likely to make the grape watery and therefore impact the resultant wine. Hence once everyone agrees to harvest, it becomes race against time.

This is common for all wines. The distinction between wines- white ,red ,rose’ and sparkling is due to the differences in the subsequent processes.
Also see- How whisky is made and others

White wine making

White wine can be made from grapes that are either white or red. That’s because the color of the wine comes from the pigment in the skin of the grapes and if the winemaker removes the skin before the wine is made (i.e. the juice is fermented) the grape will remain white.

After the grapes are picked they are de-stemmed and crushed in a large machine. The juice now called free run juice is run off separately. The stems and the skins are then pressed to get more juice and then left behind.

Next the juice is fermented. Fermentation is a process whereby the yeast converts the sugar in the juice into carbon dioxide and alcohol. The carbon dioxide escapes and the alcohol remains. The resultant liquid (called must) is aged for a while longer to let all the sugar turn into alcohol. The yeast cells die and fall to the bottom of the fermenting vessel and are called “lees”. Normally these are removed by letting them settle to the bottom and draining off the clear juice (a process called racking). Some winemakers will let them be and these are those wine which will have “aged on its lees” on the label (sur lie in French).

The wine now has to age. For most white wine this is done in steel vats so that the flavors of the wine come through. A lot of Chardonnay though is aged in oak barrels. The wine will then be racked (if not done already) and fined- a process whereby all extra floating particles are removed. It is then bottled and may be aged further or drunk.

Red Wine making

Red wine is made with the same process except for one basic difference. The skins of the grape are not removed until the juice is fermented. The juice, therefore, spends much longer in contact with the skins. This results in two things. The colour, from the pigments in the skin, get into the juice. More importantly, since the skins contain a lot of tannin’s, these too get transferred to the wine. Tannins are those substances, which leave your mouth feeling dry when you drink strong black tea. They are important to wine as they help it age. When the fermentation is over the skins are separated. Makers of fine wines will keep it for another week or so. After this all the other processes are similar to those of white wine except that red wines are normally aged in oak.

Typical Red Wine Makin process 160

Rose Wine

Rose wine is made in one of two ways. In the first method, the red grapes are crushed and the skins are kept with the juice for a very short while. The rest of the process is normal. The other way is to blend a little red wine with the white.

Methode Champenoise- making sparkling wine (A TOAST TO DOM PÉRIGNON)


It is said that because of marauding barbarians, monks hid their liquid provisions in barrels in underground rooms, thus giving us the wine cellar. Most European monasteries had a clos, an enclosed vineyard, for producing wine. Monks were the major contributors to viticulture. Martinmas is the feast day of Saint Martin, a monk of the Middle Ages, one of the first viticulturists.

In 1638 the Pérignon family had a child they named Pierre. When Pierre turned 20 he took the vows of the Benedictine monk. History was soon to be made. Pierre, known for his brilliant mind, was made administrator of the monastery of Hautvillers. With the assistance of Brother Phillipe (Pierre had lost his eyesight) he caused the vineyard to put forth a rich yield. Their wine was in high demand.

Blanc de blancs, a white dry fruity wine from white grapes, only turned out if there was enough sunshine during the summer months. Profits would drop if Dom Pérignon failed to produce this wine so he set about to make the same quality white wine from black grapes. Now Dom Pérignon was endowed with a keen sense of smell and palate. Says Dom Groussard, ‘he could tell at once what grapes came from which vineyards, and that the wine of one could be mixed with the wine of another, and he was never mistaken.’

Dom Pérignon knew of the particular characteristic of the white wine of As, the wine of Champagne. It became effervescent with a second, short-lived fermentation. It still contained some yeasts, which remained dormant in cold weather. Under the influence of the warmth of spring, when the sap begins to work in the vine, the yeasts wake and proliferate. There is as much fermentation as the sugar present in the wine will produce.

Dom Pérignon sought to induce this second, accidental fermentation of the wine of Champagne at a given time, regulate it and keep its effervescence in the wine. When 60 years old he succeeded, producing Champagne as we know it today. It was wildly successful.

A very small amount of sugar is added to the wine in cask to feed it and start the second fermentation. Then it is bottled. The bottles are left stacked for months or years. When fermentation occurs a sediment of yeasts collects along the lower side of the bottle. To remove the sediment without letting the gas escape the bottles are laid on the diagonal. Every day for a season each bottle is gently shaken by hand in the technique of remuage, so that the sediment will slip towards the neck, whence it will be expelled by the process of dégorgement, now performed at a very low temperature which freezes the deposit. The frozen sediment shoots out when the bottle is very briefly opened.

The dryness of the wine depends on the amount of syrup, old wine and eau-de-vie that is added before the bottle is stoppered with the mushroom-shaped cork. The syrup is crystallized sugar. 0 to less than 1.5 per cent is brut, sec if 2 to 4 per cent, and doux if 8 to 12 percent. Then, fashion was for champagne doux.

Dom Pérignon died in 1715 and was buried among his vines. During the Revolution the abbey of Hautvillers was destroyed, but the church and Dom Pérignon’s tomb remain. Today, Moët et Chandon, the firm which bought the walls and vineyards of Hautvillers in 1794, gave the name of Dom Pérignon to their best wine.

Types Of Grape Varieties you should know about

Barbera (Bar-BARE-ah) – Grape used to make hearty red wines in the Piemonte of Northwestern Italy, also California.

Cabernet Franc (Cab-air-nay FrahN) – French red wine grape, often used in a Bordeaux blend, also in the Loire valley and California.

Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab-air-nay So-veen-yawN) –Cabernet SauvignonOne of the noblest red wine grapes, used in Bordeaux, also as either a 100 percent varietal or in red blends in the U.S., Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and wherever wine grapes grow. The most famous red wine grape.

Chardonnay (Shar-doh-nay) –ChardonnayOne of the world’s most well known white wine grapes. Originated in Burgundy, but widely planted in the U.S., Australia and all over the world. Available in India.

Chenin Blanc (Shay-naN BlaN) –Chenin BlancNoble French grape, most common in the Loire, making very fine white wines both dry and slightly sweet. Fantastic wines from this grape come from South Africa.

Cinsaut (SaN-so) – dark red French grape, sometimes spelled “Cinsault.”

Fumé Blanc (Foo-may BlahN) – U.S. synonym for Sauvignon Blanc, invented by Robert Mondavi during the 1970s as a marketing ploy and widely imitated.

Furmint (FOOR-mint) – Hungarian white-wine grape, used to make the renowned dessert wine Tokaji.

Gamay (Gam-may) – Red-wine grape of Beaujolais, a light, fresh and fruity red wine from the region of the same name in Southern Burgundy, France.

Gewürztraminer (Geh-VERTZ-trah-mee-nur) – White wine grape best known in Alsace, Germany, the U.S. West Coast and New York.

Grenache (Gray-NAHSH) – Red-wine grape commonplace in Languedoc and the Rhone, also California and as Garnacha, in Spain. Typically makes hearty, peppery wines. (Gahr-NAH-cha) in Spanish. Also used for Tavel- a Rose.

Gruner Veltliner (GREW-ner Felt-LEE-ner) – Excellent Austrian grape, producing light but crisp and racy dry white wines. Malbec (Mahl-bek) – Red-wine grape used as a nominal element of the Bordeaux blend, where it’s intense color and extract add to the wine’s body.

Malvasia (Mahl-va-SEE-ah) – Italian white-wine grape, often blended with other grapes (including the traditional Chianti), occasionally seen as a 100 percent varietal.

Marsanne (Mahr-sahn) – Excellent white-wine grape of the Rhone, increasingly planted in California.

Merlot (Mare-low) –MerlotVery good red-wine grape, a key player in the Bordeaux blend, more recently grown as a varietal in its own right, especially in the US, Australia, Chile, Washington State and Argentina. Wine-geeks will always talk about its “softness”. We didn’t know what they meant till we tasted it.

Mourvèdre (Moor-VED’rr) – Red grape commonplace in Southern France, Languedoc and the Rhone, also Spain (where it is known as Mataro) and, increasingly, California.

Müller-Thurgau (MEW-lehr Toor-gow) – Relatively modern grape, perhaps a Riesling- Madeleine Royale cross.

Muscadet (Moos-cah-day) – A light, dry Loire white wine made from a grape of the same name (alternatively named Melon (“May-lawN”), sometimes showing a light musky or cantaloupe quality.

Muscat (Moos-caht) – Aromatic, ancient grape with a characteristic grape fruity and musky (as the name implies) aroma.

Nebbiolo (Nay-BYOH-low) – Noble grape of Northwestern Italy’s Piedmonte region, source of such powerful and age worthy red wines as Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara.

Petit Verdot (Peh-tee Vehr-doe) – Red wine grape, fine quality but a minor player in the Bordeaux blend.

Petite Sirah (Peh-teet See-rah) – California red grape, probably the same as the Durif of the Rhone.

Pinot Blanc (Pee-noe BlahN) – White wine grape, making a dry, full white wine that some liken to Chardonnay, but typically medium in body and sometimes showing melon scents.

Pinot Gris (Pee-noe Gree) and Pinot Grigio (Gree-joe) –Pinot GrigioFrench and Italian names, respectively, for the same grape, typically making a dry and very crisp and acidic white wine. Pinot Meunier (Pee-noe Mehr-n’yay) – Relatively uncommon as a varietal, but a
mandatory varietal used in the making of Champagne.

Pinot Noir (Pee-noe Nwar) –Pinot NoirClassic red grape, widely accepted as one of the world’s best. Think Burgundy when you think of this grape. In the last few years, Oregon has emerged as one the best regions for this grape.

Pinotage (Pee-noe-tahj) – A cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut of the Rhone,grown commercially only in South Africa, where it makes a fruity, dark red wine with an odd earthy character often described as “paintbox.”

Riesling (REESE-ling) –RieslingThe classic German grape of the Rhine and Mosel, certainly ranks with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir among the noblest wine grapes.

Roussanne (Roo-sahn) – White Rhone grape, often grown with and blended with Marsanne, but somewhat supplanting the latter for economic reasons – it is considered more productive and easier to grow.

Sangiovese (Sahn-joe-VAY-zeh) –SangioveseThe predominant red-wine grape of Tuscany in Central Italy, primary player in the Chianti blend.

Sauvignon Blanc (So-veen-yawn BlahN) –Sauvignon BlancNoble white grape, native to the Loire and Bordeaux (where it is usually blended with Semillon); also widely planted in the Western U.S., South America, Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere.

Sémillon (Say-mee-yoN) – White wine grape, native to Bordeaux and used there primarily in a blend with Sauvignon Blanc.

Shiraz (Shee-rahz) –Syrah or ShirazAustralian synonym for Syrah, Now also turning up in many new world wine countries including South Africa and India.

Sylvaner (Sill-VAH-ner) – German grape (sometimes spelled Silvaner there), considered secondary to Riesling in quality but planted widely as a blending grape.

Syrah (See-rah) –Syrah or ShirazThe classic Rhone red grape allegedly brought back from Shiraz in Persia by the 14th-Century crusader Gaspard de Sterimberg

Tempranillo (Temp-rah-NEEL-yo) – Excellent Spanish black grape variety used for making full bodied red wines in Spain.

Valpolicella (Vahl-poe-lee-CHELL-ah) –ViognierLightweight but refreshing red wine from the Veneto of Northeastern Italy. Viognier (Vee-ohn-yay) – Seldom seen grape used only in the rather rare French Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet, this white grape is gaining considerable attention as a varietal in California and, now, Southern France. In India Alexis Lichine are planning to launch a wine made from this varietal, but post the newexim policy they may not.

Zinfandel (Zin-fahn-DELL) – Trendy American grape variety equivalent to Primitivo of Italy. Produces robust red wines but is more famous for its Roses (popularly known as White Zinfandel) in the United States.

Types of wine you should know about.

Amontillado (Ah-MOHN-tee-YAH-doe) – A dry, rather full-bodied style of Sherry

Banyuls (Bahn-YOOLZ) – Natural French dessert wine from the Pyrenees.

Barbaresco (Bar-ba-RES-coe) – Excellent red table wine made from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piemonte of Northwestern Italy.

Barolo (Ba-ROE-loe) – Outstanding, full-bodied and complex Nebbiolo-based red wine from the Piemonte of Northwestern Italy.

Beaujolais (Boe-zho-lay) – Light, fruity red wine from the region of the same name in Southern Burgundy, France.

georges beaujolais 160

Brunello di Montalcino (Broo-NELL-oh dee Mon-tahl-CHEE-noe) – Excellent red Italian wine from Tuscany, a neighbor of Chianti.

Chablis (Shah-blee) – Excellent white wine made from Chardonnay grapes in the region of the same name in northern Burgundy.

Grand Cru Chablis

Champagne (Sham-pain) – See Section

Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Shot-toe-noof duh Pop) – An excellent, complex red dry wine from the Rhone region of Southern France, made from a blend of up to 13 specified grapes.

Chianti (Ki-AHN-tee) – The classic dry red wine of Tuscany, made from Sangiovese and other grapes near Florence in North Central Italy

Claret (CLARE-it) – Old synonym, particularly British, for red Bordeaux.

Cornas (Cor-nahs) – Northern Rhone wine region.

Côte Rôtie (Coat Row-tee) – Exceptionally fine, ageworthy red wine from the Northern Rhone, primarily Syrah-based and named for the “roasted slopes” on which the vineyards grow.

Coteaux du Languedoc (Coat-toe duh Lahn-geh-dawk) – Increasingly desirable dry red table wine from Southern France, variously using Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaut, etc., individually or in blends. Eiswein (ICE-wine) – Wine made from late-harvested grapes allowed to freeze on the vine, concentrating the sugars. Originated in Germany, also becoming a star attraction of the Ontario, Canada, wine region.

Fino (Fee-noe) – Sherry in a dry, light-bodied style.

Gattinara (Gaht-tee-NAH-rah) – Excellent red wine made from the Nebbiolo grape in Northwestern Italy’s Piemonte region.

Hermitage (Air-mee-tahj) – One of the top wines of the Rhone, usually red (made from Syrah grapes) but also white, allegedly created by a Crusader who returned from the Holy Land bearing Syrah vines and declaring that his days of war were behind him and that this vineyard would be his hermitage

Manzanilla (Mahn-za-NEE-yah) – A dry style of Sherry, similar to Fino, made in a particular seaside village where the environment allegedly adds a saltwater tang to the wine.

Oloroso (Oh-loe-roe-soe) – Spanish, literally “fragrant.” One of the two broad categories of Sherry, the other being Fino (above).

Orvieto (Orv-YEH-toe) – Dry white wine from the ancient town of the same name in Umbria, Italy, between Rome and Florence.

Pouilly-Fuissé (Poo-yee Fwee-SAY) – White Burgundy, Chardonnay-based, made in the region of the same name.

Pouilly-Fumé (Poo-yee Foo-MAY) – Loire white made from Sauvignon Blanc, dry and very lean and tart; like Sancerre (see below), an excellent seafood wine.

Ribera del Duero (Ree-BEHR-ah dell Doo-AY-roe) – Challenging Rioja (below) for the title of Spain’s greatest red wine, these Tempranillo-based reds – particularly the fabled Vega Sicilia – can last and improve for decades.

Rioja (Ree-OH-hah) – Perhaps the best red wines of Spain, grown in arid, mountainous Northern Spain and named for the Rio Oja river there.

Rosé (Roe-zay) – Pink wine, traditionally made not by blending red and white juice (although some inexpensive wines do this), but by using red grapes and removing the skins from the fermenter before they have had time to impart much color.

Rosso di Montalcino (ROE-soe dee Mon-tahl-CHEE-noe) – “Little brother” to Brunello (which see), a good dry Italian red from Tuscany, requiring no aging in wood and permitted to be sold with less aging; often particularly good value.

Sauternes (So-TAIRN) – Great French dessert wine from the Bordeaux district of the same name.

Tokay (Toe-KAY) – Respected Hungarian dessert wine.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Vehr-NAHCH-ya dee Sahn Jee-mee-NYAH-noe) – Dry white wine of ancient heritage from the picturesque Tuscan village of San Gimignano.

Vinho Verde (VEEN-yoh VEHR-day) – Literally “green wine,” a refreshing, light and often slightly sparkling Portuguese white wine.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Vee-noe NOH-bee-lay dee Mohn-tay-poolCHAH-noe) – Excellent Tuscan red wine made from a blend of Sangiovese and other red grapes.

Vouvray (Voov-ray) – Outstanding Loire white, based on Chenin Blanc; table wines may range from dry through slightly sweet, and it also makes spectacular dessert wines.


“Come quickly I’m tasting stars”, Dom Perignon’s famous words after he first tasted, what we today know as Champagne. Little did anybody know back then that a fault in wine making which caused the wine to have bubbles would someday become one of the most expensive styles of wine in the world.

“All champagnes are sparkling wines but all sparkling wines are not Champagnes” A Sparkling Wine is a wine which contains carbon dioxide making it significantly fizzy.
This CO2 can be incorporated in the wine using various methods. This can be achieved by fermentation in the bottle(methode champenoise) or in large tanks(charmat process). In cheaper styles of sparkling wines CO2 can also be added in through injection. Some of the famous styles of sparkling wines are Champagne(France), Cava(Spain) and Prosecco(Italian).

Dom Perignon Brut 160

Champagne – It is a sparkling wine that is produced from three principal grape varities namely Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier only from the Champagne region in France. Apart from that the wine has to undergo a secondary fermentation inside the bottle to give it the necessary carbonation / bubbles. During this process yeast and sugar are added to the wine in the bottle and covered by a crown cap. It then has to be rested for a minimum of 18 months to allow the wine to develop it’s full flavours. During the aging process the bottle is kept inverted at a certain angle and rotated a little every day so that any sediments in the bottle are collected at the neck. At an apt time decided by the wine maker the crown cap is removed which shoots out the sediments collected at the neck along with some wine. To compensate for the lost wine some more wine and sugar may be added to the bottle before final packaging. This process of making champagne is called Method Champenoise and is very costly which explains the high price of this celebration wine.

Prosecco – It is an Italian sparkling wine which is produced from a grape variety called Glera, which was formerly known as Prosecco. However the wine acquires it’s name from a village called Prosecco located near the town of Trieste (translating to ‘Sad’ in Latin) a significant quantity comes from regions in Veneto. These wines are carbonated using the Charmat process where the second or secondary fermentation takes place in tanks and the wine is bottled under pressure.

Cava – It is a sparkling wine from Spain, mainly produced in the Penedes region in Catalunya. Cava is a latin word that translates to ‘Cave’ in English as the wine was preserved or aged in caves in the olden days. Just like Champagne, Cava is also produced using Methode Champenoise process. The grapes permitted for making this Spanish bubbly are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel lo and Subirat.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a wine by its bottle. Tulleeho is going to teach you just that. Here are common bottle types which are of French origin but have become norms for the rest of the wine world as well.



This straight sided bottle with tall shoulders and a pronounced punt (indentation on the bottom of a wine bottle); is widely used for Italian, new world and wines from the Bordeaux region. The glass can be dark green, light green or clear for reds, dry whites and sweet whites respectively. Apart from wines from the Bordeaux region, the grape varieties used are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and sometimes Zinfandel.





This gently sloped-shoulder bottle with a small punt has a fatter girth than other bottles and can contain both red and white wines. This shape is used for new world Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and also Loire Valley wines.

  • RHONE:




This is similar to the burgundy bottle except that it is slightly slimmer. It comes in a green glass for both red and white wines. Besides Rhone it is used in the new world Shiraz.




This bottle has a deeper punt and is made with thicker glass more for a scientific reason than for design. That is to withstand the pressure of the wine inside. It is used not just for champagne but for all sparkling wines.





This lean bottle without a punt is distinctive to the Alsace region of France and Mosel of Germany. It is used for wines like Rieslings, Gewürztraminer and Muller Thurgau. The wines could be of different styles ranging from dry to sweet dessert wines which can be read on the label.

  • RHINE:




This one is the same as Alsace or Mosel, except that the glass is brown in colour. It is also known as ‘hock’.





This bottle is sturdy and has a bulged neck to capture the sediment. It is used for wines that are best had young like Port, Sherry, and Madeira. Hence, it comes with a cork stopper rather than a long cork. The colour of the glass ranges from dark brown to black.


These are used more for new world or non-classic wines. No particular norms are followed when it comes to the shape, size or colour of the bottle in relation to the wines.

Why the colours?

Wine bottles can be found in various shades of green, brown or could be clear. The type of wine decides the colour of the glass in most cases. Dark coloured bottles are used to protect the red wines from exposure to light which in turn prevents oxidation and the pigment greatly depends on the materials available in that region. White and Rose wines are kept in clear glass bottles to show off the clarity and rich hues. The colours of the wine bottles also depend on the history of the particular regions and the ability of the glass industry in those areas.

some common shades of bottles 160

Now that you know your wine bottle shapes your one step closer to being a wine guru and making an impression with your wine gyan. Keep watching this space for more on wines. Till then TULLEEHO!!!


Quite often I have come across people who tell me they don’t drink red wine because it is too sweet. They are amazed when I explain that the majority of red table wines are `dry’ and not sweet. ” But all the red wines we have drunk were sweet “, they crib. That’s due to he fact that most folks see Goan port wines when they think red, and they are not really table wines but rather, dessert wines. Now that we have established the fact that `red is not necessarily equal to sweet’, let’s go on to `khaash’ (destroy, kill, chew and the like!) another major misconception about red wine.

Now, this one has been recounted to me ad nauseam by the most unlikely types – `red wine must always be drunk at room temperature’. That’s all very well. But, for Chrissakes, what room temperature are we talking about? What the books refer to is European, more specifically, French temperature which is around 18 degrees C. Our average is 30 plus (no pun intended) and highly undesirable!

So cool your reds; and if anyone gives you that supercilious, you don’t know your wine look – sock it to them!! Optimum temperature for serving red wine is between 13 to 18 degrees centigrade; young wines at the lower end and graduating upwards with age. Since our reds are `young’- not aged, drink them between 13 – 15, cool but not chilled. An hour or so in the refrigerator will do the trick. But don’t be bogged down by rules. Should you prefer to drink your red wine chilled, don’t let anyone stop you.

The third point I’d like to make is about that other age-old tradition – `drink red wine with red meat and game’. Forget it. Without meaning to discredit the established norm; they were a great way to help the uninitiated get started, but in no way imperative. If you like red wine with everything, or even in place of a regular drink, go right ahead.

Wine Coolers

For those of you who are uneasy about going all out, begin your tryst with wine by trying some of my favourite wine combinations. They’re cool, mild, refreshing and incredibly delicious. Gradually reduce the amount of mixer and increase the wine until you are ready to drink it unadulterated.

  • White wine with Apple juice/ ‘appy
  • White wine with Orange/Pineapple juice
  • Red wine with Lemonade/tonic water Method: Pour in equal proportions over 2-3 ice cubes in a stemmed glass.
  • Sparkling wine with Strawberry crush Method: Pour 1-2 tbsp of crush into a stemmed glass. Top with chilled sparkling wine and stir.
  • Mulled wine method: Simmer dry red wine with cinnamon, cloves, lemon/orange rind, raisins and skinned almonds. Add a teaspoon of sugar per glass. Serve in small ceramic mugs or chinese tea cups.

Wine Mixers

Now that we have dispensed with the formalities, let’s get on with the serious business of mixing with wine. The advantage the reds have over whites in this case is that red wine can be drunk cold as well as warm with equal pleasure. The decision you make would probably be dictated by the weather or a case of the sniffles!
Make spritzers by pouring wine and lemonade or tonic in equal quantities over ice for a cool refresher. Add sliced fruit, mint leaves and mix it in larger quantities over a big block of ice for a wine punch. If your cockles need warming, here’s one that will have you singing ` Wish You Were Here ‘!


Glass: 1 bone china mug or 2 chinese tea cups

  • Ingredients:
    • 200 ml dry red wine
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1 clove
    • 1 inch stick cinnamon
    • 1 inch strip lemon peel
    • 1 inch strip orange peel

Garnish: orange and lemon peel

Method: Heat all ingredients together in a saucepan. Do not boil, only simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Strain into mug or tea cups. Drop peel into hot wine and serve while still steaming.

I hope you enjoy yourself with these two contrasting cocktails. The weather is certainly conducive to both, what with hot afternoons and cool evenings. I hope this has made you understand wines better and encouraged you to go out and treat yourself to a few of them.


Recipes excerpted from The Can’t Go Wrong Book Of Cocktails – Shatbhi Basu


A deliciously fragrant combination that can hit real hard. When in season, freeze whole fresh apricots in ice trays and use one per drink. Otherwise soak dried apricots in some Southern Comfort or even Bourbon.

GLASS: champagne flute

INGREDIENTS: 30ml Southern Comfort (Amber) chilled sparkling wine to top fresh / dried apricot

GARNISH: apricot

TO MAKE: Place the frozen fresh apricot or the soaked dried apricot in the glass. Add the Southern Comfort and top with sparkling wine. Pour over ice cubes in summer.



GLASS: champagne flute

INGREDIENTS: 60ml Passoa chilled sparkling wine to top

GARNISH: sprig of mint leaves, slice of lime

TO MAKE: Fill 1/3 glass with ice cubes. Add the Passoa and slice of lime. Top with chilled sparkling wine. Drop the mint leaves in.


Cooking with wine brings to mind exotic French menus, flambes and expensive restaurants. In fact, a little innovation in the kitchen can produce incredible results. It is rather difficult to treat this aspect of wine in depth in an article like this, but a few handy tips can be dished out. Like marinate prawns with a a few table spoons of white wine before grilling or stir-frying; or chuck half a cup of dry red wine into a juicy meat stew. Use wine to marinate a roast instead of vinegar; soak fruit in wine and sherry to use in cakes and desserts. I haven’t yet attempted to cook Indian food with wine, maybe one of you will be adventurous enough and try. And don’t forget to send me your recipe when you do.

New World


For years, Aussie winemakers have revelled in the idea that good wine can be made and marketed without being confused and handcuffed by terror and appellations. They were for a long time the world’s leading techno-wine makers and backed by state of art production techniques, reasonable prices and Anglo Saxon-friendly marketing they became the new superstars of the wine world.

But the laws of nature (not to mention marketing) have a way of exerting themselves and taming the rogues. On the brink of its second generation, new wave Oz wine has begun to link its fame to specific grapes from specific sites. The shift is already reflected in the Wine and Brandy Corporation’s new Label Integrity Program (LIP), and some serious mapping that has established boundaries for 44 wine regions.

Aussie wines are normally described as fruity (so what? That’s how wines sell. If you want to be known as a wine geek, better bone up on this kind of stuff). This is due to the fact that the grapes get long warm summers and hence become very ripe. Except for Tasmania, not a single premium growing region of Australia falls below 40 degrees of latitude, the zone normally considered cool climate. By comparison, Bordeaux is at 41 degrees, Niagara at 43 and BC’s Okanagan Valley above 49. Australia, as a whole, is the world’s warmest premium wine region.

  1. New South Wales (NSW) –  Centred by Sydney as its capital, NSW has 10 appellations, with the Lower and Upper Hunter Valley by far the most important. Hot, dry interior regions like Murray/Sunraysia, Griffith/Riverina, Mudgee, and Cowra are largely for high volumee, inexpensive wines, although Cowra’s star is rising as a Chardonnay region.Hunter Valley : The principal grape varieties are Semillon, Shiraz, Chardonnay At 32 degrees of latitude, one of the world’s warmest, most humid, and improbable wine regions is responsible for the legendary ageability of Australian semillon and shiraz. With Sydney less than two hours by car, tourists have played an essential role in the Hunter’s economy. So, too, have the clouds that roll off the coast to block the mid-day sun and preserve valuable acidity. The best vineyards are astride the Brokenback Range in soils that restrict vine vigour, thus
    concentrating flavours. The big names here are Tyrrell’s, Brokenback Shiraz, Lindeman , Rosemount.
  2. Victoria & Tasmania – Victoria has 15 wine appellations. From Melbourne they fan out to dot higher and drier inland areas, except for the cooler Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, and the island of Tasmania. Only in the hotter northeast along the Murray River is there much large-scale viticulture. Northwest of Melbourne, the hot, dry regions of Geelong, Macedon, Bendigo, and Pyrenees are home to many small wineries.Great Western The main grapes are Shiraz, Cabernet, Chardonnay. Two and half hours west of Melbourne, the Great Western region is one of Australia’s oldest, established, like California’s Sierra Foothills, during a gold rush in the mid 19th century. It’s a very dry, irrigated region but its position on the fringe of the Great Dividing Range provides a notably cool climate, making it ideal for later-ripening varieties like shiraz. There are only about a dozen wineries, including famous Mount Langi Ghiran and Seppelt.Yarra Valley. The main grapes grown are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sparkling. This verdant, hilly zone at 37 degrees on Melbourne’s northern flank is one of Australia’s leading regions for cool-climate, higher-acid grapes, especially for chardonnay, pinot noir, and even sparkling wine from Green Point/Domaine Chandon. The big names here are: Coldstream Hills, De Bortoli.
  3. South Australia (SA) – A huge region, SA is home to 12 appellations and the big industry giants: Southcorp (Penfolds, Lindemans, Wynns), BRL Hardy (Hardys, Renmano, Leasingham), Mildara-Blass (Wolf Blass, Mildara, Black Opal), and Orlando Wyndham, as well as many other important companies. Its huge vineyard tracts range across several climatic zones.Coonawarra : The main grapes here are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chardonnay. Making wine for over 100 years, one of Australia’s most distinctive and well-defined appellations is a plain-looking strip of barely elevated vineyard on unique reddish limestone-based soils. The terra rosa, plus coolish southerly latitude (37 degrees) and maritime influences, combine to produce long-lived reds with amazing acidity, tension, depth, and distinctive flavour. Exploration for other veins of terra rosa on this “limestone coast” has already struck gold at nearby Koppamurra.. Wynns, Lindemans and Mildara all have wineries here and make some top Coonawarra wines. Other notable labels include Rymill, Leconfield, Penley, and Hollick.Padthaway : The main grapes are Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Farther north (36 degrees) and warmer than Coonawarra, Padthaway is a newer region (since 1963) largely planted to chardonnay and sauvignon by the big companies. Limestone again is the soil subtext, and likely the reason the wines tend to show real finesse beneath ripe fruit notes. In this largely benign, flat, dry, irrigated
    region yields must be well controlled to concentrate flavours. There are virtually no wineries here, with fruit being trucked off for processing in Coonawarra, McLaren, and other places.McLaren Vale – Langhorne Creek : The principal varieties are Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay. McLaren Vale is only 30 minutes from Adelaide and fighting encroaching suburbia. First planted at Chateau Reynella in 1838, it is one of the most well-established, diverse, and interesting Australian regions. Its warmer latitude (35 degrees) is tempered by a coastal climate and the varying altitude of its vineyards. Soil types vary too, depending on hill or vale location. It seems to grow all grapes well, but McLaren shiraz is among Australia’s best, with bright, lush fruit and supple texture. Although headquarters for Hardys at Chateau Reynella, and now the source of grapes for many companies outside the region, McLaren Vale is full of good small, wineries like Seaview, Richard Hamilton, Coriole, Woodstock, Ryecroft, and Maglieri.

    Adelaide Hills – Eden Valley : The principal wine types are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sparkling and Riesling Overlooks the city of Adelaide. Vineyards above 400 metres fall within the appellation. The northern edge melds with the high country of the warmer Eden Valley (34 degrees) east of Barossa, where small wineries like Mountadam, Pewsey Vale, and Henschke make great wines.

    Barossa Valley : The main varieties are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillon. One hour’s drive northeast of Adelaide, Barossa is home to Australia’s largest concentration of wineries, including Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Orlando, Seppelt, and Yalumba. First planted by German settlers in the mid-19th century, it is a hot (34 degrees) and arid, irregularly contoured valley peppered with many old shiraz vineyards. Soils are mixed loam, clay, and sand, but overall rather infertile, which helps the non irrigated vines produce a lot of Aussie classics.

    Clare Valley : Principal varieties are Riesling, Semillon and Shiraz. Clare is one of Australia’s emerging appellations, despite its northern location (33 degrees.) In fact, it is as far away from the ocean as grapes are likely to grow before succumbing to outback-like desert conditions. The secret is high altitude (400 to 500 metres) with cool afternoon breezes and cold desert nights, both of which preserve grape acidity.

  4. West Australia (WA) – Although producing less than five per cent of Australia’s wine, WA is one of the world’s most exciting new wine regions, exploding with labels. Six appellations range over several hundred kilometers from Swan Valley (31 degrees) north of Perth down to Mt. Barker (35 degrees) in the Great Southern Region. Although latitudes vary, the appellations are clustered near the sea. Goundry of Mt. Barker is the only larger non-Margaret River winery making Canadian inroads. Typical wine: Goundrey 1997 Chardonnay Reserve (89, $38.95)Margaret River : The varieties here are Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc Action central in West Australia is a coastal cape jutting into the sea at the happy confluence of the Indian and Southern Oceans at 33 degrees. No other Australian region is so maritime, yet the temperature range is amazingly even and the rainfall sparse during the growing season. The irrigated vineyards are planted for the most part on well-drained, gravelly soils. Planting was spearheaded by Leeuwin and Cape Mentelle in the mid-70s, but many stars are now emerging, like Devil’s Lair, Fermoy Estate, Abbey Vale and Evans & Tate.


Chile’s contemporary wine boom took root in the mid-19th century when cuttings from Bordeaux, France arrived. Before long, talented French winemakers followed, attracted by the favorable conditions of the nation’s Central Valley with its rich soil, warm summers and mild winters. Today, Chile is noted for producing some of the most reasonably priced, consistently good varietals in the world. Its wines, especially its reds (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), have won critical acclaim and an expanding share of the international market.

Most of the major vineyards occupy a strip about 220 miles long in the Central Valley region, which is home to the famed, productive Maipo Valley. The consistent, temperate, Mediterranean climate and protected geography of Chile’s winemaking region is complimented by a lucky entomological twist. The nation, remarkably, has remained free of phylloxera, a type of plant lice that has ravaged vineyards around the world. In the late 1800s, a phylloxera blight destroyed the roots of some of the most illustrious vine lineages. Chile was left unharmed. Today, Chile boasts the only remaining pre-phylloxera clones grown on their own European root stock.

The best are reserved for export. So chances are that the bottle of Chilean wine that you may pick up would be absolutely top – drawer and would be a fraction of what other wines cost. However this state of affairs may not last for too long, because Chile is adopting a new system of appellation and wine prices are likely to go up.

A lot of winemakers from the US and France have invested in Chile. Chateau Lafite-Rothschild is associated with Los Vascos and Robert Mondavi has tied up with Chile’s Vina Errazuriz. The other names to watch out for are Concha y Torro, Santa Rita, Coisino-Macul and Undurraga.

Chile is known for wines made from Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and aromatic white varietals. The key regions of wine production in Chile are:

  • Acongua region
  • Coquimbo
  • Central Valley

South Africa

South Africa has been producing wine for around three centuries now. A lot of early settlers were Huguenots who got expelled from France on religious grounds and wended their way here and these guys knew their wine. One of the most famous wines in the 18th century was Constancia, which was made here.

Apartheid finished all that Now that all that is over, good times are around the corner for South African wines. Most of the high quality wine comes from the Cape Province, which is also regarded as one of the most beautiful wine-making areas of the world. All the vineyards are within a 100 km radius of Cape Town. The more well known include Swartland to the north, Paarl to the northwest, and Stellenbosch to the immediate east. Unlike many countries where wine regions are scattered and separated by wide areas of land, in South Africa they literally touch each other, forming a jigsaw of appellations immediately surrounding the city. The exceptions are the Orange River Valley and Douglas, further to the north.

South Africa mainly produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc (Steen) and Pinotage. While the first three wines are well known around the world, Pinotage is more regional. Pinotage is a powerful red, a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Most South African wines aren’t labeled by region, but rather by grape variety and style. The grape itself, and the reputation of the winery that made the wine, are the two things to watch for.

The well known wines from South Africa are South African Pinotage, Pinot Noir, Bordeaux Blends, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin blancs. The major wine producing regions from the country are:

  • Western Cape
  • Stellenbosch
  • Paarl
  • Breede River Valley
  • Walker Bay


California North Coast : 

Napa, probably California’s best known wine region and home of some 300 wineries, is a mere 35 miles long and about 4-5 miles wide. From San Pablo Bay at the lower end to Mount St. Helena in the north, the valley has the ideal climates (warm sunny days and cool nights) for growing premium grape varietals such as: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel & Pinot Noir

  1. Viticultural Areas of Napa :
    • Atlas Peak takes its name form the highest peak in the Vaca Range. Only a small portion of the 11,000 acres in this appellation are planted, mostly with Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
    • Howell Mountain was Napa’s first sub-viticultural area. During the growing season daytime temperatures on the mountain can be ten degrees lower than in the valley, protecting vines from heat stress allowing the grapes to retain a fresh acidity.
    • Carneros has a cooler climate due to maritime influences and is more suited to growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The long and moderate growing season allows the grapes to mature slowly and evenly, for depth of flavor.
    • Mount Veeder appellation encompasses 25 square miles of some of the steepest vineyards and most remote wineries in California. This unique and historic viticultural district is located in the southeastern portion of the Mayacamas mountains which divide Napa and Sonoma Counties.
    • Oakville soils are relatively consistent, well-draining and can allow root depths of one hundred feet or more. These combinations are ideal for producing ultra-premium wine. Rutherford offers a variety of microclimates and soil types. Bordered by two mountain ranges, the area does not go above 500 feet in elevation. Though only 6 square miles in area it is planted with over 3,000 acres of vineyards. Wines produced here reflect a distinct Rutherford character known as ‘Rutherford Dust’.
    • Spring Mountain on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains is dominated by the red varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Chardonnay is the main white wine with some plantings of Riesling and Viognier.
    • Stag’s Leap with its volcanic soil, warm days that encourage optimal ripening and cool nights to maintain the grapes’ acidity, is suited to grow varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines of Stag’s Leap are known for their
      fruitcharacter, soft tannins and silky texture.
    • Wild Horse Valley Silverado Trail — Napa’s ‘the road less traveled’ parallels Highway 29 the length of the Valley. The road dips and  curves as it runs along the foothills, offering spectacular views of the vineyards and mountains. It is a more scenic drive and less crowded. There are many smaller wineries to stop at for tasting and touring.
    • Calistoga is located at the northern end of Napa.
    • St Helena is located in the center of the Napa Valley, about 60 miles north of San Francisco.
  2. Sonoma – Sonoma County home of some 145 wineries with more than 31,00 acresof wine grapes, produces more award winning wines than any other wine growing region in the country. Separated from Napa by the Mayacamas Mountains, Sonoma’s climate and rocky soil are similar to the Bordeaux . All major varietals are grown here with great success particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc & Chardonnay.
  3. Mendoncino and others – North of San Francisco, Mendocino County is a coastal region of narrow valleys with rocky but well drained soil. The main growing regions here are: Cole Ranch, McDowell Valley, Anderson Valley, Ukiah Valley, Redwood Valley & Porter Valley.

Central Coast

The Regions of California’s South Central Coast are: Edna Valley, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara

  • Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande, south of San Louis Obispo with its cool coastal climate is perfect for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, and the Rhone varieties Roussanne and Viognier.
  • Paso Robles, is the most inland of the South Central Coast Regions. With the warmer summers and cold winters it is better suited for Red Grapes, particularly Zinfandel and increasingly larger plantings of Italian Varietals.
  • Santa Barbara the cooler coastal climate of the Santa Barbara Region is better suited to white winegrapes such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, though some excellent Pinot Noirs are produced there. Santa Maria Valley lies at the northern end of Santa Barbara County, a generally cool area that is suited to Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Johannisberg Riesling, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Santa Ynez Valley The primary grape varieties planted in this region just south of Santa Maria include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Johannisberg Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Gewürztraminer. Santa Ynez Valley varies from a cool region at the west end to a warmer region further east.

Central Valley 

Fresno, Kern, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare & Yolo counties are the Main AVA’s making up the Central Valley appellations. Within these 8 counties are the sub-viticultural areas of Clarksburg (Yolo); Dunnigan Hills (Yolo); Lodi (Sacramento, San Joaquin); Madera (Madera, Fresno) & Meritt Island (Yolo) counties are the Main AVA’s making up the Central Valley appellations. Grapes are also grown on the South Coast and on the Sierra foothills.

Some Other Regions

  1. New Zealand –  One of the fastest growing wine-making regions in the world, this is really taking on its antipodal big brother. Some great whites are happening. Watch out for the Marlborough area and the big baby there is Cloudy Bay – some big French names have an interest in it and action will definitely happen. The other area to look for is Hawkes Bay and the names to watch out for here are Te Mata and Esk Valley. Buy these while they are still affordable.
  2. Hungary – Think of Hungary and you think of Tokay. Made from Furmint, Harslevelu and at times Muscat, this is one of the greatest dessert wines in the world. The top tamale is the one called “Aszu”.  If you are ever offered one, grab it. Botrytis-infected grapes are handpicked, fermented, made into a paste and added to the wine. Sweetness is measured in puttonyos- from three to six, which is the sweetest. In exceptional years, an even sweeter one, Essencia, is produced.
  3. Argentina – Argentina is probably the biggest winemaking region in South America, though Chile enjoys a much higher profile. Argentina is the fifth largest wine consuming (and producing) country and until recently, wine stayed within its borders. The Mendoza region is the largest winemaking region in Argentina, with around 370,000 acres of vines. Malbec and Tempranillo grow very well here, as does Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The San Juan region has 113,000 acres of vines, but is not nearly as well known for its wines.
  4. Austria – From Linz to Vienna and beyond, the Danube (or Blue) River maintains a wonderful sunny climate that makes the Wachau Valley and other nearby regions one of the best places to grow grapes. After some hiccups, Austrian wine making has returned to its organic origins, producing some of the best wines in Europe. The dominant white wine grape is the green Veltliner, which yields a fruity, tart wine prized by locals. Though Chardonnay, Muller-Thurgau, Muscat-Ottonel, Neuberger, Weissburgunder and Welschriesling are popular also, Austrian Riesling is the premier white grape of the region, yielding some of the finest Riesling wines in the world. The four primary wine growing regions are Burgenland, Niederosterreich, Steiermark, Vienna.


Old World is a term used to describe wine-producing nations which have been seemingly doing it for centuries, eg France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Spain and lesser known names like Hungary, Austria and large swathes of eastern Europe. Nearly all of the old world is in Europe.By this definition all the emergent wine producers in India are also Old World producers. The scriptures are full of references to Soma.

The distinguishing feature of the winemakers here has been their adherence to tradition in all matters relating to making wine and a greater accent on bringing out the expression of the land through the wine.

Sounds like bullshit? OK bullshit filters are now on and we shall try to be less obtuse.

Lets begin with an anecdote.When one of the greatest Urdu poets of the sub-continent( no names,no pack drill-the cognoscenti will know who) was asked why he didn’t emigrate to Pakistan he said that he couldn’t take a crap in the morning unless he hadn’t eaten a particular dal which grew in his village. Some thing about the aab-o-hawa (literally-air and water,but means a lot more) of the place,which gave that lentil its special flavour and helped the aforementioned gentleman’s bowel movements. He was not too sure about continuous supplies that side of the border. Obviously all this was said in jest, and the gentleman was highlighting his attachment to his country/motherland etc etc.

The point is that every one who has been brought up in the country (we know this by hearsay as grandpop farmed his land till the Dravidian movement made his plans gang agley) has this deep attachment to the land and also believes in distinguishing characteristics of each geographical feature and therefore of the produce of that feature.

This is what the winemakers of the traditional wine-making countries in Europe have picked up, refined and elevated to stratospheric heights. Ask yourself this question? Why does an Alphonso mango cost as much as it does? If you can think about it enough you will be able to get tp grips about the entire philosophy of old world winemakers and their trips.



On our way then to `Bourgogne’ (boor-gon), as the Burgundy region is known as in its native land.

This part of France is just as famous for its superb wines as is Bordeaux, sometimes rather expensive as it has a much smaller area under vine cultivation. The three grapes that have contributed towards establishing the popularity of Burgundy are `Chardonnay’ (shar-dohnay)  – responsible for the powerful white wines made in various styles, `Pinot Noir’ (pee-no nwar) – which makes the classic red burgundy wines and the `Gamay’ – the grape from which comes the world’s popular `Beaujolais’ (bo-jho-lay) wine.

The Bourgogne region stretches to cover Chablis in the north down to Beaujolais in the south with the Cote D’or (the golden slope) at the heart of the area, literally producing some of the finest specimens of Burgundy.

Chablis (sha-blee): This is a very typical style, producing white wines that are very dry, sometimes with a greenish tinge. In fact, there was a time when all dry white wines tended to be called Chablis – a practice still followed by American winemakers who generically call a lot of their everyday table whites by this name. One does, hence, have to be careful when buying Chablis. `Grand Cru Chablis’ is at the top of the ladder followed by Premier Cru. Chablis on its own can be a very ordinary wine.

Cote d’Or: This is where the big time stuff comes from. The northern half, known as the `Cote de Nuits’ (coat-duh-noo-ee) and focusing on Nuits St-Georges, is the homeland of the great red burgundies: Le Chambertin (sham-ber- tain), Le Musigny (myu-see-nee) and the wines of the Domaine de la Romanee Conti are some of the most prestigious names. The southern half, which is the `Cote de Beaune’ (bone) houses fantastic white burgundies such as Corton Charlemagne (kor-tawn shar-l- manya), Le Montrachet (mon-tra-shay) and Meursault (mer-so). These wines are obviously out of reach to the aam junta – if you are ever served one, or can somehow manage to get your hands on a bottle, cherish it.

You would be safe though, trying wines which came attached with the following names; Reds: from Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne Romanee, Nuits-St-Georges; Whites: Aloxe-Corton, Pommard, Volnay, Santenay.

Maconnais (ma-ko-nay): Also to the south, its two popular wines are the Pouilly Fuisse (poo-ee-yee fwee-say) and Macon Blanc (makon blonk), the former more widely known and appreciated.


Unlike other French wine producing regions the wines of Alsace are named by grape variety – so learning about them is easy after wrestling with the intricacies of the other regions.

Alsace is white wine country. Unlike their German counterparts next door, they are usually very dry. They are very aromatic and, fortunately for us lesser mortals, reasonably priced. You need to know three basic things – the varietals, the hierarchy of wines and the good producers.

With an exception here or there, most Alsatian wines are entirely made up of the varietal in question. The popular grapes here are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, PinotGris and Muscat. Occasionally a Pinot Noir or a Silvaner may crop up as well.

Dry Alsatian wines are either Grand Cru or not. To be a grand cru, the wine must be either Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris or Muscat, or must come from one of fifty odd grand cru vineyards. If it is not, it’ll not be called any cru, just Appellation Alsace Controlee. The other two categories are rare but you may run into them now and then. In special years when the weather is right, the producers may release a special wine called Vendange Tardive (literally late harvest and pronounced van-dahzhe tahr-deev). To be so designated the wine has to be of one of the four varieties mentioned above, should be harvested in the same year and the grape should have a certain level of sugar content. The other category is called Selection de Grains Nobles (pronounced say-leck-sayoh dey grah nobl). This designation is given to those wines with a very high sugar level and hence which are very sweet.

The big names among producers are Zind-Humbrecht, Hugel et Fils, Josmeyer, Domaine Schlumberger and Domaine Trimbach.

Alsacian wines go very well with Asian cuisine, especially the Gewurztraminer.
Log on to to find suggested wine – food pairings.

Wine Regions of the world: Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux (bore-dough), in South-West France, is located in the area that was historically known as Poitou and Aquitaine. The entire wine-growing region lies on either side of the Gironde estuary and of the rivers Dordogne and Garonne, which flow into it. The town of Bordeaux itself is situated on the left back of the river Garonne, just before it flows into the Gironde estuary. It was once famous as a sea-port and many famous negociants (merchants who buy wines from different growers and blend them under their own labels) still have their offices on the Quais de Chartrons overlooking the dockyard.

The vineyards date back a long way in history- those at Saint Emilion go back to the Roman times. Those in the Medoc were drained by the Dutch. The wines of this region have been known for centuries – the English word Claret was coined 500 years ago to describe the red wines of Bordeaux.

Before we move further, think of the hierarchy of wine-growing geography in this fashion. At the top are regions – which are areas in France – Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone Valley, Loire valley and Languedoc-Rousillion. Each region is further divided into districts. A district could further be divided into communes-which are communities that grow wine. Within each commune are Chateaux, vineyards, clos or properties.

Bordeaux itself is divided into thirty five wine districts, but five of them stand out above all others. These are Medoc, Pomerol, Saint-Emilion, Graves and Sauternes. Wines from these areas are the ones that are the Rolls Royces of the world of wine.

So first we shall talk about these:

Medoc (may-dock). This area lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde estuary and is home to some real biggies. The top four communes of Medoc are Pauillac, Saint-Estephe’, Margaux and Saint-Julien. In 1855, a consortium of growers, shippers, merchants and brokers divided the vineyards of Medoc into five categories based on consistency and quality. Though this classification rewards a few that may not deserve a high ranking and underrates others, it is even today the best judge of relative quality of the wine produced. At the top of the tree are the premier crus (or the first growths).

These are Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Mouton – Rothschild (which was not so classified in 1855, but was added later), Chateau Margaux and Chateau HautBrion (which is actually from the neighbouring Graves, but had to be included because of its supreme quality). Then come the deuxieme cru (duh-zhyem creu) or the second growths. Many are of superb quality and some like Cos d’Estournel or Chateau Pichon-Longueville, rival the first growths in value and prestige. Then follow the third, fourth and fifth growths all of which may include top quality wines. Often the premier cru vineyards will have sister chateaux which though not of the top classification may still produce great wines. For example Mouton Cadet, the most successful Bordeaux brand ever began as the Second wine of the premier cru Chateau Mouton-Rothschild.

Similarly, Chateau Clerc-Milon while not a first growth benefits from all the processes and goodwill that its first growth sister (Mouton-Rothschild) possesses. Below the five classifications are the Cru Bourgeois, which does not mean that you have to be a nouveau-riche schmuck to drink it; its just the next step in the classification and contains some very respectable wines.

Graves (grahv). This region lies to the south of Bordeaux and to the west of Garonne. Graves in French means gravel and the wines are earthier and livelier than in Medoc. The biggie here is Chateau Haut Brion, which you will remember from above is one of the top five growths according to the 1855 classification. The white wines from Graves can be quite deadly too and unlike most whites benefit from long agings – ten years or so. Chateau Haut Brion makes a good white. Another big white name is Domaine de Chevalier. Haut Brion and many other fancy Chateaux are located in a separate new appellation called PessacLeognan.

Pomerol (poh-muh-rol). The smallest of the districts, it was never classified. It produces glamorous red wines from the Merlot grape and is home to the blockbuster Chateau Petrus -one of the most expensive wines in the world-only 4000 cases are produced every year. Don’t ever pass up a chance to sip this if someone offers it to you.

Saint Emilion (san-teh-meel-yoh). Saint Emilion is a picturesque little town located 48 miles east of Bordeaux. Though it lacks the fame of Medoc and Graves or the glamour of Pomerol, it holds its own in terms of the wine that it produces. Its wines (with their pre-dominance of the Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes) are softer than those of Medoc. The big names from Saint Emilion are Ausone and Cheval Blanc. They are rated at par with the top five from Medoc/Graves, Chateau Petrus from Pomerol and Chateau d’Yquem from Sauternes.

Sauternes (soh-tehrn). Along with its neighbouring village of Barsac, Sauternes makes some of the greatest sweet white wines in the world. Sweet wine is made from grapes affected by the fungus called botrytis cinerea (noble rot). The ideal conditions for this fungus are damp misty mornings and warm sunny afternoons. This is exactly what happens in Sauternes in late autumn and early winter. The fungus pierces the skin of the grape, allowing the juices to evaporate and the grape to shrivel, increasing both the sugar content and the flavor. As only the ripest grapes can be picked harvesting is a slow and a time consuming process. This is why good Sauternes is very expensive. The best of these is so prestigious that they had to create a separate classification for just this one wine-grand premier cru. This is the famous Chateau d’Yquem. If you get to taste this once in your lifetime, you will be lucky indeed. At the next level are the premier crus, which are eleven wines in all. If you get to buy these they will definitely blow a hole in your pocket. Bringing up the rear is the deuxieme cru, which comprise twelve wines, which are also damn good.

Apart from these districts the others are Canon-Fronsac and Fronsac, EntreDeux-Mers, Lalande de Pomerol all of which produce very good, inexpensive (in comparison to those above) wines.


Alexamdre Dumas once said of Burgundy that “Montrachet should be drunk on one’s knees with hat in hand…”. The wines of Burgundy – both reds and whites are among the greatest in the world. Understanding the region is however another matter altogether. It was all very well before the revolution, where the law of primogeniture ensured that holdings were largish parcels of land. But the revolution was all about land. Subsequent parceling and division of properties has resulted in such an amazing fragmentation of holding that it is almost impossible to really get to grips with the types and appellations in Burgundy. We shall stick to the absolute essentials here.

There are five sub-regions in Burgundy: Chablis, Cote d’ Or ( divided into Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune), Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Beaujolais.

The word “Cote” that keeps recurring means “slope” and much of this area is hilly. Whenever people talk about Burgundy they may or may not refer to all of these areas. They may just be talking about the Cote d’ Or. Chablis and Beaujolais are often listed separately. We shall take up Beaujolais first.

Beaujolais is the southern – most part of what is officially called Burgundy, but it is far-removed from the normal impressions of Burgundy. To begin with the grape is different – Gamay is used in most of Beaujolais. Secondly over time Beaujolais has come to signify fun and youth in wine. This may largely be the result of Nouveau Beaujolais (or new Beaujolais) which is released every third Thursday of November. It is quite a marketing triumph and lots of people go nuts about itmainly because you can just guzzle it down without worrying too much. Recently at a tasting of a wine from the Beaujolais region (Brouilly) however we met with up a contrarian view, which was that the Nouveau Beaujolais movement had downgraded the image of Beaujolais wines as a whole. Basic appellation wines from this area are all fruity, juicy wines. The next step up in the quality ladder is Beaujolais Villages, which is produced in 37 communes. The really big step up in quality are the Beaujolais Cru wines. These may not even say Beaujolais on their label as they are likely to be identified with the specific commune where the cru is located. These include Moulin-a-vent, Regnie, Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Cote-de-Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon and Saint-Amour.

Chablis used to be a part of a vast wine growing region which used to exploit the easy transport facilities provided by the river Seine to ship huge quantities of wine to Paris and Belgium. The phylloxera epidemic put paid to all that. Just the district of Chablis survived, which now devotes itself to producing wines which have become the epitome of “great dry white wine”. The main grape is the ubiquitous Chardonnay. The wines are classified into four appellations according to their quality. At the top are the Grand Crus. These wines mature after five year, but can be kept upto twenty. These wines are very highly sought after. The main climats (distinct, named plots of land) are Vaudesir, Les Clos, Bougros, Valmur, Blanchots among others. After these come the Chablis Premier Crus. While not attaining the levels of the Grand Cru these are still very good. There are 17 such. After this come Chablis and Petit Chablis.

The Cote de Nuits (coat de nwee) is home to a whole host of the really big time names of the wine world and most of these babies are going to have stratospheric landed prices in India. The grape grown here is largely Pinot Noir, with a little bit of Chardonnay. Concentrated in the villages of this district are all the red wine Grand Crus of Burgundy except one (Corton). There are 24 such appellations and these are the names which appear to wine lovers in their dreams. Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanee, the historic Clos de Vougeot and Nuit St Georges are just a few of the really big names. Pray that the import duties come down and we can all some day hope of tasting these wines. Below the Grand Crus are the Villages and the Premier Crus which could actually mean that the wine is produced across the road from a Grand Cru. We shall not even attempt to disentangle the Burgundy vineyard scene here and suffice it to say that these are all very deadly wines too. Beside this there is the Haute Cote de Nuits which offers very structured red and white wines with a lot of aroma.

The Cote de Beaune is the southern part of the Cote d’Or. It is in this place that terror plays a major role as the soil is fairly diverse in this region. The same hierarchy exists as in Cote de Nuits. Corton is the only red Grand Cru. This area also produces some great white Grand Crus like Corton- Charlemagne and Chevalier- Montrachet. Next to these are the Villages and Premier Crus and the names of the villages read like a who’s who of the wine world- Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet are all right up there.

Besides these there are the Haut Cote de Beaune wines. The city of Beaune has a very famous hospital whose wines are sold to make money for its upkeep. The Hospices de Beaune auction happens on the third Sunday of each Novemeber and attracts large crowds.

Maconnais produces nearly half of all the white wines in Burgundy. Although it never achieved the heights of Cote d”or the wines from this area represent the best value pure Chardonnay wine. The names to remember here are Pouilly Fuisse, Pouilly-Loche, Saint Vearn, Pouilly-Vinzelles and Vire-Clesse. The regional appellations are also great value. Challonaise is slowly gaining prominence as an area which produces great value wines and has five “village” appellations: Mercurey, Givry, Rully, Montagny and Bouzeron.

The above description is fairly sketchy as deciphering Burgundy is something, which even seasoned wine-lovers baulk at. The trick is to stick to a good negociant – a company which buys wine from different growers and blends and bottles the wine. In such cases the name of the negociant will appear on the label. If the grower has bottled the wine his name would appear of the label as Domaine such and such. Famous Burgundy negociants include Laboure-Roi, Louis Jadot, Antonin Rodet, Bouchard pere et Fils, Drouhin among others.

If you want to know more about Burgundy you may wish to check out the following books/sites:

  1. Matt Kramer- Making Sense of Burgundy
  2. Robert Parker- Burgundy
  3. the wine pages of a serious Burgundy buff from Israel.
  4. The ultimate Burgundy reference


Lying some 120 kilometres to the east of Paris, the Champagne appellation is France’s most northerly vineyard. The Champagne district has just over 30,000 hectares of productive vineyard and this is divided into five main areas: the Montagne de Reims; Vallée de la Marne; Côte des Blancs; Côte de Sézanne and the Côte de Bar. While in theory any combination of the appellation’s three main grape types – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – may be planted, each of these districts tends to favour one particular variety. Thus in the Côte des Blancs you will find little other than Chardonnay (over 95%) grown and this variety is also dominant in the Côte de Sézanne (70%) although there is some Pinot Noir and a little Meunier there.

Producers of champagne can be divided into three main categories: houses, cooperatives and growers. The best-known names, which dominate sales of champagne, particularly outside France, are all among the first group. The 250- odd houses are responsible for nearly three-quarters of world-wide sales and the ten biggest of these, including Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Lanson, Mumm, Piper-Heidsieck, Laurent-Perrier and Pommery, account for well over half the total volume sold, around 150 million bottles a year.

There are however over 5,000 different growers in the appellation and while few own more than one hectare of land, between them they control nearly four-fifths of the total vineyard. They only directly account for around an eighth of sales but play a vital role in supplying the major houses with grapes for their brands. The third group, the co-operatives, act both as intermediaries between the growers and the houses and increasingly sell brands of champagne on behalf of their grower members.

The three groups are heavily inter-related and inter-dependent although There are a few notable houses – like Louis Roederer – which have significant vineyard holdings and thus buy in less than a third of their grape requirement. There are also a small number of growers, which make and sell most, if not all of their own wine themselves. These two groups operate independently or at least more independently from the general system.

Most champagne produced is a non-vintage (or multi-vintage) blend often containing portions of all three grape varieties in varying proportions according to the individual style of the house in question. The blend is likely to be made up from parcels of grapes grown all over the region. As well as their non-vintage brut most houses produce their own single Vintage champagne from their best years. While most of the wine is blended, champagne can also be produced from a single varietal. Blanc de blanc is made exclusively from Chardonnay, Blanc de Noirs from black grapes, and Rose can be created by adding a little red wine to the blend.

Single vineyard wines are a rarity in Champagne although the most famous – like Krug’s Clos du Mesnil – are among the most sought-after wines in the world. It is very unlikely that you may even get to sample these. Also most houses have their own prestige cuvee’. While these may not compare with the great single vineyard wines mentioned above, they signify the prestige associated with consuming champagne. Examples of such are Roederer Cristal, Dom Perignon from Moet & Chandon, La Grand Dame by Veuve Clicquot and Sir Winston Churchill by Pol Roger.

Champagne is distinctively classified in terms of its relative dryness/sweetness. The driest of all is brut, which was fist developed for the English market. Extra brut would mean that the Champagne is drier. Next is sec, which is medium-dry, and then there is demi-sec which is slightly sweeter.

Loire Valley 

The Loire, France’s longest and most famous river, winds its leisurely way for more than 965 kms from its source in the Massif Central to its mouth at Nantes on the Atlantic coast. Along the way it is home of a whole host of wines made from many different grape varieties. Though better known for its whites (both sparkling and still), it also produces some respectable reds. The white wines of the Loire are famous for their crispness and this is one region where you need not bother with a whole hierarchy of crus.

The wines of the upper Loire Valley (those closest to Paris) are also probably the bets known. The whites are made from Sauvignon Blanc; the reds and rose’ from Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The best examples are Sancerre ( mainly white, but also red and rose’) and Pouilly Fume, which is very similar to Sancerre, but sometimes can have a smoky taste (Fume means smoked).

Touraine, the area around the city of Tours, was the pre-revolution playground of the French aristocracy. It produces the light red Cabernet Franc based wines in Chinon (much promoted by the region’s most famous literary son – Rabelais) and Bourgueil. It also produces a good range of white wines in Vouvray, which is made from Chenin Blanc. The very high acid of the Chenin Blanc grape means that Vouvrays need to age longer than the other whites: about ten years for the dry ones. Vouvray Mousseux is a sparkling wine from the same area. Since there is a lot of Vouvray buy only reliable producers. Look for estate – bottled rather  than merchant-bottled wines. The star vineyard here is Huet and Gaston Huet hit the headlines in 1990 with his protests against the building of TGV train tracks over the Vouvray vineyards. A compromise was reached and the tracks were built in tunnels under the hilly vineyards. Further along the Loire river towards the Atlantic Ocean, Anjou is famous for its
pink wine the Rose d’Anjou. It also produces Savennieres, dry white wine made from Chenin Blanc and a sparkling wine at Saumur.

Pays de Nantes (or the countryside around Nantes) is fairly close to the Atlantic Ocean and is home to Muscadet. This is a wine made from a white grape variety called Melon de Bourgogne and is best drunk as fresh as possible.

Regions – France – Rhone Valley

The rive Rhone rises in Alps and flows off the mountains into Lake Geneva, through Lyon and then through most of southeastern France to its mouth on the Mediterranean. The Rhone valley itself is a 225 kms stretch of river running from Vienne, just south of Lyon to Avignon.

The entire Rhone valley divides into two distinct wine-growing areas. The northern Rhone (Rhone Septentrionale in French) is home to the appellations of Hermitage and Cote-Rotie’. These are really big babies and are now considered serious rivals to the great names of Bordeaux and Burgundy. A bottle of Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chappelle from a good year can cost close to Rs One lakh or more in India. The southern Rhone is home to the legendary Chateauneuf-de-Pape.

In the northern Rhone, the valley is narrow and the river flows between slopes that are almost perpendicular. Such steep hillsides mean that agriculture can only happen in extremely narrow terraces. The cultivation of the vine (mostly Syrah) is almost entirely done by hand. Consequently the dry, full-bodied reds produced here are very expensive.

The appellations of Cornas, Hermitage and Cote Rotie (the roasted slope) all produce limited quantities of great red wine. Hermitage was for long considered the greatest wine in the world. Its greatness is, unfortunately, reflected in its price. Cote Rotie has some of the oldest vineyards in France (some date back to 70 A.D.). The best vineyards in this appellation are La Turque, La Landonne and La Mouline.

The northern Rhone is also home to some fabulous white wines. The wines from Condrieu compare with the best of Burgundy and located within its boundaries is an extremely small vineyard called Chateau Grillet, which has its own appellation. This too produces wine from the Viognier grape. Due its small size its output is low and the wine is very rare.

The southern Rhone has only the river in common with its northern neighbour. The land is much flatter and the entire area is very Mediterranean. While they make small quantities of very fine wine in northern Rhone, here they make large quantities of easy drinking wine of mostly average quality. The exception is the legendary Chateauneuf-de-Pape – the big, beautiful red wine that owes its name to the new palace built by Pope John the XXII in the hills north of Avignon in the 14th century. 13 grape varieties are permitted – the four most common are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault.

The other appellations in Rhone are Gigondas, Coteaux du Tricastin, Lirac and Tavel. Beaumes-de-Venise is a pretty village in this region that makes Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise- a great dessert wine.


Germany has had a long tradition of wine making. Despite this, the wines don’t get their due in the wine lists. That’s a pity as German wines are generally very good value for money and are great as aperitif or dessert wines.

A word of warning: Don’t buy any bottle called Liebfraumilch. Chances are that you may never buy a German wine after that.

Lets move on. “The German grape” is Riesling. It finds its best expression here. Other principal grape varieties are Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Muller-Thurgau. The red you are most likely to encounter is Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder in German).

The main regions to know about are Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Pfalz and Rheinhessen all of which are near the French border. The area where the grape is grown will be indicated on the label. There will be a suffix “er” attached to the town name and possibly the name of the vineyard as well – for example Niersteiner Oelberg. Or the word “Weingut” (meaning vineyard) could be on the label.

Quality in German wines is measured in terms of sweetness in grapes at the time of harvest. Nowhere else in the world is this the sole basis for a system of classifying wine. At the bottom is Tafelwein or table wine. Above that is Landwein, which is slightly better. Above these are Qualitatswein (quality wines), which have two levels. The first (and lower level) is Qualitatswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (don’t kill yourself trying to say it-just call it QbA) that includes a whole array of wines. At the top is Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (or QmP) which has six levels of quality. These six levels are possible levels of sweetness. These refer to exactly how sweet the wines were at the time of harvest and the rule of the thumb is the riper the grape the more expensive the wine (though here too a lower grade from a famous winery will be more expensive than a lesser-known winery’s higher grade). The levels are:

  • Kabinett – The driest of all levels. This means that the grape was normally ripe at the time of the harvest.
  • Spatlese – This will have a hint of sweetness. The trip is that these are made from late harvest grapes (picked at least a week after regular
    harvest). The reason they are not sweet is sometimes the winemaker will let all the sugar ferment into alcohol.
  • Auslese – Usually very sweet. The grapes would have been very ripe, would have been picked in bunches and must meet a minimum sugar
    content. Very good as a dessert wine. This and the three wines that follow it may be aged for decades.
  • Beerenauslese – Sweet, rich and intense, and only possible in exceptional vintages. These are made from over-ripe grapes (often botrytis-infected) and the grapes would be harvested one grape at a time. Hence these tend to be rare and expensive. Normally served as dessert.
  • Eiswein – The grapes have to meet all the criteria for Beerenauslese and then they are allowed to freeze on the wine. The wine is pressed out of the frozen grapes and the resultant juice is incredibly rich and concentrated.
  • Trockenbeerenauslese – This is the absolute top of the tree. These grapes are usually botrytis-infected and may almost be raisins. The wine is very rare and therefore very expensive.

When buying you could look for the following names-Dr. Loosen, Dr.Heger, Dr. Weil among others.


In some years Italy produces more wine than any other country in the world- more than 60 million hectoliters. This is a massive quantity – about a quarter of the world’s output. Not all is prime quality and much is what comes with a screw top bottle and is bought daily from the local grocers. But the best Italian wines are among the best in world. In the last two decades progressive Italian producers have brought the wine making industry back to its ancient prominence.

Barring exceptions, most Italian wines are named for the regions (similar to what happens in France). Wine is made all over Italy but since most of it won’t find its way to our shores we’ll stick to the better-known wines (and therefore the regions).

Think of Italian wine and chances are that you’ll think of Chianti. For long identified with a cheap ruffia basket covered bottle the current day Chiantis are in the vanguard of great Italian wines. Remember Dr. Hannibal Lecter would never choose any cheapo wine to accompany your brains (with or without Fava beans).

Chianti comes from a fairly extensive area in Tuscany and bottles with the suffix Classico come from the best zone in all of Chianti. But it is just one of the really deadly wines from this area. In the 60s and the 70s Tuscan winemakers started blending non-traditional (for Italy that is) grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon with the local Sangiovese grape to produce wines that are now called Super Tuscans. Since a wine cannot be called Chianti if it contains more than 10 % Sangiovese grapes, these wines go under the humble name of “Vin de Tavola” or Table wines. There could not be a greater understatement. The 1997 Antinori Solaia has been rated as the top wine in the world by Wine Spectator. Some other Super Tuscans are Tignanello, Sassicaia and Orenelaia. The pre-eminent producer of these is Marchese Piero Antinori, whose family has been into winemaking for the last 600 years. The other real biggie from Tuscany is the Brunello de Montalcino, which are 100 % Sangiovese. The known producers
include Biondi-Santi and Altesino among others. Vernaccia di San Gimmignano is the region’s best white and Vino Santo is the classic amber-coloured holy wine produced from Trebbiano and Malvasia grape.

Asti is the light sweet sparkling wine made from the Mascato Bianco grapes in the areas of Asti, Cuneo and Alessandria, and is exported throughout the world.

The other big wine producing area is Piedmont and this is the home of the Nebbiolo grape. The prestige wines from Piedmont are the Barolo and the Barbaresco. The higher grades in these are Reserva and Reserva Speciale which means they have been aged for at least three-four and four-five years respectively. The man who put Piedmont on the world wine map is Angelo Gaja and all his wines are likely to be great values. The other wines out of Piedmont include Barbers, Gattinara and Gavi- a crisp white wine.

Veneto the region that stretches from Venice to Verona is home to some famous names as well. Among the whites – Soave and among the reds- Valpolicella and Bardolino.

The spicy Marsala comes from Sicily and the Lacrima Cristi comes from Compania.


Long known for its fortified wines, Portugal also has table wines that are worth knowing. The monitoring system here is called Denominacao de Origem Controlada. It was established in 1756 to protect the Port growing areas and was later extended to all wine growing regions.

The main regions/wines that you should know about are:

Vinho Verde: Literally means “green wine”. Its green only in the metaphorical sense; its drunk young. The region is the largest demarcated wine making region in Portugal and though there are both red and white wines, the white is exported more.

Near the town of Coimbra are the two wine making regions of Dao and Bairrada. Dao produces some good red wine. It has taken Bairrada two centuries to recover from its vineyards being pulled out by order of the Prime Minister, the Marquis of Pombal (the man who is more famous for re-building Lisbon after the earthquake). Modern wine making methods have been adopted and a lot of good red wine seems to be flowing out.


Though Spain has a long winemaking history (it is the world’s third largest producer of wine), for long it was the low man in the wine-world’s totem pole. The big jolt to the wine biz in Spain happened in 1979 when Miguel Torres – who owned a bodega (Spanish for winery) – used the techniques that he had learnt at Dijon, France to win the first prize at a big wine contest in France. Spanish wine suddenly started happening. It’s stories like this and that of Stags Leap (read about that in the US section) which convince us that there is an Indian wine which is just waiting to be made which will one day knock the living daylights out of the French Grand Crus at some competition.

Spanish wines have since then seen major strides in production techniques and viticulture and today they hold their own in most wine lists. Remember that with less known wine regions you are likely to get to drink wine which could be as good as those from the big names but would be a lot cheaper. Serious winemakers everywhere will lavish the same amount of care and attention on their plants and on wine making, as the most hardened terroiriste from Burgundy.

Two things to know about Spanish wines to get a reasonable idea are the various qualities and the various regions. The equivalent of the AOC system here is the Denominacion de Origen or DO. At the top is the DOC in which the “C” stands for Clacificada .The thing to remember about Spanish wines is that there is major focus on aging in oak barrels. The various grades are:

  • Joven (literally “young”) wines are not required to be aged in casks before release.
  • Crianza wines spend a year in oak barrels and two years in bottles before release.
  • Reserva wines are from select vintages and are aged for a year in oak casks and two in bottles.
  • Gran Reserva, from outstanding vintages spend at least two years in oak casks and three years in bottles.

The wines in Spain are named for the regions (like in France) and these are called denominaciones. The ones to know are the following:

Rioja : More properly Rio Oja (Oja is a tributary of the Ebro) and the best-known denaminacion. It’s in the central part of northern Spain. While there is some white wine that is produced here, the biggies are all red wines made from the Tempronillo grape with quantities of Granacha. Although some Gran Reservas can be expensive there are a lot of good value wines here.

Ribera de Duero : This denominacion runs along the Duero river, southwest of Rioja and was officially named only in 1982. It is supposed to be very much in demand nowadays. The big names are Bodegas Vega Sicilia and Alejandro Fernandez at Pequera de Duero.

Penedes : This region is in Catalonia and the aforementioned Torres is from here.

Cava: Spain’s own sparkling wine is largely made in Penedes and are largely made by the method’ champenoise.

Andalucia: Spain’s hottest region is also home to Sherry –named for the town of Jerez – and other fortified wine. This region has been exporting wine since the Phoenicians established trading links in 1100 BC.

Unusually for Spain, their most interesting white wine is not named for a region but for a grape – Albarino. This is made in Galicia.

Reading a wine label

The information required to be printed on the label is a combination of the mandatory and the optional. For e.g. if it’s a wine made in the European union then it must show the following information:

  • Designation, showing if it’s a table wine, quality wine or one of various other categories such as Vin De Pays
  • Country of origin
  • Alcohol content
  • Bottle size
  • Name, address and country of the bottler
  • When the wine is from a specific area, the traditional terms indicating the wine’s quality must be shown

Old world labels

A wine from the old world will normally not mention the grapes/s it’s made from as winemakers from this region, believe that making a wine is a combination of several factors, one of which is the grape. For an example take a look at the label below:

Old World Label (2)

Front label and back label of a Visual of label – of a Veuve-Clicquot brand.

New world labels

Wines from the new world normally prominently mention the label. Take a look at the label below of a wine from South Africa.

New World Label
Front label and back label of a Visual of label – of a Veuve-Clicquot brand.

Collecting wine labels – How to take the labels off a bottle

Interactive feature – click on the part of the bottle on which you want information and it comes up – Can you use as part of the content itself or as a separate feature.

Opening a bottle of wine

Alternatively subtitled – extracting the cork

One of the horrors I’ve always had about opening a bottle of wine is letting the cork disintegrate and mingle with the wine. I remember back in hostel even worse happening when pieces of glass from the shattered neck of the bottle dropped into the booze. We had to do a speedy rescue operation involving straining the liquid through hankies. A good wine like people of blue blood is not into mingling, and especially with the cork whom it’s kept at arms distance for many a year. So, the primary skill in opening a bottle is to remove the cork and remove it in such a way that you are able to use it to plug the mouth of the bottle again without it being in a million pieces.

The first step is to remove the foil covering the top of the bottle. If you have one, then use a foil cutter (visual), else use a knife to make a thin incision in the foil covering the top of the bottle, then peeling it off. Next wipe any dust or dirt off the bottle with a cloth or wet paper towel (especially the rim). Now onto the cork.

Remember that the cork has originally been inserted into the mouth of the bottle by compressing it and then when it enters the mouth of the bottle it expands to embrace the neck. Therefore extracting a cork requires applying a certain amount of leverage on it. After all it was Archimedes who said in around 240 BC, “Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” He probably had just invented the latter day version of the corkscrew when he made this statement.

The standard version of corkscrew which is used is based on research conducted by Leon D. Adams of the Wine Institute in San Francisco, and a famous physicist, Dr. Leonard B. Loeb. They published a seminal paper on the subject called “Corkscrews that work”, in the Wine Review, May, 1946.

The way to use this kind of corkscrew is to keep screwing the screw into the cork, with all the time the 2 parallel “wings” of the corkscrew rising until they are parallel with the screw and have reached their maximum height of ascension. Now bring both wings down and you shall see the cork rise. If the cork has not risen sufficiently for you to remove it then repeat the above procedure. This may have the detrimental impact of harming the cork however so it’s best to get it done with the first time around.

How to Open Champagne

Kapil Dev began to perpetuate this myth in my mind that bursting open a bottle of champagne was the best way to serve it. It was in a good cause though – I still have that copy of Sportsstar with Kapil on the balcony of Lords celebrating our World Cup victory. Thereafter I always followed this model, until I saw the light.

What a horrible waste of bubbly. Even if you are obscenely rich you will want savour every drop of the liquid which will cost you Rs. 400/- per bottle (for sparkling wine) at its cheapest and may go up as high as your vaults permit.

What is the best way to open a bottle of champagne? Read on. Visual – sketch of champagne bottle – showing it’s various parts – foil, wire
cage, label, punt, cap, shoulder

Method A- The Quiet Plop

The most important thing to bear in mind is that there is a certain amount of carbon dioxide in a bot of sparkling wine which causes considerable pressure to build up in the bottle, therefore the cork if released inappropriately can lead to at least the loss of an eye.

  1. You’ll find that the top of most champagne bottles is covered by this thin foil. First step is to take out a knife and neatly make a thin cut around the base of the cap, thus freeing the foil.
  2. Secondly you may have observed the wire cage which encases the cork and holds it back. Very carefully twist the loop of the wire cage and keep twisting until the loop is freed off the bottle. At all times keep a gentle hold on the cork.
  3. Next hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle (sketch of champagne bottle at 45 degree angle) and rotate the bottle while holding the cork firm.
    Theoretically this is supposed to be done gently but firmly. After a period of time you’ll find that the cork pops out gently.

That process undertaken, now pour a little wine into each glass and let the bubbles settle before coming back and pouring the rest

Method B: The Flying Cork

This is guaranteed to please relatives by marriage and may partially make up for the fact that the apple of their eye is marrying a guy running a liquor site.

Follow Method A till step 3.

The fundamental differences is that now instead of quietly removing the cork with the bottle at an angle, make sure the bottle mouth is facing the ceiling (ie straight-up) and propel the cork out with your thumb of the hand holding the cork. The result is very gratifying.

Storing Wine

Lets clear one thing up first there’s storing wine and there’s storing wine. The first type of storing is for a casual drinker who’s bought a bottle or two here and there and wants to make sure he’s going to get the best out of it when he finally decides to drink it. The second type of storing is for someone who’s building a cellar and is systematically laying away cases of wine for to age and increase in value for future consumption or sale or both. The essential principles of storage are the same in both the cases; only the degree of effort and expense will differ.

Another thing to clear up (which may earn us volleys of abuse from true wines) is that white wine doesn’t really need to be stored for great lengths of time and can be consumed fairly quickly after purchase. It’s red wines, which greatly benefit from storage.

That bit cleared up, lets start with for want of a better expression, what we call the Casual Storer.

Casual storer

You’ve bought a bottle of wine and don’t intend to drink it immediately. That said, it’s best to buy wine at least a week before you actually drink it so that it has a chance to rest. So you’re wondering whether to plonk it into the fridge or keep it with the rest of your booze, which are stored horizontally. Do neither; find a cool, dry part of your house. If you’re willing to shell out a few hundred rupees buy a wine rack – visual (which you’ll find made out of pressed wood or corrugated iron), else make do with a cardboard box and store the wine on it’s side. The reason for storing the wine on its side is to ensure that the cork remains in contact with the wine, which will keep the bottle airtight. The moment you keep the bot upright you run the risk of the cork shriveling up and air entering the bot.

With air comes bacteria and before you know it your wine will be a genetically modified organism.

The Collector

May their breed grow. Some day I hope to be one of this company, until then alas alack and vice-versa, I belong to the former. If you’re a collector and reading this then in any case you’ll know what needs to be done. Nevertheless I’ll soldier on. Who knows you may be somewhere in between the Casual storer and the Collector. You would be storing wine if you’ve bought it when it’s young and now want to let it mature so that you can savour it at a later date and also let it increase in value. Before we begin to expostulate further let us sum up by saying that wine needs to be stored in clean, dark, damp place with good ventilation, where it can be stored vibration free at a constant temperature.

The key elements 


The optimum temperature is 10-12 degree centigrade, however practically speaking anywhere between 5 to 18 degree should do. The other important thing to consider is to avoid a large variation in the degree of temperature.


Humidity levels should be between 50% to 80% otherwise you run the risk of the cork getting screwed.


Constant exposure to light will prematurely age the wine and sparkling wines are more sensitive to over exposure.


Avoid excessive sound, which will create vibration and thus make the molecules in the wine go rub a dub a dub thereby making it that much less tastier. Also make sure that you’ve laid out your wines in such a way that you don’t have to keep moving them while looking for that elusive bottle. The serious wine-geeks will have an individual tag for each bottle.

Really if you’ve got the money and the space then you can enjoy the luxury of buying a temperature and humidity controlled wine cabinet. Eurocave are one of the world’s premier suppliers of wine storage infrastructure and you can contact Sansula beverages in India for more details (Ph: 022 232 4000).

Box: Storing Leftover wine

  • White wine: Recork it and put it back into the fridge, but no more than for a few days, after that it’s gone
  • Red wine: Buy a vacuum pump, which pumps the air out of the bottle.  You’ll need to do this a couple of times a day and the wine can be kept for a few days.
  • Use it for cooking
  • Pour the wine into a smaller bottle, so that there’s less chance of exposure to air

Serving wine or champagne by the glass is something, which only a few bars in the country do (contact Sansula for more details on which ones).

Tulleeho’s Desi Solution

Another year or two will hopefully see the customs duties come down to more saner levels and then you can start putting together a cellar of your own. Before it gets large (and you get serious) enough for it to warrant a cellar of its own, you’ll be at a stage where you will have fifty-odd bottles, which you will want to preserve. This collection would be large enough to warrant reasonable amount of care.

If you have a standard workday fridge which you want to get rid of (because you want a big one) and are therefore looking for exchange offers, pause a minute. Any local fridge can be converted into a wine storage unit very cheaply. A fridge with say three racks will easily double that number if you are looking at storing only wine. Assuming you will be able to keep say five bottles per rack, that gives you a storage capacity for thirty bottles straight away. The chiller will hold three more and the crisper for vegetables will hold say five. So now you are touching the forty bottle capacity mark.

The doors of the fridge (where you keep all the bottles and eggs and other such shit) can be converted into holder for the larger bottles-magnums and longish bottles of the type that Alsatian wines use.

Nowadays most fridges come with thermostats that are separate for the fridge and the freezer. Please increase the temperature in the freezer and at its warmest it should safely hold another five/six bottles. Voila, a fifty bottle storage.

Breathing and decanting

Page 1

One is often told that red wines should be allowed to breathe before they are served. Have you heard that too? Some critics believe that it is a rather pretentious practice, and unless you are a professional wine taster or a true connoisseur (how does one recognize this select breed anyway?!), it is nigh impossible to tell the subtle difference. Should one or shouldn’t one? Why on earth do red wines need to breathe? Does it honestly help? I decided to do a bit of investigating to try and resolve the issue.

The other inseparable component of red wine service is `decanting’. Another hotly debated topic. Incidentally, the first English dictionary defined a `decanter’ (visual of decanter) as a `glass vessel for pouring off a liquid clear from its lees’. Lees are the deposits thrown by wine during the process of maturation. In the early days when wine making was not such a fine art, most wine came murky with sediment. It was essential that the clear wine be separated from the deposits which called for siphoning it into a glass decanter. The decanter showed the color and brilliance of the wine to perfection and everybody was happy. With advances in technology, young wines do not have deposits any more. Why then is decanting still recommended? Again, its the `let it breathe’ funda in action.

Exposing the wine purposely to air was a custom established by the British. There seem to be two main benefits. A bottle of wine which has been maturing for a number of years in a cellar tends to build up `bottle stink’ in the small airspace inside. A few minutes of breathing helps to dissipate the stale air and let the wine `open up’, thus enhancing its bouquet. For how long it should breathe or which wines can withstand decanting would depend on the age of the wine. The French are very specific on this subject. A well matured wine represents a wonderful but fragile equilibrium which can be easily destroyed by over exposure to air. So, a few minutes of breathing or decanting gently (it almost inevitably will have sediment) by pouring the wine down the `sides’ of the decanter should prevent unwanted aeration.

Generally speaking, barring the truly great heirlooms which merit reverential treatment, most bottles seem to benefit from aeration. The oxygen starved wine begins to develop aromas and nuances that were otherwise suppressed. Young reds, still brash and aggressive with tannins, tend to mellow a little and drink more smoothly. Slightly mature ones give off more fragrance after a while in the decanter than in the bottle.

Ordinary wines seem to taste softer and fresher after aeration and those with an underdeveloped `nose’ are encouraged to release the least volatile of its aromas. The key question is of course, how does one know when to stop?

Box: Gyan

Why doesn’t the breathing rule apply to the whites? Because most of them do not contain tannin (barrel aged whites being exceptions), thus no great quantity of intense volatile essences that need to be developed. White wines rely on their inherent freshness to please and that is their endearing quality.

Page 2

A safe practice is – the younger the wine, the longer it can breathe. Similarly with decanting. The newer wines tend to benefit most from aeration. In cooler climes, one could even decant the wine several hours before serving, then stoppering it till it was time. Unfortunately, we can’t do that in Mumbai or for that matter in most tropical countries. It’s much too warm. Delhi in winter would be perfect though. Most of our Indian wines, Grover’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Indage’s Chantilli Cabernet and Riviera Red or even Bosca Cabernet are best cool, which means a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Should the refrigerator be absolutely odourfree, it is safe to open the bottle half an hour earlier and leave it unstoppered inside.

If you are even slightly uncertain, wrap the bottle with a hand towel dipped in cold water while it breathes outside. This will help retain its coolness. If you prefer to present it in a decanter, then transfer the wine around fifteen minutes before service. And you don’t need to pour it in gently.

Now if you have managed to get your hands on some exciting French, Californian or even Australian vintage wine, 4 -5 years old, you’re in for a treat. I’d tell you to try each step one by one. Oh yes, these need to be cooled as well. And you’d be better off drinking them at home rather than in a crowded, noisy, smoke-filled restaurant. Try the first glass immediately after opening, always pouring to fill 1/3 glass. Drink in the aroma and feel it in the mouth. Let it breathe a while in the bottle, keeping it cool with a wet towel, and try and detect the changes in the second glass. The bouquet will be a hint accentuated, the taste a mite softer on the palate. Now pour it into a decanter, letting the wine have an increased contact with the air. Glass three might find itself livelier with a distinctly rounder nose. You may not be able to tell all the subtleties instantly, but if you’re even a quarter as obsessed as I am, you’ll pick up fast enough.

Box: Tip

Since we’re on the pointer trail, here’s another handy hint on how to cool a bottle of red wine if you are in a hotel room which cannot provide you with a wine bucket. Wrap it in a wet hand towel and stand it in full blast of the air conditioner. 15 mins should do the trick nicely. At home, even a bottle of white wine can be cooled fast enough if you wrap it in a wet towel and chuck it into the freezer for a similar time.

Page 3

Say you are at a restaurant, the chances are you will be presented a red wine at room temparature. Don’t be embarrased to ask the steward to cool your bottle. And if he gives you a supercilious “don’t you know red wine is drunk at room temparature?” look – sock it to him! I will go as far as to say, mildly cool (10 mins. in a wine bucket to about 18-20 degrees C) even the best wine while it breathes and you’ll be surprised. The aromas of a wine’s bouquet are released according to their volatility and the temparature at which they are served. Served too cold, it will release little, if any bouquet. Served too hot, there is danger of oxidation, destruction or a combining of the highly volatile aromas or a loss of the aromatic elements. Warm red wine, unless drunk as mulled wine, can taste flat and indifferent.

Box: How to decant (to remove grape deposits)

  • Tools – corkscrew, decanter/carafe/clean bottle, candle or flashlight, clean, odourfree plastic tube (3 – 4 feet)

The first thing to do is to stand the bottle upright for a day to let the sediment settle. Then opt for one of two methods.

  1. The essential ingredients are a steady hand and clear view of the wine passing through the neck of the bottle. This means shining the candle or flash from under the neck upwards. Pour the wine gently but continuously into the aiting receptacle until you see the formation of an opaque arrow that indicates the sediment. Stop right there.
  2. This is simpler. The decanter or carafe is held or stood at a slightly lower level than the bottle. Immerse one end of the tube into the wine and suck at the other end until you can see the wine 3/4th down the tube. Pop it into the waiting decanter and let it flow until the level of the bottle reaches about an inch above the sediment. Pull the tube out of the bottle.

Observing, smelling and tasting

Observing and smelling

All liquor where you wish to smell and sip should be had in tulip glasses as the aroma is caged in here (this includes Single Malt whiskys). Wines should be filled to one-third of the gloss. You may wish to check the colour. Hold up the glass against a white surface. A red wine will be lightish red to almost brown. A rose’ will be pinkish and a white wine will be anything from pale yellow to deep gold. In both red and white wines, colour is an indication of body (intensity of flavour). The lighter the colour the lighter the body and vice versa. In wines as in diamonds, colour and clarity are measures of soundness.

After this visual treat it is time for the olfactory appraisal. Hold the base or the stem of the glass and twirl the glass. The wines should swirl about and releases its bouquet. Raise the glass and smell it. You will over time learn to recognize the smell that is technically called aroma- the smell of the grape rather than the wine.

In doing so, you may follow one of two schools of thought, the first opting for a quick first impression sniff followed by a deeper one, the second opting for a deeper sniff the first time around.

A couple of helpful tools to help you out with this process have been produced by the French (Le Nez du Vin, which literally means the nose of wine and is a set of boxed sets of concentrated smells) and the Americans (Professor A.C. Noble of the University of California, Davis) who’ve produced a wine aroma wheel for ready reference when you’re sniffing your way around.


Aroma box

The normal types of aromas you can expect to find are:

  • Herbs and spices
  • Flowers
  • Fruits
  • Smells associated with deserts
  • Earthy, woody scents
  • Unpleasant smells


  • Maintain a notebook to jot down your impressions on each wine you drink, with your likes and dislikes next to it. This would make it easier for you when you’re actually buying wine off the shelf.


There is more hype per square inch to wine tasting than to any other activity relating to anything to do with your mouth (with the possible exception of kissing). I remember attending a wine-tasting workshop that was organized by Alliance along with Grover Vineyards, where the entire process was imbued with an almost ecclesiastical ritual. I came away very psyched. Later a friend’s father who has been into fine wines for decades did much to demystify the whole thing.

Remember, you are the best judge of what you like. So begin by sticking to one wine and drinking it in small quantities regularly. You will become familiar with one wine and when you taste another one you’ll be able to make out the difference.

Take in a small amount and run it over your tongue before swallowing it. Let the aftertaste develop. All the experts agree that this is the most distinctive part of the wine. Over time, this aftertaste is what enables one to distinguish one wine from another.

Drinking wine

What it tastes like Most of us know what to expect from sweet wines; a fruity, faintly acidic and alcoholic taste which is sweet. The absolute opposite of sweet is `dry’ in wine language. There is no trace of sweetness at all, just the tart and sort of parching flavour, a hint of acidity and the dry taste of alcohol. Then, with the addition of a degree of sweetness, you can have a medium dry, medium sweet or sweet. The sweet wines are easy on the palate, the medium will follow soon enough, the dry take some getting used to. Go easy, try them slowly and soon you will be able to appreciate them.

This range of adjectives applies normally only to white and sparkling wines or to sherry. Red wines are universally accepted as being almost always dry. The descriptions here are `young’, `soft’, `round’, `tannic’, `full bodied’, `old’, etc. A mite difficult to understand already, but given time, it’ll come easy.

Maintaining the right temperature Let’s squash a major misconception – `red wine must always be drunk at room temperature’. That’s all very well, but what room temperature are we talking about? What the books refer to is 18 degrees C. The Indian average is 30 plus, 22 in restaurants maybe and highly undesirable!

Since locally produced reds are `young’- not aged, drink them between 14 – 16, cool but not chilled. Similarly, whites and sparkling wines are drunk between 5 and 15 degrees – sweet whites and sparkling at the lower end, young whites between 5 – 10 and the best around 12-15. All our wines are young again, so drink them chilled. But after all this, it really depends on how you like them. If you prefer your reds as cold as your whites, don’t let anyone stop you.

Aperitif wines are mostly drunk as mixers, rarely on their own. This is usually because their intense aroma is rather overpowering, few can appreciate them straight up. Vermouth (in all its styles) is used in Martinis and Manhattans, among others. Also interesting `on lots of rocks’ with a slice of orange or lemon and a splash of soda.

Table: Optimum temperature

Wine Temperature (degrees centigrade)
Red wines (foreign) 14 to 20
Red wines (Indian) 14 to 16
Sweet whites and sparkling ~ 5
Young whites 5-10
Best white wines 12-15

Did you know

The term ‘aperitif’ literally means to whet the appetite as they are served before dinner.


Chill your red wines an hour or so in the refrigerator before drinking.

Buying glasses


  • Whether it it is local or imported, use clear glass – without ornate design to obstruct from view the color of the wine you’re drinking.
  • Make sure the glass is made from good quality lead crystal. The glasses quality is also marked by its slenderness and by the number of facets you see reflected
  • The bowl of the glass should be round to bring the wine in contact with oxygen and thus release it’s aromas. Ideal bowl size is around 12 ounces, so that you can safely pour 4 ounces in and swirl away to glory. At the top it should taper inwards to prevent the aroma from escaping
  • Make sure that the stem of the glass is long and thin so that your hand doesn’t inadvertently end up warming the bowl
  • It’s perfectly okay to make do with one all-purpose wine glass. The one exception to this being champagne, which is best served in flutes. For more info on champagne glasses go here. For those who are well-heeled connoisseurs, they can go ahead and buy a different glass for each occasion. The underlying theory here being that each different type of wine releases it’s bouquet in a different way and therefore the glass design must reflect that so that the aroma reaches your nose and also designed to ensure that the part of your tongue which needs to be hit is done so.

Quality Classification

Message in a Bottle- Are you drinking the real thing or is it just dishwater with a fancy label?

Why should one wine command a higher price than another? After all they are all fermented grape juice. However as we can see, there are tremendous variations due to differences in growing condition and due the skills of the winemakers. There differences are highlighted by the differences in prices.

There are different measures of quality applied by different wine producing regions. Below are brief explanations of each.


France has four quality categories for wines. In ascending order of importance these are:

  • Vin de Table: Table wines that are non-vintage, blended and bought for everyday drinking. They can come from any one or several of France’s diverse wine regions. Buy to drink.
  • Vin de Pays (VdP): Country regional wines coming from clearly defined areas such as VdP d’Oc, which appears on the label. Can be vintage or non-vintage. Usually offer good quality at reasonable prices. Tightly regulated but allows greater freedom than A/C laws.
  • Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieur (VDQS): Represented as a stamp on the label. The majority are good, interesting wines aiming for a higher quality grading. Slowly being phased out.
  • Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or A/C): Highest grading for French wines. Quality controls cover everything from land (vineyard site), grapes, cultivation, yield at harvest, winemaking practices and even degree of alcohol in the final wine. Wines must also pass a tasting and chemical analysis. .Appellation Controlee’ System. Invented in the 1930s, this system organizes most of the wines of France geographically. It is the ultimately comprehensive area of origin certificate. What you’ll see on a label is “ Appellation__________ Controlee ”. The blank could be filled by a region (such a Cotes de Rhone or Bourgogne – Burgundy) or a district (such as Medoc in Bordeaux) or a commune (such as Nuits-Saint Georges in Cotes de Nuits in Burgundy) or even of an individual vineyard.

Just remember, the more specific the appellation (i.e. the smaller the geographical feature) the better the wine will be. Read More: Link to Bruno’s answer about AOC


A different quality grading system than other European countries except Austria. Quality is graded according to the ripeness of the grapes at harvest.
In ascending order:

Deutscher Tafelwein: Table Wine, usually medium dry.

Deutscher Tafelwein Landwein: Regional country wines, dry or semi-dry.

Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA): Quality wines from one of the thirteen designated, quality regions of Germany.

Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP): The finest-quality wines with designated, special quality attributes of which there are six. Appearing on the label they are in ascending order of sweetness: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese. Austria operates the same type of quality system with an extra grading known as Ausbruch for rich, sweet wines


Label Integrity Programme (LIP): This programme was introduced with effect from 1990 to uphold the integrity of information stated on the label regarding vintage, variety or geographical indication. LIP Inspectors continuously monitor the industry.

Geographical and Varietal Indication on the Label: For a label to claim, say Clare Valley and Shiraz, the vine variety should be at least 85% Shiraz-sourced and grown 85% in the Clare Valley.

Vintage: At least 85% of the wine must be from the stated vintage.

Back Label: The back, front, neck, cap and any other labels have equal status in Australian wine law, so information may appear on either the front or back label.
The only mandatory-requirement on the label exposed on the shelf to the consumer (front) is that for the volume statement.

Read More: Click here

4.South African

The quality designation is Wine of Origin, followed by the name of the region. If a wine carries a vintage on the label, it must be produced from at
least 75% of grapes of that particular harvest. If a grape variety is mentioned on the label, the wine must be produced from 75% of the stated
variety. The Wine of Origin designation appears as a seal on the side of the neck of the bottle. It certifies that any information given on the label
relating to vintage, origin or grape variety is correct.

5. DOCG (Italy)

The Denominazione di Origine system, No. 930 enacted in 1963, established a DOCG category among the other appellations. The “G” in
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita means “Guaranteed.” DOC or Denominazioe Di Origine is similar to the French Aoc system. Only it does not seem to be any where close to the kind of benchmark that AOC is.

6. AVA

American Viticultural Area. This is the American version of the AOC system. The word “appellation: will not appear anywhere on the bottle. Instead there will be a place name like California or Napa Valley or to be more specific say “Russian River Valley”. If the AVA name is on the label it means that 85% of the grape in that wine has to come from that area. Hence if the label says Sonoma County, 85% of the grapes will be grown in Sonoma County. A wine with an AVA designation- such as Stags Leap- must contain 85% of the grapes from that AVA. A Vineyard designated wine must contain 95% of its grapes from that vineyard. Vineyard names must be used along with County or AVA names. California also has a law that requires “Napa Valley” to appear on labels in conjunction with any sub-viticultural area within Napa, i.e. a label with the designation “Rutherford” must also have “Napa Valley”.

To learn more click here-

7. Spain

The Demominación de Origen system is controlled by INDO – Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen. INDO, under the direction of The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, administers the D.O. system for a broad range of agricultural products ranging from wine and olive oil, to cured hams and cheeses.


Champagne is probably one of the most well-known of all wines. It is the epitome of romance. The spirit of celebration. The harbinger of all things wonderful. It has enthralled humankind over the years, especially the rich and famous who imbibed the elegant bubbly in copious quantities. Many a young maiden was subtly seduced with this mystical aphrodisiac, her inhibitions sent flying out with the winds.

The creation of champagne (sham-pain) is generally credited to `Dom Perignon’, the cellar-master at the Abbey of Hautvillers at the end of the 17th century though some historians believe that it was actually the British who accidentally stumbled upon the recipe. On bottling the barrels of wine shipped to them from Champagne, they found that some of the wine underwent a secondary fermentation in the bottle, probably due to some leftover yeast and sugars that found some warmth in the English cellars. But it most certainly was Perignon who honed this discovery to a fine art. It was he who introduced the art of blending different wines from the various areas of Champagne, to create a `cuvee’ (pronounced cue-vay), which helped the wine to harness the best of each grape quality and presenting a unique style of wine. It was he who thought of putting an additional bit of yeast and sugar into the bottled wine to ensure a livelier wine. And after losing a lot of it to burst bottles, Dom Perignon invented the `muzzled cork’ to keep the bubbles in.

Thus was born the mother of all wines, the queen bee. And yes, only the wines made by `methode champenoise’ from the `Champagne’ region can be called champagne. The rest are simply `champagne type’ wines. For those of you interested in grape variety, champagne is mostly made from a blend of three main grapes: the Pinot Noir – which provides the structure and body to the wine; Pinot Meunier – which gives it fruitiness and soft, mellow notes; and Chardonnay – which pitches in by adding elegance and finesse to the wine. The proportion of the grapes is secret to individual houses and that in turn establishes the unique flavour of each champagne brand. Apart from using these different wines for a `cuvee’, ensuring consistency of flavour for a specific brand calls for a blend of `reserve’ wines form different `years’ that are added to the blend. Experts taste the blend to make sure it conforms to pre-set standards before it is laid to rest deep in the cellars underground to mature and develop before it is put on the market.

Sometimes the vineyards are blessed by an exceptional harvest and the winemaker decides that the champagne will be made entirely from that year’s grapes. It is then known as `vintage champagne’. The style is unique to that year, is always more expensive than the regular champagne, and the vintage year is printed on the label to distinguish it from any other champagne.

Just as most champagnes are blends of black and white grapes, some are made `blanc de blancs’ – purely from white grapes or `blanc de noirs’ – from dark grapes but without their color. Also available is `pink’ champagne – made by the addition of a very delicate red wine of the Champagne region known as `Bouzy Rouge’.

Champagne comes in various degrees of sweetness from the bone dry `Brut’ to the lusciously sweet `doux’ champagnes. In between there’s `Extra Sec’ or dry, `Sec’ or faintly sweet and `Demi-sec’ or sweet. It is the dry variety that is rather popular. It is widely drunk as an aperitif, often to the echo of toasts and applause. Two very contradictory flavours that are all-time favourites are `champagne and caviar’ and `champagne with fresh strawberries’.

G.H.Mumm, Krug, Charles Heidsieck, Moet et Chandon, Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin, Piper-Heidsieck, Lanson, Mercier, Bollinger, Taittinger, Pol Roger, Perrier-Jouet and Louis Roederer are some of the big names in champagne.


Though champagne is widely regarded as the bigwig, extremely good sparkling wines are made in many areas of France as indeed in other parts of the world. Of course, they cannot be called champagne. Nevertheless, they are deserving of some merit and, can on occasion, be quite outstanding. They are known as `vin mousseaux’ when made by the `methode champenoise’; the others being vin `cremant’ or softly sparkling and vin `petillant’ with just a hint of sparkle. In France, both Bordeaux and Burgundy regions make sparkling wines as do parts of the Loire and Rhone valley.

The Germans make their own version of sparkling wine known as `Sekt’ which tends to be low in alcohol and very refreshing. The Italians have `Spumante’ of which `Asti’ is the best known. The other is the `Moscato Spumante’. Both tend to be rather sweet and are fun drinks. The Spanish too have a big sparkling wine industry in `Vilafranca’, Codornieu and Freixenet being popular brands. The `Vinho verde’ of Portugal are young and faintly fizzy wines of which the Mateus rose is a well-known example. Even the Russians make `Shampanskoe’ and drink it, sometimes (wishful thinking?!) in preference to vodka! But indubitably the best non-champagne sparkling wines are made in the United States and Australia with our own `Marquise de Pompadour’ and `Joie’ not far behind.


veuve-clicquot-ponsardin 2002 vintage

`Myth and reality, legend and pure pleasure. A very special champagne conquered the world by living up to its motto: “only one quality, the finest”’.

Founded on 3 January 1772 by Pierre Cliquot, the first case of Veuve Cliquot made its appearance in Moscow in 1780 – a prelude to a phenomenal success in the land of the czars. By 1782, Cliquot champagne was making its mark in the USA with a big marketing campaign. The name Ponsardin was added when Pierre’s son Francois married NicoleBarbe Ponsardin, who went on, after the premature death of her husband, to achieve unprecedented success and was known as the `Grand Dame’ of champagne.

It was Madam Cliquot who created history in 1816 when she invented a process for clarifying wines called the ‘remuage‘. She was also one of the first to launch a relentless campaign against forgeries by engraving her initials along with an anchor on all Cliquot bottles. The vineyards that she aquired during her reign are today, one of the best in the region. The 286 hectares of the Veuve Cliquot estate are divided among 12 of the 17 Grands Crus and 14 of the 39 Premiers Crus. The three main grape varieties used for their champages are Pinot Noir – which provides structure, substance and persistence to the style, Chardonnay – which adds elegance and finesse during blending and Pinot Meunier – which gives it interesting fruity notes and a lovely mellowness.Veuve Clicquot

Some Cliquot Admirers:

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin has, over the years, gathered some illustrious followers. In Russia, Pushkin, Gogol and Chekov helped to make it something of a legend. Closer home, Appolinaire, Claude Monet, Marcel Proust and Sacha Guitry were among its fervent supporters. In the 1920s, couturier Paul Poiret organised sumptuous parties where Cliquot champagne flowed like water.

The courts of Denmark Sweden, Greece and Great Britain offer their allegiance. In 1956, magnums of Brut 1929 were sent to Monaco on the occasion of the marraige of Prince Rainier to Grace Kelly.In 1970, Veuve Cliquot made a special champagne for the jubilee in 1977 of the Queen of Britain. Members of the Cliquot Family:

La Grande Dame: Created in 1972 in honor of its founder to celebrate their Bicentenary, it is a vintage champagne made exclusively from the eight Grands Crus. An absolute masterpiece.

Rose Reserve: The 1985 vintage is a collector’s item, one of the best rose champagnes of the latter part of the 20th century.

Vintage Reserve: The authentic character of champagne with a rounded aroma, dominated by dried fruit tones.

Rich Reserve: Cliquot’s latest creation, a vintage champagne with a slightly higher `dosage’, conceived specifically to partner fine food.

Brut Yellow Label: A perfect aperitif wine, combining finesse with strength. One of the most widely drunk champagnes.

Demi-Sec: This fruity wine has the elegant charm of a sweetness that is never cloying.


Commissioned in 1974 to devise a drink to commemorate the release of the film `The Great Gatsby’, and the reissue of the book by Penguin, celebrated wine and spirit author Cyril Ray decided that it should be a cocktail that truly exemplified America. Thus was born `Fizz Gerald’, in honour of Scott Fitzgerald, a combination of Southern Comfort, peach bitters and chilled champagne, poured over a thick slice of orange into a generously large, wine glass.

The year was 1860, the city, New Orleans. Where majestic paddlewheel steamboats chugged their way along the mighty Mississippi and watering holes abounded. And in one of them, quite possibly inspired by the intensely magical and searing blues and jazz of the era, M.W.Heron, a young barkeeper, perfected the recipe for a smooth and mellow drink which he christened Southern Comfort. In those days of harsh tasting and diluted whiskies, the unique flavour and fine quality of this new drink made it, very quickly, a New Orleans favourite.

His new-found prosperity encouraged Heron to move to Memphis, Tennessee, where he set up his own bar and began selling Southern Comfort in sealed glass bottles – an assurance of the real thing and increasing portability. The brand’s popularity zoomed and Southern Comfort was on its way to becoming one of the best loved, all-American drink. Which prompted another move to St.Louis, Missouri, still on the banks of the Mississippi, the gateway to the American west, Heron’s final resting place.

I was introduced to `The Grand Old Drink Of The South’ a couple of years ago by my young cousin Arpita (it was me who initiated her to the fine art of appreciating liqueurs until she moved to England and became worldly wise!), and I have ever been greatful. So was I yahooing like crazy or what when this freaky drink announced its arrival in Mumbai?! Recently, amidst much gana and hungama, on the beautifully spacious lawns of `The Resort’ at Malad, Southern Comfort was launched. For me, it turned out to be a double treat – my favourite drink and meeting my old batch-mate, Anuj Prakash, from college after more than ten years. He turned out to be the General Manager of the hotel!! Perfect evening.

But I soon discovered, much to my dismay, that almost nobody knew what Southern Comfort actually was. Most expected it to be a `bourbon whiskey’ and were a mite disappointed that it wasn’t. Did you guys have the same problem? Not to fear. I shall reveal all. So what is this dashed drink? It is a liqueur based on bourbon whiskey, sweet without cloying, flavoured with peaches and oranges and herbs and other stuff that they won’t tell you about. I’d call it an `aperitif’ liqueur ’cause it’s a great mixable spirit, and can be drunk quite like one would a regular whiskey. And of course, a mega point to be noted, it isn’t low alcohol like all our other liqueurs but a full 75 proof. In fact, in its native land, it is a 100 proof spirit.

How does one drink it? Well, the best and easiest way to drink it is to slosh a generous amount over lots of `rocks’. Should you like your drink sweet and tall, add lemonade or 7Up or Citra to the rocks with a squeeze of lime. Tonic instead of the lemonade makes it interesting; a hint of Campari adds a definite zing. Southern Comfort and Cola is popular but it might taste better with ginger ale or a combination of ginger ale and 7Up. Then there’s the (pardon me) Comfortable Screw which is Southern Comfort and fresh orange juice and Very Comfortable Screw which is a regular Screwdriver (vodka and orange juice) with a splash of Southern Comfort.

A Southern Sour – Southern Comfort, juice of 1/2 a lime and a little egg white shaken with 4-5 ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and strained into a stemmed glass – is quite delicious as is Comfortably Creamy which is Southern Comfort and vanilla ice cream shaken together. Add Kellys cream liqueur to that and you have a Kellys Comfort. Comfort In Manhattan is simply 90ml of Southern Comfort and 20ml sweet vermouth poured on the rocks. And since the makers of this fabulous spirit urge you to `Do your own thing’, try any combination that takes your fancy.

There’s this fundu American cocktail expert called Trader Vic who owns a string of bars by the same name and has written all sorts of wonderful and absolutely zany books on the subject, whose recipe for Champagne Apricot is really neat. It calls for freezing whole apricots in the ice tray, then using one frozen fruit per glass, a tot of Southern Comfort and topping it with chilled champagne. A slice of peach works just as well or even dried apricots (Jardaloo) soaked in Southern Comfort overnight And while I’ve been waxing eloquent about this new drink, I almost forgot to tell that it comes in two styles – Amber and Crystal. The Amber is the `real’ thing while the Crystal is its clear variant much like a schnapps or a flavoured vodka which, honestly, I had never even heard of before. Hence all the above works of art involve the `Amber’. The Crystal is sweeter, with a fresh flavour and should taste good with tonic and lemon, lemonade and fresh fruit juices. The Amber is full bodied and round, with the barrel-oak notes of old bourbon. Mind blowing. Go get it.

And while on the subject of new spirits, I must tell you about another liqueur which was introduced some time ago called `Europa 2000’ by Madame Rosa of Goa. It is an incredibly good almond liqueur, a boon to anyone who likes Amaretto. Available only in Goa as yet, should hit our shelves by the end of the year. Worth asking for a couple of bottles from obliging friends.

How to Serve Champagne

Kapil Dev began to perpetuate this myth in my mind that bursting open a bottle of champagne was the best way to serve it – by wasting it and spraying the bubbly all around the field. Thereafter I always followed this model, until I saw the light. What is the best way to open a bottle of champagne? Read on.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that there is a certain amount of carbon dioxide in a bot of sparkling wine which causes considerable pressure to build up in the bottle, therefore the cork if released inappropriately can lead to at least the loss of an eye.

You’ll find that the top of most champagne bottles is covered by this thin foil. First step is to take out a knife and neatly make a thin cut around the base of the cap, thus freeing the foil. Secondly you may have observed the wire cage which encases the cork and holds it back. Very carefully twist the loop of the wire cage and keep twisting until the loop is freed off the bottle. At all times keep a gentle hold on the cork.

If you happen to be serving champagne in a restaurant then it’s always correct to show the guest the label before going through the above rigmarole. After all if he’s paying the odd thousands of rupees for a bottle of fine champagne, the least he would like to do is to see the label (and show off to his guests).

Next hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle (sketch of champagne bottle at 45 degree angle) and rotate the bottle while holding the cork firm. Theoretically this is supposed to be done gently but firmly. After a period of time you’ll find that the cork pops out gently.

That process undertaken, now pour a little wine into each glass and let the bubbles settle before coming back and pouring the rest. Champagne is normally served in a flute, the funda being to do with the preservation of the bubbles more elegantly in a flute.

Champagne Bottle Shapes

Ever wonder why a champagne bottle is shaped the way it is?! We at Tulleeho have just the info for you.

The champagne bottle design was created more on a need basis than for style. The thick glass, the gently sloping shoulders and the deep punt (indentation at the bottom) are necessary to withstand the high pressure inside. Though not seen much in India, champagne bottles come in various sizes and some of these sizes have names with origins that date back centuries.



Split 187 ml quarter bottle
Demi 375 ml half bottle
Bottle 750 ml standard bottle
Magnum 1.5 L two bottles
Jeroboam 3.0 L four bottles
Rehoboam 4.5 L six bottles (ceased production in 1980s)
Methuselah 6.0 L eight bottles
Salmanazar 9.0 L twelve bottles
Balthazar 12 L sixteen bottles
Nebuchadnezzar 15 L twenty bottles
Sovereign 26 L thirty-four bottles

Fermentation mostly happens in the standard or magnum bottle. Other bottles named after biblical figures are filled with champagne fermented in the standard or magnum bottles. Some of the unique sizes were made for special occasions or people and hence named after the person.

Jeroboam (4 bottles) 3 liters:

Jeroboam (actually Jeroboam II), was the King of Israel during the year of Rome’s founding (753 BC).

Rehoboam (6 bottles) 4.5 liters:

A son of Solomon, Rehoboam (meaning “the clan is enlarged” according to Willard Espy) became king of Judah in 933 BC.

Methuselah (8 bottles) 6 liters:

Methuselah was an antediluvian patriarch described in the Old Testament as having lived 969 years and whose name is synonymous with great age. He may well have evolved from a character of earlier Sumerian legend that lived for 65,000 years.

Salmanazar (12 bottles) 9 liters:

Shalmaneser (alternatively spelled Salmanazar) was an Assyrian monarch who reigned around 1250 BC.

Balthazar (16 bottles) 12 liters:

Balthazar (“King of Treasures”) is the traditional name of one of the Three Wise Men, the other two being Melchior (“King of Light”) and Gaspar (“The White One”).

Nebuchadnezzar (20 bottles) 15 liters:

Nebuchadnezzar II, originally nabu-kudurri-usur meaning “Nabu protects the boundary,” became King of the Chaldean Empire in 604 BC.
We asked Bruno Yvon (Regional Marketing Director, Asia Pacific for Moet Hennessy Wine Estates), about his favorite to which he said “My favorite sizes are 75cl and Magnum: excellent ageing potential and very convenient. Jeroboam (3liters) is also very good for storage and/or for a larger crowd to drink. Other formats are more anecdotic and to fit a special occasion (wedding, celebration…). They are not good for long ageing.”

You may or may not get to see these bottles for real but now you at least know the types of bottles so your not dumbstruck if someone around is discussing champagne or you can strike up a conversation to show off your knowledge on the “bubbly”.


Though champagne is widely regarded as the bigwig, extremely good sparkling wines are made in many areas of France as indeed in other parts of the world. Of course, they cannot be called champagne. Nevertheless, they are deserving of some merit and, can on occasion, be quite outstanding. They are known as `vin mousseaux’ when made by the `methode champenoise’; the others being vin `cremant’ or softly sparkling and vin `petillant’ with just a hint of sparkle. In France, both Bordeaux and Burgundy regions make sparkling wines as do parts of the Loire and Rhone valley.

The Germans make their own version of sparkling wine known as `Sekt’ which tends to be low in alcohol and very refreshing. The Italians have `Spumante’ of which `Asti’ is the best known. The other is the `Moscato Spumante’. Both tend to be rather sweet and are fun drinks. The Spanish too have a big sparkling wine industry in `Vilafranca’, Codornieu and Freixenet being popular brands. The `Vinho verde’ of Portugal are young and faintly fizzy wines of which the Mateus rose is a well-known example. Even the Russians make `Shampanskoe’ and drink it, sometimes (wishful thinking?!) in preference to vodka! But indubitably the best non-champagne sparkling wines are made in the United States and Australia with our own `Marquise de Pompadour’ and `Joie’ not far behind.

Prosecco – It is an Italian sparkling wine which is produced from a grape variety called Glera, which was formerly known as Prosecco. However the wine acquires it’s name from a village called Prosecco located near the town of Trieste (translating to ‘Sad’ in Latin) a significant quantity comes from regions in Veneto. These wines are carbonated using the Charmat process where the second or secondary fermentation takes place in tanks and the wine is bottled under pressure.Prosecco zonin 160

Cava – It is a sparkling wine from Spain, mainly produced in the Penedes region in Catalunya. Cava is a latin word that translates to ‘Cave’ in English as the wine was preserved or aged in caves in the olden days. Just like Champagne, Cava is also produced using Methode Champenoise process. The grapes permitted for making this Spanish bubbly are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel lo and Subirat.


Bordeaux Classification

First Growth, Second Growth and the 1855 Classification of Medoc, Bordeaux The classification of wines as a means to rate wines for market purposes has been attempted since the 14th century in France, Germany and Italy, but the only classification that has had any lasting value and is still respected today is the 1855 Bordeaux Classification.

By request of Napoleon III’s Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855, wine brokers were asked to rank the wines of the Médoc according to price. While that would seem to be a controversial method, the reality was that at the time (and arguably still today) price was directly related to quality. The brokers agreed on a fiveclass classification of 61 of the leading Medoc châteaux, the most prominent Graves châteaux Haut-Brion, and a two-class classification of Sauternes and Barsac. The Classification was issued through the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce. Within each class, the châteaux were listed based on price in descending order.

The official Classification of Sauternes-Barsac of 1855 was based on both price and the acclaim of sweet wines at the time. Château d’Yquem was raised to grand premier cru, a rank higher than any other first growth red wine. The only change in the classification of 1855 occurred in 1973 after Baron Philippe de Rothschild lobbied to move Château Mouton-Rothschild from the top of the second growths up to first growth.

At the time of the classification, the wines of Pomerol and St-Émilion were not viewed as stylish, as these areas were viewed as being detached from the rest of Bordeaux. Therefore they weren’t included in the classification. Pomerol is the smallest of the fine red-wine producing districts within Bordeaux and the only region to have never been classified, although Château Petrus is often included among the first growths.

The Classification of St-Émilion was formally established in 1955, and since has been amended 3 times and will continue to be amended on the basis of wine quality, vineyard boundaries and prices. Cheval Blanc, Ausone, and Pavie are a few the great wines from this fine region.

The red wines of Graves were not officially classified until 1953, and then only in a one-class system, and were immediately listed alphabetically rather than by price in order to avoid conflict. This is the system in Bordeaux. Each region has its own system of classification.


In 1863, an unwanted passenger was carried from the US into Europe. This was Dactylasphaera vitifoliae, or phylloxera, a small, yellow louse, which feeds on the roots of grape vines. Once the winemakers realized their vines were failing, they formed commissions to figure out why. Even when findings were published pointing blame at the louse, winemakers and the public were slow to believe it. They figured it was the weather, overproduction, overpruning, or bad soil.

When France lost almost 75% of its vines, the government began to take the louse seriously. The answer to the problem came in the realization that American rootstock had long since developed a resistance to this louse. The European vines needed to be grafted onto American rootstock.

What is grafting? Grafting is where you take part of one plant, and attach it to part of another plant. In this case the roots of an American vine are attached to the top half of a European vine. It was found that changing out the roots of a vine had little to no effect on the grapes themselves, and as grafting was the only realistic solution to the phylloxera plague, whole vineyards were ripped out and replaced with the American-rootstockvines. As this was a labor intensive and time consuming process, only the best vines were done first, and vines were replaced with thought and consideration for their quality. As a result, vineyards which were originally over planted and overproducing now became quality conscious and primed for peak performance. The louse which threatened to destroy wine making completely in some regions of the world ended up pushing those vineyards into much higher levels of quality, to the benefit of wine drinkers everywhere