Matt Kramer from Wine Spectator has recently written an interesting (and hilarious) piece about matching the wine you serve to the guests that you have. In his article titled ‘The Dirty Little Secret‘, Matt says ‘Never mind the pairing? Who are you going to serve it to?’. The basic point of his article is that you should not crack open your cellar and serve your best and most cherished wines (or even ‘minor jewels’, to quote Matt Kramer) to people who will not appreciate them. In short, match the level of the wines that you serve to your guests ability or willingness to appreciate them. This may be construed as snobbish and inhospitable by those who think that guests deserve the best. However, I agree with Matt’s comments. There is nothing worse than wasting a carefully preserved wine on someone who does not give a second thought to what they’re drinking!
How much of an issue is this in India? Not much I would say, as wine cellars at home are still rare in India. With a wine drinking culture that is still in its infancy, it will be a while (I think) before people start cellaring wine at home and have to fret about serving a cherished wine to the wrong audience. Long and short of it: good, cellar-worthy wine is anyway hard to come by in India (in retail at least), so building a collection is going to be hard work and needs patience. Should you even try? If you’re a wine lover and you want to have a cellar – I think it is certainly worth the effort. To borrow a phrase from the world of banking, in building up your personal wine collection it matters less how much you save as the fact that you save at all. No wine collection, however modest, will be built overnight.
It’s important to remember that it is worth cellaring wine only if you like mature wines with some age on them. Most wines simply do not have the constitution to improve with age. Matt Kramer explains this very well in another article – ‘What Makes a Wine Ageworthy?’
So what does creating a personal wine collection in India require? Here are some basic tips:
- Learn more about your own tastes, what kinds of wine you like and which wines age well. How would you do this? Tasting wine (lots of it, including mature wine) is important, as is reading (wine magazines are a good guide for connoisseurs). It’s hard to be a connoisseur of good mature wine without reading as it would be hard to put the wine in a context and truly appreciate it.
- Get a wine fridge. Unless you live in the Himalayas, India is too hot to keep wine under your bed or in the basement without any kind of cooling. It would be great to get a proper wine-cellar grade fridge with controlled humidity etc (Eurocave for example), but this is very expensive – upwards of Rs. 2 Lakhs. So locally made Voltas wine fridges are an alternative (they’ve got thermoelectric cooling so they’re vibration free, but they do not have humidity control). The Voltas fridge is basic and I’m not a great fan of it – but we do not have many reasonably-priced alternatives in India. The Voltas is definitely better than the Haier version available in India.
- Finally, get some good ageworthy wine and start stacking it away. This needs postponement of gratification and patience as the wait for the wine to improve in bottle – but if you love mature wine, you will know that the wait is worth it! You can acquire some of your wine in India (hard, but possible if you know how to go about it) and you can get some from abroad when you travel abroad. A rough guide – there are many candidates for ageing at different price levels, but generally expect to pay upwards of $20 on a US retail shelf (£15 in UK). Really interesting wines will be upwards of $35 or £25. Prices in India will be a lot more expensive.
Which wines should you absolutely have in your cellar? That’s a subject for another day. Roughly, Cru Classe Bordeaux is important (a wine cellar without any Bordeaux is like a bookshelf without any Shakespeare, if you know what I mean). South Africa, Napa and Washington Cabs and Merlot’s, Chablis, German Rieslings, Red Rioja, Cote du Rhone Villages, Gigondas, Northern Rhone Syrah’s, quality Australian Shiraz, Cabs, cool-climate Rieslings and NZ Pinot’s and Syrah’s; and finally Vintage Port and Vintage Champagne…..the list goes on! Do fantasies ever end? There are just two main limits: your imagination and your wallet (for a moment I’ll forget about import duties, taxes, and the fact that how much alcohol you can have at home is still a subject of state laws!).