My article on ‘Debunking Wine Myths’ appeared in ‘The Asian Age’ on July 29th, 2010. Click here to read the article on ‘The Asian Age’ website. The version below is the full text of the article and is slightly longer than what appeared in the newspaper.
We’ve all been in that situation before. You’d like to learn more about wine, but don’t know where to start. You want to enjoy a glass of wine, but you’re not sure if you’ll like it. You want to reach for a red wine: but can’t decide which one to pick. The confusion alone is enough to make you reach for….well, a glass of beer! To explore the world of wine, it first needs to be simplified! Debunking common myths is a good place to start!
Myth 1: Wine is for the super-rich only
Wine in India is definitely a luxury, but an increasingly affordable one. You do not need to be rich to start enjoying wine. For someone just starting to drink wine, or for an untrained palate – buying expensive wine is a waste of money. You can start with simple wines, and move up to better ones as you learn about your own tastes. At retail prices, reasonable quality wine is available in Delhi from Rs. 450 onwards for a standard 750ml bottle.
Myth 2: Wine is too complicated
Wine is among the simplest beverages in the world and has been enjoyed for millennia. All wine is simply fermented grape juice. Even today most wine enjoyed in Europe – from the bistros of Paris to the Tratorrias of Rome – is simple, quaffing table wine. The beauty of wine is that it is capable of reaching complex, mesmerizing heights. That does not take away from its core simplicity.
Myth 3: It has to be French (or something else fancy) for it to be enjoyable
Now that India has a burgeoning wine industry, you can enjoy affordable Indian wine. However, don’t restrict yourself to Indian wines. Wine-making is a relatively new industry in India. There is a world of wine waiting to be explored, and you should explore it. The key is to try wines from different countries: especially from those that have a reputation for good wine. This includes both the ‘Old World’ Europe and the ‘New World’ countries. Whatever wine you can get your hands on will be worth trying and will train your palate and help you to understand your tastes. There’s no guarantee if you’ll like it or even that it will be good. Wine as a product is more about diversity and variability than it is about consistency. If you absolutely must have a guarantee of consistency, stick to beer or spirits.
Myth 4: You have to decide whether you like Red or White, and then stick to that choice
This is like saying you’ll have to only eat dosas your whole life. When you restrict yourself, you sacrifice one of the best aspects of wine-drinking: choice. Drink all the kinds of wines that you can get your hands on – red, white and rosé. Still, sparkling and fortified. Dry, off-dry and sweet. Also remember that you’ll enjoy wine more when you combine it suitably with food. So the diversity of your wine choices should match the diversity of your food choices.
Myth 5: Brands are better, or that you have to stick to a “brand”
Good wine is one of those products that is not the exclusive preserve of big, recognizable brands. Aim to drink a different wine each time. Pick another grape variety. Try a different producer from another country. This way you will not skew your palate. If you always eat heavily spiced mutton curry, then delicate tandoori prawns will make no impression on you. If you always stick to a big and powerful Australian Shiraz, then even a supreme but delicate Pinot Noir will taste watery. Keep an open mind and train your palate to enjoy the variety of tastes, textures and flavours that wine offers. You will be richly rewarded for the effort!
Myth 6: The experts and wine critics get to decide if it’s a good wine
You picked the wine, you paid for it, and you’re drinking it. Don’t let someone else bias your taste or decide for you whether it’s a good wine. When you eat food, you don’t wait for others to tell if you if it’s good. It’s the same with wine. If you like it, then it’s a good wine for you. Wines can be systematically evaluated for quality – and there can be wines of good or poor quality. Taste, however, is subjective and varies tremendously from person to person. You need to understand your own tastes, so you can tell the difference between wines you like and those you don’t. Evaluating quality comes next.