This article completes five years of this column and the 180th piece on wines — surely something to raise a glass to!
Christmas is special for all sorts of reasons: in the British days, the Burra Sahibs celebrated this day as the “burra din” (as well they should) with a grand dance and party, which tradition continues in the many clubs started by them around the country. In college (St Stephen’s Delhi), all of us in ‘res’ (residence) used to go round singing carols, regardless of religion or affiliation (it was national integration at its best), and I am sure this, too, continues in the many good institutions from those days.
Of course, no Christmas is complete with a good deal of conviviality, and since it’s cold, one can imbibe all sorts of stuff — here are a few possibilities:
SANGRIA: Wikipedia defines this as “a wine punch typical of Spain and Portugal, also consumed in Argentina and Uruguay.” It normally consists of wine, chopped fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy. Sangrias are usually served at room temperature, and the recipe can vary according to the type of fruit used, whether you add carbonation (or not), the quality of the wine base, and the amount of alcohol.
MULLED WINE: Essentially red wine which has been warmed a bit and to which spices, sugar, and even fruit pieces have been added in various proportions — one could almost take Sangria and heat it up. Every European country has its own version (and term) for mulled wine: ‘Gluhwein' in Germany, ‘vin brule’ (warm wine) in France, ‘Glogg’ in the Nordic countries, and so on. Great for a cold evening, with a blazing fire to heat the exterior, and mulled wine for the interior!
CHAMPAGNE: What better way to celebrate the Festive Season than by popping the cork of a fine French Champagne? Yes, the stuff has to be served well-chilled, but can always be paired with some good seafood (lobsters, anyone?) to accentuate the flavour and prolong the festive feeling. Try making some Champagne Cocktails: a bit of sugar, Angostura bitters and chilled Champagne makes the classic ‘Champagne cocktail’; experiment with adding some orange or pineapple juice and fruit wedges to get the ‘Mimosa’, while Black Velvet combines Stout with Champagne!
VINTAGE WINE: Bring out that bottle of vintage Grand Cru Bordeaux or Burgundy that you’ve been saving for a special occasion; broach that 10-year-old Barolo you picked up when last in Italy; make it out with that magnum of Screaming Eagle or Harlan Estate Napa Valley cult wine. This is the time to ‘disco’!
Wines I’ve Been Drinking: The Sula Rasa Shiraz 2010 we had at the 10th anniversary dinner of the Bangalore Wine club at Gallery Skye was, well, too young, a ‘BHMD’ that promised great things given a few years of growing up. Great concentration of fruit, firm but supple tannins, good fine-grained oak, full-bodied, but too young for my taste. Expensive by Indian wine standards (over Rs 1,000) but a steal — buy a case or two and put it away.
With best wishes to all for a merry X'Mas and Happy New Year.
Alok Chandra is a Bangalore-based wine consultant