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Body and aroma

For the summer, there are few wines more suited than a Rose, which combines the crispness and balance of whites with the tannins and smoothness of reds

Alok Chandra 

Alok Chandra

Wine, like sex, is one of those things one can know a lot about without indulging in: simply go to the Internet and it's all there, chapter and verse, courtesy websites like Wikipedia and Wine Folly and what-have-you. Of course (again like sex), there's nothing to beat the actual experience: tasting or drinking a good wine is a sublime experience, and no substitute for theory.

Nevertheless, knowing what you are doing or tasting enhances the experience, which is why there are so many websites for both wine and sex. Indulging in either is fraught with pitfalls. We Indians are only starting to get over the incipient guilt over drinking imbued in our national psyche by MK Gandhi, who was really talking about spirits, not wine (which was not available in those days). Lord knows when we will transcend his strictures about abstinence.

Okay, one can stretch an analogy only so far. As the saying goes, a wine does not mind if you grab another wine, even if imbibing too much of the stuff will lead to a "spiritually uplifting experience". The Internet is a great place to know about wine and it's attendant features. However, as one quickly finds out, there are so many websites about wine that it's quite confusing which ones to follow, and quite often, the tasting notes dished out by the wine producers for their own wines are so fanciful that one wonders what the taster was smoking when he or she wrote them.

So how does one improve one's wine knowledge?

Well, it's best to "start at the beginning - a very good place to start". Assuming that you are not a wine drinker and know nothing about wine, start by tasting well-known entry-level wines (both white and red) in the company of someone who is not a novice, and who knows something about the subject.

Next, read-up on wine: the five most popular wine websites are Snooth, CellarTracker, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Folly. I've also found the Wine Doctor, the Wine Anorak and Dr. Vino very informative. Check out for a list of the 100 top wine websites - this should keep even the most avid oenophile busy for some time.

As you go along this road, expand the repertoire of wines tasted/ drunk to include Indian wines that are not so familiar. Move beyond the Sulas and Grovers and Nine Hills to an SDU, Fratelli or Krsma if in Bengaluru, or a Vallonne, York or Charosa if in Mumbai (Delhi-wallas are condemned to get a very limited number of wines due to the restrictive excise policy in force there).

Taste two varietals side-by-side and try to identify the differences - a Chenin Blanc with a Viognier, or perhaps a Cabernet Sauvignon with a Merlot or Shiraz. Again, read up on what aromas and tastes each grape varietal should be delivering and compare how close (or far) the wines you are tasting are from those ideals.

The more wine you taste, the better you will get at identifying the good (and not so good) wines. Keep a little notebook to record details of wines tasted/ drunk: names, dates and impressions - you'll be amazed when you go back to your tasting notes after some time to see how your writing style has developed. And who knows, maybe your love life will also develop!

Wines I've been drinking: For the summer, there are few wines more suited than a Rose, which combines the crispness and balance of whites with the tannins and smoothness of reds. The Wolftrap Rose (Rs 1,500 in Bengaluru) from the Boekenhoutskloof winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa, is simply yummy. It's bright pink, very aromatic (red berries, spice), off-dry, but balanced and has just the right amount of tannins to make it interesting. And I'm told that no evidence of any wolves has ever been found in or around the winery!
Alok Chandra is a Bengaluru-based wine consultant

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First Published: Sat, May 16 2015. 00:07 IST