March 10th, 2016 by Magandeep SINGH

Shakespeare-WineWhat’s in a word, a lot if you are trying to describe that “tingling sensation” on the tongue which was then followed by that milky thing and then tasted like that fruit which you just can’t put your palate on now. I am sure you have faced that dilemma in other fields too; when you couldn’t quite find the word to describe the situation, or pair of legs for that matter!
Well anatomy we shall handle another day but here are a few wine terms just in case you feel tongue-tied! I have also included some antonyms:
Acidic: Denotes high acid content in a wine, which makes them seem super sour, or tingly on the tongue. When used in a derogatory way, we may term the wine “Tart”. Acid is not a bad term but avoid using it, prefer to say “Racy” or “Crisp”. The opposite would be “Soft” or “Creamy”.
Aged/Evolved: The natural process which affects all aspects of a wine as it is held in barrels or bottles. Primary fruity aromas die and secondary dry fruit aromas and Common wine termsearthy and leathery aromas may evolve. The colour fades too. Any wine showing such signs is an aged wine. Ageing is not always a good thing; sometimes an aged wine may well be a dead wine! The opposite is a “Young” vibrant wine.
Tannic: That natural red wine constituent which gives the wine its astringency. It is the same compound as caffeine and it can be detected as a furry sensation which coats the tongue and inner walls of our mouth. Whites also can have some, mostly if oak-aged. If controlled, it adds a beautiful dimension to any wine. Out of balance, it is like trying to ride a hedgehog, blindfolded, through a sawdust storm with your tongue sticking out.
Finish: The lingering taste which persists once we have spat or swallowed the wine. To me, this is the most important thing in a wine (or any beverage). A pleasant finish, that is, one which is not mouth-jarring, or conversation-interrupting, is the sure-shot way to tell the ones with pedigree from the plebeian!
Robust: A wine which packs a punch, the Thwack! and the Ka-Pow! as last seen in Adam West and Burt Ward films (remember, Batman & Robin?) Normally they taste better with food but people who can do push-ups with their tongue (amongst other things) flaunt such “Jammy’ wines as an ‘evening apero’! They are not much for “Light” wine snobberyor “Soft” wines.
Rounded: A “Balanced” wine, which has all the constituents – attack, acid, tannins, aromas, flavour, finish, house rent allowance – in measured, correct levels. It is not “Over-powering” or “Mono-dimensional”. Rounded wines are more domestic pets and less dominatrix beasts.
Fruity: All wine is from grapes so when we say a wine is fruity it’s actually a tutti-frutti statement! The thing is that un-oaked (or mildly oaked, or young wines) may display a lot more juiciness and fruit flavour and these are termed as Fruity wines.
Oaky/Nutty: Ageing in oak evokes certain nutty, woody notes in a wine – in both whites and reds. This process also softens the acids and the tannins and makes the wine seem more complex and evolved than it chronologically is. Hence the film the “The ‘Nutty’ Professor”! OK, that was a bad one, even for me.
Dry: A wine with very little residual sugar, about less than 10gms/l. Most wines on any wine list are dry – from subtly dry to very dry, from bone dry to “This-won’t-go-down-my-throat-till-I-down-some-water”! Wines with more sugar, which will taste sweet even when sipped alongside kheer, or fruit custard, are called “Sweet” or “Dessert” wines.
Bouquet: The term used to describe the sum of all aromas in a wine. A bouquet can be fruity, floral, toasty… Even Juhu Chowpatty during a low tide has one, albeit a stomach-revoltingly unpleasant one.
Closed: A wine with no aromas. It may be too young (in which case, airing will bring out the aromas), or spoilt, or just plainly a result of bad-winemaking.
Fat/Fleshy/Chewy: Unlike the models of today, this denotes a wine with good body, aka “Full-Bodied” as against the contrary style of “Lean” wines. Yes, you may even add “Anorexic”, I don’t mind.
Heavy/Hot: A wine with high-alcohol which burns as you swallow it, even when at the right service temperature.
Off: A wine gone bad, aka “Corked” or, like your lover, “Tainted”. This is usually cork-induced combined with bad storage.

Hope that helps. Sorry if I went overboard with my silly puns. Oh, you never noticed?! Nevermind…

The funniest book about wine tasting terms

The funniest book about wine tasting terms

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May 8th, 2015 by Magandeep SINGH

food-drink-wine_taster-wine_tasting-vintner-unpretentious-pretentiousness-smen46lBeing a wine taster can often get very boring. This is because most popular wine regions are trying to make wines to cater to popular taste which means that we professionals have to sit and sip a lot of stuff that tastes fairly similar. The intrinsic identity of the product is subsequently being lost as the wave of consumerism washes away all traces of individuality and characteristic traits.
So when we are not working (i.e. drinking) we try and look for something new to wet out teeth with (i.e. drink some more). This is where new wine regions can be very intriguing and engaging.
Contrary to what the old wine hands may want you to believe, it is not just a European phenomenon. History testifies that wine was made in different parts of the world, the first of which were surely not the current Western European stars of this art today. Sure the modern wine is more international a phenomenon but that doesn’t discount the original efforts. Well, it shouldn’t. Here then is a modest collection of wines from lesser-known yet equally gifted regions.
Moldova: This is a country where winemaking (or at least grape-growing) dates back to 3000 BC! Today the wines are mostly destined for exports and yet so little is known of them. I too haven’t tried too many types but one that I do remember was from Cricova. They are based in the city of the same name and have underground cellars over a 100kms in length. Much like champagne, the stone taken to build the city left these cellars which are used today by the wineries. Try their sparkling red wine; you might find yourselves grappling for words to describe it, in a good way that is.
UK: This is another scant suspect on the winemaking scene but global warming has actually made the sun shine on the British Empire. My initial tastings included mostly sap wine and some cedar wine but of late all that has changed. The southern counties are producing plenty of wines especially sparkling wines and Breaky Bottom remains one of my favourites. Their sparkling brut (based on Seyval Blanc, a light Loire valley grape) isn’t exactly cheap but is a fine wine. Chapel Down is another good reference brand to try.
Bulgaria: Another ancient wine producing region that has only risen to fame in the last few years. The recognised cradle of winemaking, the Thracian Valley was renowned for its wines even in Me. Todoroff is a neat little boutique house which makes some international varietals which aren’t bad but I would suggest trying the Mavrud which is a local wine grape. Not too heavy on tannins and extremely fruity would be the best way to describe this easy-to-drink wine.
Uruguay: Given that its neighbours are so voraciously involved in winemaking, Uruguay couldn’t have been far behind. Not only do they make good wine, they have been smart enough to adopt and re-baptise a grape to create an international image for their tiny industry. The grape of choice here is Tannat, also found in South West France but unfortunately over-shadowed by Bordeaux and its wines, which is only a skip away. A good house would be Juanico. Tannat is a very powerful grape – strong on flavours and tannins, be warned.
Paris: Around the area of Sacre Coeur in Paris, you will see creperies, quaint shops selling oddities, high-end Bohemian boutiques, lots of tourists and then, along Rue du Saules, a tiny vineyard! Le Clos Montmartre makes very little wine (a thousand bottles a year at best) and is normally drunk during a festival in the area of Montmartre. I haven’t tasted it but you can add this to the other million reasons to visit Paris.
China: There has been considerable wine-making in our neighbour and for quite some time, it was not comparable even to our local plonk. But, as with everything else, the Chinese have overtaken us there as well, as also many other winemaking countries. The Dragon seal red (Cabernet Sauvignon) is definitely worth more than a few sips.
Thailand: This little kingdom went wine crazy when their monarch claimed its virtuous properties in not exactly a few words. Chateau des Brumes, named after the mist on the mountains of the region, is a good boutique sized production and the reds (La Prestige and La Fleur) are what I would recommend.
Georgia: Back to Eastern Europe and yet another ex-USSR country now carving its own identity as, amongst other things, a wine-producing nation. History claims that this is one of the first regions of grape cultivation in the world and so extensive is the wine production here that I’d be lying if I said I can remember all the styles they produce. Anakopia is one semi-dry style of white I particularly enjoyed and would recommend as a good introduction to the country’s wines.
Iceland: Cold isn’t what it used to be and Húsavík is proof to that. It is perhaps the northernmost vineyard of the world and shows how determination can overcome an obstacle, as in the case of Omar Gunnarsson, who is the only winemaker in this country. Kvöldsól, as the wine is called, is made from berries (rather than grapes), rhubarb, and a mix of herbs. The resulting brew is very rich in anti-oxidants as are the berries. The taste isn’t too bad (some sourness) but you have to detach yourself from the idea of grape wine before you indulge.
Slovenia: They are so close to Italy that even today some Slovenian vineyards lie across the border in Italian soil as also are, Italian vines are growing on Slovenian soils. Among these ‘borderline’ producers, Vina Sim?i? is very reputed and respected. The Teodor Reserve is a good Bordeaux-style blend and has tremendous ageing potential.
Hungary: This is perhaps the least surprising of countries, given the fairly odd mix above. Hungarian Tokaji has always been famous but equally worthy of repute is their local red blend called ‘Egri Bikaver’ (meaning Bull’s blood) which is primarily based on the Kadarka grape. The folklore perhaps is more heady than the wine itself but history has a way of making things more colourful. Among the many producers, Grof Butler is an established name for red wines whereas leading Tokaji producers would include Royal Tokaji Company and Disznók?.
So much for demystifying wine. But not all things are to be deconstructed, just like the joys of deep-sea diving cannot be gauged by standing on the shores.

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June 27th, 2013 by Magandeep SINGH

Less duty = More wine ?

First of all, thank you everyone for the overwhelming response to the previous entry; it wasn’t the number of people who responded that has me beaming but the fact that everyone was polite and said, ‘please’. Mums the world over would be so happy.

Now onwards to the hot topic of the moment…

So a recent article in a newspaper sparked much interest because it divulged that India was considering lowering customs duty to 40%. The EU wants 30% but hey who better at bargaining then the Indians. And yet, in spite of such a promising future, I am not entirely excited. Here’s why.

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June 2nd, 2012 by Magandeep SINGH

A small set of awesomeness!

So, today was day one of Vievinum (actually it was preview of a preview but hey, I was there, I clocked time, so it’s a day) and I had a chance to indulge in some an absolutely fantastic tasting. The Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB), has a level of organisation that could make Swiss clocks work hard to mark time. But more than just punctual, they have an uncanny ability to be precise, comprehensive, and yet very efficiently concise. Nothing is left to chance, not even the weather one is often tempted to imagine, and attendees can devote their entire time and attention to one solo task: tasting and learning about the wines of Austria. Read more of this article »

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May 24th, 2012 by Magandeep SINGH

Art...?

I would like to prize myself on having some superpower but, short of the ability to fly or to run through walls, I do reserve a small amount of vanity in reassuringly believing that I can make certain predictions about the future. I may not give the best of soothsayers a run for their money, but when it comes to fields of my work and interest, I would be among the first to show up when they ask for crystal-ball volunteers.

One such prediction was when I had returned to India and tasted the first crop of wines that was coming out of our local wineries. My first reaction was to ask my travel agent about one-way flights to Europe. A certain winemaker had even suggested that, but not too politely if I may add.

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December 13th, 2009 by Magandeep SINGH

magan, wine, and wien cellarIndian Food at Hiltl ZurichWhen Indians settled down in the UK in the late 50s, they unknowingly ended up planting something in their adopted land that was far stronger than their rich culture – a taste for richer spices. For a long time Indian food in the UK was synonymous with pub grub and after-dinner binge eating with chilli-slapped food that could burn a hole through space-age metal. Today, a lot has changed. Indian chefs who migrated Westwards, tired of the dichotomy that existed here between Indian and foreign cuisines served here in India have now come into their own and Read more of this article »

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