The ‘All Things Fine’ team selected an apt week to celebrate the ‘All Things Nice Wine Week’ in Mumbai. From 11th through 17th of February with 28 high quality fine dining restaurants and Lounges across Mumbai and extended a flat 30% discount on the wine bill. The best part is that all wines and champagnes on the regular menu are part of the offer.
The campaign is designed to encourage the wine aficionados and novices alike, to reach out for the bottle that always appealed to your right brain but was overridden by your left.. The participating restaurants happily sacrificed profits in order to promote wine culture.
To promote the program, the All Things Nice Team organized a ‘French Wine Tasting’ event at the Starboard bar, The Taj Mahal Palace and Hotel, on the 13th of February. The venue was a picture perfect setting to try out rapturous French wine, meet new people and learn all about the classic art of French wine making. A dinner for two at the Starboard will usually set you back by about 5,000, but this wine tasting was organized for an unbelievable 1,500 per head. Not to pass an opportunity to taste fashionable wines at an unbelievably low price, I drove half way across town to an august yet comfortable setting of the Starboard Bar.
The outdoor patio setting of the bar reminisces of bygone eras of fine wine and scotch served to the royalties and prices at the Taj Mahal. With the hotel having hosted many a presidents and dignitaries, the service is quite distinguished. With a small group of about 15 eager subjects from very diverse backgrounds, it was a perfect setting for Nikhil, the host, to mix with the guests and ensure everyone feels at home.
The tasting began with a well compiled hand out introducing the major French wine regions and tasting of a Piper-Heidsieck Champagne. The gorgeous Champagne was received with oohs and aahs and set the perfect tone for a truly memorable evening. The champagne pouring was in true Taj style, on a large silver tray carrying 15 fine crystals, and Nikhil walking his audience through the champagne making process in France. His ability to story-tell a possibly slow and boring process betrayed his passion and knowledge of wines, infecting every willing subject. On tasting, the Cuvee Brut (55% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Meuneir) was very well balanced, with hint of biscuity note supporting a fruity, slightly acidic flavor. The champagne was crisp, bitter-sweet and left a pleasant after taste.
No one could stop at the first, and Nikhil was gracious enough to call in reinforcements. The efficient staff was attentive to the patrons, and whoever had an empty glass was refueled promptly. Their presence was barely noticeable as they went about their service inconspicuously. Finger food was served to accompany the drink and we were served fish, chicken and mushroom starters.
The Second wine served was the Chenin Blanc from Guy Saget Vouvray, Loire Valley. Not letting my partiality to Chenins run with my eagerness to try the Vouvray, I stepped back to observe the guests and was the last one to pick the fine nectar from the table. If the reaction of my fellow enthusiasts was anything to go by, it is cliché to say that I should have been ‘saving the best for last’. The Chenin was by far the best in its class and the pick of the evening for most amongst us. It was an off dry, semi-sweet wine with evident mix of honey, peach and melon flavor. By the 3rd bottle, it was quite evident that we may end up losing sense (of taste) and our sensibility (of appropriate behavior) by the end of the evening.
The next white was the Domaines Paul Mas Vignes de Nicole Chardonnay-Viognier, Languedoc. The Wine was a beautiful, full bodied, elegant wine with many complex notes blending together to form a kaleidoscope of taste. The wine was quite a stark change from the sweeter Chenin, but grew on us over time. Many switched their favorite from the Chenin to the Chardonnay, which gave us the opportunity to request for more bottles to sample and select from. Nikhil was quite astute in serving water, Jalapeno Poppers and Chicken Sticks to prevent early curtains on the event. The hot chicken as succulent, flavorful, and amongst the freshest meat I remember being served to a gathering. The Jalapeno Poppers were tasty, and quite surprisingly never burnt my palette. Upon biting, the cheese flowed like moist chocolate out of a perfect Lindt Lindor.
By the time we got read to shift gears to the Reds, the bar was bustling with live music and by the arrival of the Australian Women’s cricket team. The team was fresh of a game that took them into the finals of the Women’s world cup, and their energy levels were peaking not dipping.
The first Red was the Louis Jadot Bourgogne Rouge, a medium intensity Pinot Noir, with quite a silky smooth texture and smooth finish. The dry red was a fresh change and quite loved by the troupe. The burgundy wine was lighter in color, owing to the Pinot Noir Grape, and quite floral in smell but a little acidic and quite crisper than the new world Pinot Noirs. The Pinot Noir was quite a company to the spicy chicken being served.
The next wine served was the much awaited Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mouton Cadet Rouge from Bordeaux. Bordeaux produces amongst the most well known wines, and the Mouton Cadet Rouge is a popular blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot grapes. The wine was quite tannic, full bodied dry, with many fruity flavors and a touch of liquorice. The wine was slightly heavy on the palette with complex flavors. Such was the buzz generated by the multiple glasses of whites and reds that people stopped discussing the notes and were soaking in the environment. Nikhil threw in a few champagnes to cleans the palette, which served as fuel to the now animated bunch. The sight of the Australian team dancing Gangnam style was contagious to say the least.
The last wine of the day was the M. Chapoutier Belleruche Rouge, Côtes du Rhône. The Grenache and Syrah mix is superb with slight tannin and aromas of Cherry and Liquorice. The wine is considered amongst the better wines for its price across the old world and demonstrates the classic wine making heritage through its notes.
By the time we got done with the last wine, we had spent three blissful hours discussing popular wines with a virtual tour of France. Not sure how many remembered the notes, but the French will see a few first time vacationers in their neck of the woods this year.
The event was wonderfully setup, managed and the All Things Nice’ team did live up to its name. I personally would like to extend gratitude to the Taj group’s hospitality and service team, which made the event memorable and unbelievably affordable.