Blind Wine Tasting at the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi

Welcome to the Rakhi issue of The Grape Vine.

This month, we take readers through a special blind wine tasting held at Ricks, Taj Mahal Hotel (Man Singh Road, New Delhi) with sommelier Nikhil Aggarwal.

For the uninitiated, in wine terminology, a blind tasting is when the wine is served to tasters with the label covered completely. All that the taster is able to see is the colour of the wine that’s poured into the glass.

The idea of the concept is to remove biases that labels often bring. Many a times consumers have preconceived notions on the quality of a wine based on the label. This exercise removes such biases, and pushes all wines of the same colour on to a level playing field.

Sommelier Nikhil Aggarwal took his audience through a flight of 6 Indian and international wines, all through encouraging guests to guess whether the wines were Indian or not, what grape varietal they were, and to describe the aroma and flavor profile of the wines. Some of the audience did quite well, and the session was most enjoyable.

The session started with the white wines, and moved on to the reds. the venue for the evening, Rick’s at the Taj Mahal Hotel could not have been better. The staff and service was to the high standards expected of the Taj, as were the snacks that accompanied the wines

For the benefit of The Grape Vine readers, we shall go through and break down each of the 6 wines presented during the course of the evening.

WHITE WINES

Dr.Burkin Wolf Riesling – Germany: this wine was a special treat for wine lovers. German Rieslings are among the most easy drinking wines that once could start with.

In appearance, it was a white wine with a slim disk, pale yellow colour , and green to silver tints, indicating it’s youth, and that it had just begun it’s evolution. Thus, the wine was not more than 2- 4 years old. The colour indicated a cool climate – either very northerly or very southerly, but in this case, we know it was northerly. The tears trickle some what slowly down the side of the glass, indicating that this wine may have some glycerol level.

With it’s characteristic petrol aromas, the Riesling was easy to identify. That should not be a put off to any one drinking this wine as petrol aromas are a tell tail sign of purity and of good quality Riesling. Thus if you come across them in a wine, particularly a Riesling, do not send the glass/ bottle back!

On the palate, the attack was not as sharp as a French Riesling, but gentler. It moved quickly into the evolution which displayed a remarkably well balanced wine with the acidity and the sweetness in harmony with each other. Thus making it an easy wine to drink and pair for instance- grilled fish with- an option that was available at the tasting and did particularly well with. It is not from the new world. I would estimate it had a medium level of alcohol in it, i.e. around 12.5%- 13.5%

The end palate lasted perhaps 6 minutes. A good choice for people both new to wine and old hands, this wine was an excellent example of quality wine making.

Sula Sauvignon Blanc, India: Another easy drinking white wine, this time from Sula Vineyards in India. Sula Vineyards claims it is the most awarded for Indian white wines.

In it’s appearance, this wine has a medium deep gold colour with green tints, indicating it’s youth.  This wine is young, i.e. it’s not more than 3-4 years old, and it has not begun it’s evolution. The colour indicates that it’s from a warm climate. It has a medium thick disk and the tears travel quickly down the side of the glass indicating that it does not have a high glycerol level.

On the nose, the first nose was some what muted. The second nose was more expressive with herbaceous aromas coming to the fold (bell pepper?) and perhaps some tropical white and yellow fruit.

The attack of this wine was crisp. It is a light bodied wine. The evolution brought to the fore the herbaceous notes seen on the nose. the bell pepper is foremost on the palate. The end palate lasts about 5 minutes. This wine would pair well with vegetarian options. It would also go well with chicken or fish.

This wine demonstrated the diversity in white wines. Not all white wines are fruity or floral. Once again, I wouldn’t consider this a very alcohol heavy wine.  

Grover Zampa Rosé, India: This wine represented a break from the whites and a transition towards the reds. The Grover Zampa rosé is made from the shiraz grape, thus giving it a deeper colour. It is made most likely by the "bleed off" method. Although it is never possible to tell unless one asks the vintner the method used, I suspect that this is what was done on account of there being only one grape varietal mentioned on the bottle.

In appearance, this wine has a shade of pink that’s not deep but not garish either. It is close to the colour one gets from crushed strawberries or raspberries. The tints suggest that the wine is young, and most rosé wines are meant to be drunk young. It has a thin to medium thick disk, and has tears that suggest a normal glycerol level.

On the nose, the first nose is some what shy and muted. The second nose, is more expressive with aromas of ripe cherry, strawberries on it. This wine is berry heavy. It is unlikely that it has been oaked.  

On the palate, this wine has a smooth attack. The mid palate displays an evolution that carries forth the shiraz tannins with ease. The strawberry and cherry aromas are confirmed on the palate. The end palate lasts a good 5-6 minutes.

This wine is versatile and would go well with a variety of options ranging from thai style chicken sate, to a strawberry tart.

RED WINES

Montes Carmenere – Chile: this was the first red wine introduced. Not surprisingly no one could guess the grape was Carmanere. The varietal– although originally French, took off in Chile and achieved much success.

In appearance, this wine is a red wine with a deep, intense colour. It is bright, opaque, with a medium thick disk. It has tints which suggest that it has perhaps just begun it’s evolution, but that it is still very young. Thus the wine is possibly around between 4 years old. The intensity of the colour suggests that the harvest was a good one with enough sunshine. The tears stain the glass purple and trickle slowly down the side of the glass, suggesting a slightly higher glycerol level than the previous wines.

On the nose, the first nose is muted but hints to a relatively complex nose. the second nose is more intense with blackberry aromas. There is also a faint hint of cocoa, cigar and tobacco on the nose. This wine has seen some amount of oaking, as there is also a faint hint of vanilla.

On the palate, this wine has a smooth attack. The mid palate reveals all the notes of cigar, tobacco, cocoa, and some dark fruit. It is a medium to full bodied wine, with the tanins well integrated and very soft. The end palate lasts around 8 minutes.

This wine would go well with heavy meats- so for instance mutton kebabs, or any kind of grilled red meat. I would expect the alcohol level of this wine to be around 14%-14.5%. It should be decanted approx 15 -20 minutes before serving.

Fratelli Sette, India: This was the second of the red wines that was presented during the evening. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and the Sangiovese grapes.

In it’s appearance, it is a red wine with an intense ruby colour. It is bright, opaque, and the colour suggests a vintage with enough sunshine. The tints suggest that it is at least 5-6 years old, and has begun it’s evolution, but just so. The wine appears to be medium to full bodied, with tears gently rolling down the side of the glass, suggesting medium glycerol levels.

This first nose of this wine is slightly muted. Upon swirling the glass, the wine reveals aromas of vanilla, and plenty of French oak. As a matter of fact, it is aged in French oak for 18 months. In addition, the wine is very fruit heavy- with plenty of ripe, almost jammy fruit- black berry and mulberry.

The attack is smooth and brief. The mid palate lasts a good 3 minutes and displays a depth of flavour including liquorice, heady vanilla and mulberries. The tannins are smooth and well- integrated with the wine. The end palate has a long finish, lasting at least 7 minutes. This wine would also pair well with heavy meats, and game.

The last wine for the evening was the Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Zinfandel, USA.

The Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Zinfandel, is an American wine red wine made from the Zinfandel grape in Mendocino county, California.

Zinfandel is often used to create beautiful rosé wines, however, in this case it was used to create a full bodied red wine. As already mentioned, this is a red wine with a very deep ruby colour. It has a medium thick- to thick disk. It is bright, opaque and had purple ish tears running down the side of the glass. The tints suggest that this is a young wine made in a vintage with a lot of sun shine.  It is not more than 4 -5 years old.

On the nose, the first nose is some what muted. Upon oxidation, the wine reveals a variety of very fruit heavy aromas, and since it was made in a sunny year, the fruit has jammy overtones. There are notes of plum, cassis, and there are also some hints of American Oak.

On the palate, the attack is frank, and smooth. The mid palate delivers on the promise of a fruit heavy wine. The tanins are well integrated with the wine, giving a very smooth, velvety feel in the mouth. The end palate lasts around 7-8 minutes. this wine would also go well with strong meats, and with hearty vegetarian options.

The Kendall Jackson Zinfandel was a great choice to end the Taj Blind Wine Tasting on a high note. All guests left in good spirits, and with a better understanding of the wines they had just tasted. We look forward to more such events in the future.