THE SHORTEST month of the year has been so power-packed with happenings I wonder if any other month will be able to match up to it. It’s been one extremely heady fortnight. It all started with a bottle of Chivas 18 that turned up at my house. Unlike with other unannounced guests, I was much more polite with it. The brand hosted some rather cool event in town, which I missed, but the bottle has kept me in good spirits, literally.
Speaking of things turning up, InterContinental Hotel, too, made an appearance in the form of a delivery of a very exquisitely crafted cocktail set comprising a shaker, strainer and peg measure. These rose gold-finished pieces are not the kind fabricated solely for gifting, but are the real deal, the stuff that seasoned bartenders would covet. Alongside was a book reviving old, almost forgotten, classic recipes—what a suggestive nudge. This is, I am given to understand, all part of an international campaign to showcase their cocktail mixing prowess and also revive some classics.
And as if these weren’t reasons enough to be elated, I was privy to some very fancy tastings this month. Robert Mondavi, the famed American winery that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, had its Asia representative fly down to reintroduce its wines in the country. The Woodbridge and the Napa Valley range are great wines with ripe flavours and gentle textures—nothing for ageing in your cellar, but good bang-for-your-buck stuff. It was a pleasure to know that they aren’t giving up on India and shall continue to command a presence.
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Another important visit was by the team behind one of Italy’s finest sparkling wines, Prosecco by Carpene Malvolti. This family-owned winery makes some of the finest fizz, which is smooth and fruity with a zesty taste. No doubt Prosecco has become the largest-selling sparkling wine in the world, replacing Champagne, although the latter leads in total revenue by far. The sign of the times is clear: Carpene Malvolti’s Prosecco shows that a wine can be serious and fun at the same time.
And then came the mother of all tastings and it wasn’t wine—this was beer. But in Belgium, beer is as important as any wine can ever aspire to be. They don’t just brew it, they write odes to it, worship it and revere it more than their famed chocolate or that Belgian cyclist Eddie Merckx, who is only the greatest cyclist of all times. A friend (well, he was an acquaintance when we began, but by the end of the evening, we were friends—that’s how beer works!) lined up some very coveted and rare beers (including many Trappist beers, which are made by monks in monasteries). He called me over for a tasting and a comely dinner, the contents of which I can’t disclose for giving away incriminating information to the department of customs and their drive to ensure that foreign meat, diary and plant products don’t make it into our country (psst…it was yummy!).
Some of the beers paired, sometimes they didn’t, but all of them enthralled the gathered few. It was a rare joy to be able to taste such a variety, one that could match any wine tasting for complexity and adjectives, but without any of the snobbery or elitist attitude-throwing that accompanies wine soirées. Beer is inclusive, whereas wine is most often exclusive.
You might by now have inferred that, as writers, we are plied with stuff and invites to gigs that don’t border on the ‘fantasmic’ (made-up word—you know by combining which two). The job requires us to not be swayed. That is what makes one worth their mettle. That said, it’s okay to let out a little squeal of delight when you like something a lot.
The writer is a sommelier