And then theres the context...

Written by Magandeep Singh | Magandeep Singh | Updated: Oct 26 2009, 05:10am hrs
I have just recently returned from one pioneering rural tourism effort in India called Citrus County. Located in the Chhauni village of Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, it is offering quite a unique little number to hum. The owner is a young bon-vivant Harkirat who knows what he wants from life and what he wants to add to yours. The hospitality, needless, is stupendous. But what has that got to do with wine you ask Patience my dear reader. All in good time.

I have this old habit of always travelling with wine. I am the kind who is sceptic to the point of carrying coal to Newcastle. So I always show up with slightly heavy baggage, not meaning to offend my hosts but to share with them and to show them a token of my respect and gratitude. And of course, because I hate having to sip on bad wine.

So bags unloaded, later in the evening we all gathered for some mild elbow exercises. Harkirat shared how finding wine somewhere as remote as he was, was almost next to impossible. Legally, few options were available and that too involved long trips to Chandigarh. Imagine driving two hours for a bottle of wine that is considered nothing above average. Harkirat had managed to procure some easy, sip-able entry-level Australian white and red, and a Californian set to match. It wasnt exactly what I had imagined to be sipping in this cosy and cutaway very uber-funky farm resort, so I decided to stay with the whisky and other tipples.

Finally, a glass later, the fresh and mildly chilly weather seemed to cajole me, veering me away from the harder spirits and I finally gave in to a glass of a white oak-enriched Chardonnay. The wine seemed much better than I had ever tasted before. In fact, not only was it sip-worthy, it was well yummy. In no time I was pouring myself another.

The red too had a similar effect. I wondered if the clear air had cleared my nostrils and I could taste and smell for the first time since shifting back to India! The next evening was more of the same: the Californian wines seemed to be the best versions of themselves that I have had so far. And it was then that it struck me in a self-explanatory manner. An epiphany of sorts. The wines were the same wines that I repeatedly refuse to drink in the bars and pubs of the capital and other metros. Yet, in the calm setting of rural Punjab, under a starry sky, with green grass stretching underneath my feet and only crisp clean air filling my lungs, the wines were being seen in a whole new light. The very criteria of gauging these wines had changed; our senses had been diverted of sorts, or lifted by the positive radiance of everything else around. The result of all this was that the goodness of the wine seemed magnified and the faults became less of a hassle. The wines may not have been bottled poetry but they were technically sound and that was all that was needed to make the evening perfect. In fact, I doubt if a better wine would have underperformed given the overwhelming ambience that was already clouding and invading the senses.

I thought to myself that a tasting done in such environments would surely turn up entirely different results from one done in a city in a stuffy hotel room, where you had driven to through a snarly crawl of a traffic mess. Given the choice we would all get married at beaches, or romantic castles (although it may not make marriage entirely bearable still). The same then applies to wine.

Here then is the moral in short: when talking about geography in a wine, we should focus less on the origins and where it comes from and more on where it will be consumed. A change as seemingly unimportant as the venue made magnificence of modesty. Yet we disregard the context in which a wine is consumed.

The writer is a sommelier