The setting was a Tuscan home, we were all out in the backyard, lounging after a truly fabulous meal which ranged from Bistecca alla Fiorentina to some truly world class Sangiovese that we had fresh siphoned out of a cask in the cellar below. Suddenly my host for the evening looked at me and said, “I hope you don’t think we eat like this everyday, Magan. Normally, it’s much better.” That was classic Piero Masi humour, wry and sharp always.
It wasn’t my first time, but with Piero, it was always fun to be even at the receiving end of his wit which always left you smiling. Sadly, the chief winemaker at Fratelli Vineyards passed away recently and with his passage, Fratelli has lost a winemaker but, more pertinently, India has lost a wine visionary who didn’t come as a foreigner and try to make wine here, top-down and from the outside, but immersed himself deep into the local terroir to truly understand it and tackle it ground up. No doubt then his Sangiovese remains one of my favourite wines to reach out for always — fruity yet with weighted elegance — as if a prelude to bigger things to come. He will be missed but, even as I say this, I look forward with hope and much expectations to Giovanni, his son, who will not only move his legacy forward but will also bring something of his own philosophy to the winemaking vat, and that is always interesting to observe, and taste.
Closer home, remember what I had mentioned about Bira91 and their new range of beers? They are all out there now — well-priced and attractively packaged — four of them, and unlike the apocalypse, these horsemen promise to bring the party home. The flavours and range are varied so that everyone will find something that appeals to them. The Mango Lassi was a crowd favourite while the Kokum Sour left people wondering about this new flavour (remember, I am here in Delhi where kokum is as rare as Roohafza is not!) Then there was the Coconut Brown Ale which was stiff and rich but not too creamy or unctuous, thereby remaining a viable summer option. Personally I preferred it a tad less chilled as it brought out the flavours better. My favourite was the Bolly IPA, a solid ale with proper bold and refreshing hoppy bitterness to punctuate the aftertaste. I encourage you to try them and see which works for you.
I also had a very interesting lunch with Sparsh Agarwal, the scion heading a Darjeeling Tea Estate, Dorje teas. The amount I learnt about tea in that one conversation will have to be reserved for another day, but their cold brew is a fun new way to approach whole leaf tea. Also, do know that a first flush Darjeeling is about as close as you can get to sipping the elixir of life without actually going to heaven first.
Finally, for a sweet ending, Khoya is a new brand in the space of traditional Indian sweets and, for me, has become the chief motivation to get up before sunrise and trot out 10k just so to be able to justify plunging in palate-first into a box later in the day. Their version of the Mysore Pak manages to be authentic and yet less greasy somehow, which actually helps preserve the nuanced nutty flavours better. Sure it feels gentrified but it’s so delectably executed that it comes across as a bonus.
As Covid cases rise, I certainly hope everyone stays safe and protected and that these privileges which have only recently opened up to us anew — socialising again, visiting bars and restaurants, events — don’t get revoked again.
The writer is a sommelier