India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Wine & Dine
July 15, 2016

A Globetrotter’s Wine Trail In Europe

Text by Karina Aggarwal

She picks from her diary some memories of the best glasses of wine she has experienced in Europe

Port wine in Douro: I can’t claim that I’ve seen even a quarter of the wine regions in the world but I have a feeling that Douro Valley in Portugal will forever remain my favourite. This valley, with its steep slopes and river snaking through, is stunning. The region is home to the famous fortified port wine. Not the swill we in India know as Goan port, this is an elixir that is an ode to a history and tradition that dates back to well before the 17th century. One of the most serene and picturesque ways to tour the Douro is on the delightful river cruise, drifting along as you spot the quintas (wine houses) on either side, and tasting their respective wines as you sail by. It is hard to put into words the majesty of the moment.

Mulled wine in Vienna: Christmas is my favourite time of the year and not just for its religious connotations. It’s the general festive bonhomie that usually has me wrapped up in dizzying levels of cheeriness. A couple of years ago I spent the Christmas week in Vienna, and while it is a beautiful city any time of the year, it is especially magical when the Christmas markets light up the squares. I’ve always wondered how people find the strength to brave the sub-zero temperatures and amble around these fairs. The answer, I discovered, is at the bottom of a cup of glühwein (mulled wine). The piping hot red wine, infused with cinnamon, cloves and oranges, is the essence of Christmas in a glass. One sip and it warms the cockles of your heart. Two sips and you believe in Santa Claus all over again.

Chianti in Tuscany: This central Italian region enchants you with its elegance, art, history, and wine. The famous winemaking region of Chianti lies between the Tuscan towns of Siena and Florence. Battles have been fought to gain control over this precious land, which makes wine from the grape Sangiovese (translating to ‘Jehovah’s blood’), which yields some luscious wines, elegant and gentle in texture. The house of Brolio is inextricably linked to the history of Chianti and I spent a few days at their cosy guest house with views of rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see. There’s something holistic about sipping a glass of wine while on the very land from where its grapes originated. Nothing can better capture the notion of ‘wine is bottled nature’ than a jaunt such as this.

Beer in Brussels: Although wine is visibly on my mind, I must include this beer memory. People often think that wine and whisky are complex and beer is just frivolous. To them I say, ‘Go to Belgium’. There are few countries that take their brews as seriously as Belgium does. Here, they elevate the drink to the highest gastronomic levels. One particularly enriching episode was at the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels. Founded in 1900, it is one of just nine surviving breweries to make beer in a time-forgotten method called Lambic brewing. Lambic beers will redefine all you think you know about beer — far from the usual lagers and ales. Pottering through the historic brewery and sharing a few glasses with the brewer himself was a rare and unforgettable privilege.

Karina Aggarwal has completed a range of courses and has represented India as a wine judge for three years running at the world’s largest international wine competition, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles.

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