A Blush Affair | Verve Magazine
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Wine & Dine
January 24, 2012

A Blush Affair

Sheetal Wadhwa Munshaw discovers the romance of the rosé and pairs some North Indian food with this refreshing wine

“Un verre de rosé for mademoiselle?”

his profound husky voice, his salt and pepper hair, the deep cleft and the nonchalant gaze…Frédéric had such a striking resemblance to my then idol, epitome of good looks – Eric Forester of the American series The Bold and the Beautiful! Posing with a very eloquent flute of rosé sparkling, sitting in fashionable Deauville at the stunning Normandie Barrière Hotel, in the land of regal horses and Coco Channel, I felt like quite a fashionista at 18! La vie en rose with a classic touch of French élégance! I was shaken back to reality from my momentous reverie by Ms Congeniality aka my childhood friend Priyanka who pointed me in the direction of his truly wonderful and charming wife, Brigitte. The bubble had burst but the romance of the rosé stayed with me forever.

Many years later,  after great evolution in the wine world and a tad bit of evolution in my wine wisdom, I discovered the salmon pink Chandon Vintage Brut Rosé at the spectacular, sprawling winelands of Domaine et Chandon in Yarra Valley, Australia. Nothing to compare with its poor cousin in the Napa Valley, this was a truly magnificent estate that retains a signature old world style and is true to the Chandon hallmark of fame.

A tasting awaited us at the panoramic restaurant as the sparklings glistened against the window panes overlooking acres of landscaped vineyards. Of the four, the rosé was the clear winner hands down! I bought myself two bottles and bought two more for my Scotch drinking companion to carry back home under protest! If only the customs allowed us to bring back more wines for the sheer pleasure of consumption!

Much has changed since, not with the customs of course! And while we continue to handpick our select wines along our travels and escapades, we now have a host of rosés available in India and what’s even more remarkable is the concise but fairly good indigenous rosé offering. We even have sparkling rosé wines made in India! The last three weeks had me sample several local rosés, an occupational hazard I am happy to espouse any day of the week!

Nuanced and subtle
So what makes this wine special? Well to start with, the wine-making method itself. It’s a wine style that can be made with white and/or red grapes. While red wines are made by fermenting the grape juice with the skins and it is essentially the tannins and pigments within the structure of the skin that lend the wine its colour, in white wines, the grapes are pressed and the skins separated from the grape juice before the fermenting process commences. However, in the case of rosé wines, red grapes are fermented along with their skins till the desired ‘blush’ colour is obtained. The skins are then removed and the fermentation process continues.  Rosé wines can also be made by simply adding some red wine to an already finished white wine.

The sparkling varieties are usually made of blends of both white and red. Popularly know as Rosato in Italy, Rosado in Spain, Blush in the United States and Rosé in France and the rest of the world, these wines sport a very dolce vita character. They vary in colour from exotic peach and orange tones to the more vivacious and hot pinks. In terms of flavours and aromas they are more nuanced and subtle, leaning towards fruitier notes such as cherries, strawberries, melons and ananas. In terms of grape varieties, rosés are usually made of reds such as Pinot Noir, Syrah or Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and then the more regional country varieties such as Grenache, Malbec, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Barbera, Nebiollo and of course the Zinfandel. In India it is predominantly Shiraz and Zinfandel that contribute to rosé wine making.

The most premium rosés are made in South of France and the Rioja region of Spain followed by the United States. In terms of style rosé wines are mostly dry, off-dry or semi-sweet, best served chilled making them ideal for summers. They range from the infamous summer coolers and breezers that they were considered to be in the yesteryears to the more serious ‘bigger’ and ‘bolder’ varieties which have been received with warm embrace by wine lovers the world over. In addition to its sophisticated and stylised appearance and taste, this wine also has the greatest food pairing versatility. It is among the rare wines that can be paired effortlessly with a slew of food styles and ingredients including fish and meat in one go! Also an ideal accompaniment with barbeques, salads and cheese.

Gourmet pairing
For Franck Chausée, acclaimed sommelier and advisor to prestigious companies such as Accor, Dean of CAFA Bordeaux wine school and ambassador for Medoc wines, food and wine pairing is like a form of art and is a highly personal preference. However, a classic French terroir-based theory of pairing wines and cuisine from the same country or better yet from the same region, can seldom go wrong. Based on his conviction and passion and my affinity for rosé wines, I set out on a gourmet pairing to Mumbai’s most affluent shopping address, the Palladium Mall. Incidentally, a premier wine boutique Food Hall by Living Liquidz, Mokssh is soon to open, enticing wine lovers with a hand-picked selection of wines ranging from boutique wines to the most revered labels running into Rs 100,000 a bottle, from the world over….

I make my way to haute couturier Rohit Bal’s epicurean label Veda which fits right into the opulent setting of designer fashion labels and all things exquisite. A very embellished, ornate and in-your-face décor interspersed with large mirrors and chandeliers lends an air of extravagance. Reminiscent of the signature Veda style in both its outlets in Delhi, the restaurant embodies a very ethnic yet trendy design. Dim lights and candles set the mood for a perfect evening, making it more of a dinner venue than lunch, however they do carry executive lunch packages catering to the corporate footfalls in the vicinity. Unlike most traditional pairings that vary in wine style and evolve course-wise, our tasting is a pairing of traditional North Indian cuisine with versatile rosé wines ranging from vintage 2008 onwards, throughout the meal.

We start with the signature aperitif of potato crispies and lotus stem in curry leaf and team it with the sparkling Zampa Soiree Brut Rosé 2010, in keeping with the tradition of always starting with a bubbly as an aperitif. Pink hue, yeasty smells, hint of strawberry lingering aromas of plum. The crispness of both the chips and the bubbly make for an interesting combination. Next, we sample crispy batter fried spinach laden with yoghurt in a Delhi-style chaat alongside the Zampa Rosé 2010, a very fruit driven ripe flavoured wine with a hint of sour and tangy aromas. I don’t think I’ve come around to appreciating chaats and wine quite yet! Maybe it’s personal!

The vegetarian appetisers were rounded up with a tandoori platter sampling vegetarian sheekh kebabs, minced mixed seasonal vegetables with apricot chutney, an assortment of tandoori cauliflower, mushroom and stuffed potatoes and finally a duo of paneer with Mokssh (Life Beyond) Blush 2010. This cherry flavoured wine that has a hint of spice and a sweet finish fared well with the platter at large but was best with the tandoori mushroom. The non-vegetarian fare followed with a portion of melt-in-the-mouth char-grilled salmon and tiger prawns marinated in a tandoori masala paired with the Sula Blush Zinfandel 2010. A very fruity and pleasing nose with honeysuckle notes, it was delectable with the salmon cooked in cream and hung curd. Perfect! It was not quite the same with the tandoori prawns.

A good duo
The grand finale of the round of appetisers was the succulent tandoor lamb grilled on the bone to perfection and paired with the Grover Vineyard’s Shiraz Rosé 2009, a Shiraz based wine with hues of orange and peach. A good blend of spiciness, smooth on the palate, all in all a very
good duo.

Our next course comprised some emblematic main dishes from the north Indian kitchen! To begin with a kofta aloo bukhara, a cheese and potato kofta stuffed with apricot and a tomato based paneer kundan kaliyan. We opened a bottle of Four Seasons Blush 2008 to go with it. A combination of Shiraz and Zinfandel it’s a mélange of spice and sweet that pairs effortlessly with the richness and creaminess of the two dishes and the tomato texture is brought out flavourfully too. To conclude the meal, I selected two lamb preparations and the Bava Rosato 2010.

Made in Piedmont region, Bava Rosato Monferrato Ciaret DOC is custom-made to suit the Indian palate, keeping in mind the nuances of Indian cuisine. I sampled it with the sumptuous lamb rara red hot gravy and a classic lamb biryani slow cooked with saffron and freshly ground Indian spices. The gulabi and berry centric nose blended headily with the spice aromas of the cuisine. Another dish worth a mention is the Veda daal that is absolutely delicious on its own. However, I’m not sure it’s open to wine pairing!

A sumptuous and indulgent affair and an exhilarating experience to pair a full Indian meal with a single wine style. It is a very convenient way to match food and wine and to appease different tastes particularly in India where we tend to share most dishes including mains. Choosing one wine style makes it simpler when eating out as much as when entertaining at home both from the point of view of glasses as well as proportions. Speaking of rosés, the fruit driven style, subtle flavours and acidity levels complement the spicy and strong character of Indian gastronomy. The most promising marriage at the food and wine pairing was that of the salmon and the Sula! And incidentally in terms of the wines, my vote goes for Sula too! It exudes consistence in aromas, appearance and in taste!

Finally, it’s all a matter of personal preference! With a rosé you usually like the style or you don’t! Many seem to think it’s a wine for amateurs but I can assure that if you’re willing to experiment you will find some truly stunning wines including rosé champagnes that will take you by surprise!

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