Michel Rolland, the reputed globetrotting
winemaker also has an anniversary to celebrate this year, with his 25 years of
wine consultancy throughout the world, including over 15 loyal years devoted to
a winery in India. Brinda Bourhis, Ambrosia’s Bordeaux Correspondent interviewed
Michel Rolland who shares his passion for winemaking and for India.
in 1947 in a winemaking family based in Bordeaux, he studied at the Oenology
Institute where he also met his wife Dany (an Oenologist too). His career in
wine got-off to a flying start in the 70s when he took over a laboratory in
Libourne, Bordeaux. Years of courage, passion and expertise has made Michel
Rolland one of the most influential flying winemakers of all time.
Today, he owns two properties in Bordeaux (Chateau Fontenil
and Chateau Bon Pasteur) and is above all, a wine consultant for over 100
wineries in 13 countries including South Africa, Argentina, USA and of course,
How did you get into the wine consulting business?
At the time when I started my career, wine consulting did
not really exist. Producers would send their wines for analysis to our
laboratory and that was all. Gradually things changed and wineries were seeking
for more advice. My first client was in 1985 in the USA for Simi Winery. This
triggered my consulting business and it started to expand internationally. I
consider myself as the first flying winemaker!
You started working for Grover Vineyards, India in
1994, tell us more about that encounter.
It all started in 1994 when I first met Mr Kanwal Grover.
Actually, it was their oenologist at that time, Bruno Yvon who suggested to Mr
Grover to meet up with me. I did not even know Bruno Yvon, he had heard about me
through my reputation consulting for wineries worldwide. Despite the drawbacks
(badly tended vines, tropical climate, limited equipment and resources) I
accepted to work with Grover. Mr Grover’s hospitality and determination were key
factors in this choice. But also the country, India is so diverse and full of
surprises, I really felt like working there.
What obstacles did you face in India?
The tropical climate was the main challenge. There is a
high risk of disease and we faced technical obstacles such as lack of
electricity for irrigation that did not make it an easy task.
What expertise have you brought to Grover and how have
things changed since you started?
Since 1994 I have completely changed everything from the
vines to the cellars. I guided them on the grape varieties to plant and the work
required making an Indian wine of quality. Grover was pioneers in Indian
winemaking and their success has encouraged other wineries in India to follow in
the same footsteps.
Do you think that Indian wines have a place on the
international wine market?
India can make wine but will not be able to make great
wines. When I say ‘great wines’ I mean ones that offer complexity and that are
able to age for many years. However, good wines of good quality can be produced.
The only reason for this is as I mentioned before, the tropical climate. This
does not mean that they cannot compete on the international market. They have a
place on this open market, but also and perhaps, most importantly on the
domestic market. If the local production develops, this is a real advantage for
the international wine world. It will open wine to the Indian population and on
the long run increase consumption of Indian wines as well as foreign wines.
You have just come back from Vinexpo Hong Kong,
what are your thoughts on emerging markets like China?
Hong Kong is truly a wine hub. They were intelligent enough
to abolish tax on wine, helping the wine business to flourish. Although there
were not many Indians present at Vinexpo, we made really good contacts and there
were lots of visitors, mainly Chinese (also Japanese, Korean and Thai). Once
India relaxes its tax system it will be really an interesting market.
Back to your job as a wine consultant, what are the
qualities needed to become a successful flying winemaker like yourself? Lots of
experience, passion, good relationships, enthusiasm and courage! As the
interview comes to an end, Michel Rolland sets-off in search of his driver to
take him to his next appointment before heading to Napa Valley, USA the next
day. From Hong Kong to Napa, and now from Croatia to Israel (two recent
additions to his portfolio) there’s no stopping for Michel Rolland.
There is something mysterious about Galicia only known by those who live
there. There is something wild and abrupt in its landscapes of high mountains
and steep cliffs. Also its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, which 365 days a
year hits its shores in force leaving in its removal hundreds of women
collecting shellfish on the beaches and among the rocks.
The gray and rainy climate of the region gives some respite per year in the very
few sunny days that are well received by the pilgrims who, about to finish his
journey, are approaching Santiago de Compostela from all over the world.
The strength of Christian faith coexists with the remotest pagan beliefs in the
minds of the Galician. “Las meigas” (witches) are much more than just a legend
to the inhabitants of the small towns of the coast of Galicia.
Ordinary people in many of the backyards of their houses still have the barns
(“hórreos”), so typical from this land, that were once used to store cereals in
the period between harvests.
Sitting at the table in Galicia is to enjoy the traditional taste in soups and
stews, good bread, good wine and excellent company. But what the visitor can not
miss is the “Empanada gallega” (sardine / tuna pie), the “lacón con grelos”
(front pork leg pieces cooked with turnip), the “pulpo con cachelos” (boiled
octopus served with sliced potatoes with skin) and the seafood, another classic.
In the area of the Rias Baixas Albariño grapes are grown and they are the ones
which compose entirely the wine Paco & Lola. No doubt this wine will add a color
on any table that has its presence. The fun design of the bottle, very chic,
prepares us for the pleasant experience that involves drinking it. With 13.5%
alcohol, comes from the best selection of grapes from each vintage and even
taste better if we are aware of that the cellar, winner of numerous national and
international awards every year, is working with a production of Integrated
In Spain the wine is not just a product but part of our culture, it´s quite logical if you realize that every single region in Spain produces its own wine and every single one has different features that make it unique. Let´s travel through all of them to understand a little more this fabulous part of our lives.
Today we will talk about the Ribera del Duero geography and climate. The Ribera del Duero is one of the most important wine regions of Spain, not only for its large size, 11,300 hectares approximately, but for its features that make it unique and very special.
It goes all along the banks of the river Duero which is 115 km long and crosses the Spanish territory from Soria, the birthplace in the Picos de Urbión (Iberian System) to the Atlantic Ocean crossing Porto (Portugal).
The soul of the river is the heart of Castilla itself and that is why the wines from this region have inherited the strong and stern but generous character of the people there.
The continental climate that the vines support puts them to the limit, with extreme temperatures in summer and winter, susceptibility to frost in the winter and drought in many warmer months. In summer, temperatures can range from 32 º C during the day and 6º C the same night.
All this stimulates the production of vital substances that become extremely intense color and aromas.
Generally, the vines that are able to survive such extreme conditions produce a dark, deeply aromatic and superbly structured wine, with intensity, style and longevity. In fact some experts have defined these wines as the longest-lived wines of Spain, showing their long slow process of evolution in a cluster of various sensory manifestations while arriving to the glass.
That´s the case of the wine that I introduce you today, Vegazar red 2003 vintage, a wine with “Castilla” personality. Bright cherry red color with violet tones. In nose fruit aromas (blackberry, cherry, sweet cherry) and flowers. The taste is full-bodied wine while subtle because of its fine and elegant tannins, with a long aftertaste. It has 13.4% alcohol and is perfect with all kinds of meat, cheese and sausages.
If the confusion over wines is not enough then one has to keep a track of varieties of decanters available for different wines. Read more.
I am a sucker for wine decanters for red wines. The charm of a decanter for me emanates from the childhood memory of a handsome cut glass Waterford piece which was heavy, almost ceremonial. I was further seduced by the practical and simple shapes of Riedel decanters. Their annual editions are fluid lines of sheer seduction.
Utility of a Decanter
Is there a utility factor of a decanter beyond its visual beauty? Yes, definitely, if one agrees that wine in a bottle is an ever changing living entity that has been there for a few years waiting to be opened and appreciated. When opened wine needs to interact with air to reach its optimum potential in developing its primary and secondary aromas and to deliver its full potential richness on the palate.
A decanter serves that purpose beautifully, allowing a faster interaction with air. But, does that inversely mean that there is no need or benefit from decanting a very young wine? A young wine, unlike its more mature counterpart, might sometimes have a strong aspect to its nose which settles into a more acceptable level once it is allowed to mix with air. Of course, there is the added advantage of giving it more than a cursory honour which goes down well with guests as well.
However, when speaking of utility of a decanter, one must not forget its greatest function – allowing the sediment to settle at the bottom of the decanter, letting you serve wine in glasses without having to worry about the sudden appearance of any sediment which one might not be able to see in a dark bottle to start with.
A Standard Decanter
Shapes and designs vary from one manufacturer to another and are often for beauty though they do provide ease of pouring as well. In a functional restaurant or pizzeria one would be served house wine in an open carafe and that is not the same as a decanter either in its appeal or function.
Glass as a material was pioneered by the ancient Romans and when their empire fell and glass production became scarce, majority of decanters were made in metal ranging from bronze to silver or gold; or even earthenware. During the Venetian supremacy in the Renaissance period glass reappeared and the style of a long slender neck that opens to a wide body increased in popularity. At some point in late 18th century the British glass makers introduced the stopper – thereby decanters were used for brandy or heavier whiskies as well.
Ordinarily a decanter would hold contents of a full wine bottle and still leave space for air to permeate. Decanters meant for brandy or other spirits normally have a squatter neck and a fancy stopper too.
They would normally also have a plaque declaring the contents to be ‘brandy’, ‘cognac’, even ‘single malt scotch’, etc and contents in a decanter in such cases would be left in the bottle until they were finished over a period of time.
An old style decanter might come with a rod meant for aiding the decanting process. Wines that have not been filtered or wines that have been aged for a long period naturally get some segment at the bottom of the bottle. Decanting is meant to separate the sediment, most of the sediment would be left in the original bottle but what comes down in the decanter also settles and would stay in the decanter. Modern international wine making techniques have greatly reduced the build up of sediment and that is probably the reason why decanters are no longer necessary.
Tannic wines include impressive names like Bordeaux, Barolo, some complex Cabernet Sauvignon, Port; though wines made of Pinot Noir are rarely decanted. Effectiveness of decanting as a debate has been raging for a while now and there are firm believers for both sides. Some wine experts would praise the aesthetic value of decanter usage while others say that prolonged exposure to oxygen actually diffuses and dissipates more aroma than what it stimulates while the former group says that mixing of the air with wine in a decanter mimics the action of swirling the wine in a glass.
The opinion of a qualified person always carries more weight than practices on a whim. Magandeep Singh, a Delhi based Sommelier differentiates between ‘Decanter’ and ‘Carafe’; the former being for older wines while the latter is for a younger wine to allow it to breathe. "Decanters have narrow necks to reduce air contact while carafes are wider to increase wine surface area in contact with air," he says, while adding that "if a customer desires the wine should be decanted/carafed as it is about the service."
While bottle breathing (opening the bottle a few hours earlier to leave it to breathe) won’t do much for the wine, according tp Singh, he suggests ‘pour it out in a glass jug, leave it there and then pour it back into the bottle.’ Sane piece of advice to an individual wine lover from him would be to buy what you can afford and definitely the same principlewould apply to a commercial outlet but theyjust need more variety, for as Singh remindsus there are decanters for all wines, "Reds,Whites, even Sparkling (the non vintagecommercial bubbly wines), I don’t entirelymind it, even though there are not many takersfor decanted sparkling wine," he concludes.
In a Restaurant
Most restaurants, standalone or partof the F&B of a five star property wouldstock the simplest and easiest to maintaindecanters of slim neck and round bottom – ashaft and half globe bottom style. From timeto time in private homes one gets to see thenew shapes of Riedel or other internationalbrand names that would be sweeping shapesand might look impractical, but are greatfor using as a lot of research goes in to thedesigning. However they are not practicalfor restaurants to stock, and of course areextremely expensive.
A leisure segment hotel such as Amanin Delhi stocks different styles of decantersand carafes in their wine cellar and asuggestion for decanting is made as a regularexercise. But then that is to be expected ofa hotel that boasts custom disgorged SalonChampagne on their wine list.
Kumar Shobhan, F&B, AssociateDirector Food and Beverage for HyattRegency Delhi says they use BormilloItalian Glass decanters and mainly offer theservice at their speciality Italian restaurant,La Piazza, which often hosts Michelin starchefs and has an in house Italian chef whowould regularly be promoting local Italiancuisine. It is a given that they would suggesta decanting exercise if the wine needed it,and honour your request for decanting it inany event.
— Ameeta Sharma
Have you ever wondered why red wine gives you a bad hangover but as even after quite a few pegs of good vodka you still feel great in the morning? All has to do with the hangover severity of each. So before your next binge you might want to read this.
GOOD TO KNOW: Vodka is least likely to give you a hangover. Vodka is made by fermenting grains or crops such as potatoes with yeast. It’s then purified and repeatedly filtered, often through charcoal, strange as it sounds, until it's as clear as possible.
CALORIES: Because vodka contains no carbohydrates or sugars, it contains only calories from ethanol (around 7 calories per gram), making it the least-fattening alcoholic beverage. So a 35ml shot of vodka would contain about 72 calories.
PROS: Vodka is the 'cleanest' alcoholic beverage because it containshardly any 'congeners' - impurities normally formed during fermentation.These play a big part in how bad your hangover is. Despite its high alcohol content - around 40 per cent - vodka is the least likely alcoholic drink to leave you with a hangover, said a study by the British Medical Association.
CONS: Vodka is often a factor in binge drinking deaths because it is relatively tasteless when mixed with fruit juices or other drinks.
HANGOVER SEVERITY: 3/10
Whisky or Scotch is distilled from fermented grains, such as barley or wheat, and then aged in wooden casks.
CALORIES: About 80 calories per 35ml shot.
PROS: Single malt whiskies have been found to contain high levels of ellagic acid, according to Dr Jim Swan of the Royal Society of Chemists. This powerful acid inhibits the growth of tumours caused by certain carcinogens and kills cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.
CONS: Whisky 'Madness' - erratic and unpredictable behaviour is a common problem with drinking whisky. It's caused by the way most people drink it - Neat. The experiments show that among people drinking the same amount of ethanol, those drinking it in the form of spirits, such as whisky, had the quickest and highest peak in the blood alcohol concentration, which occurred less than an hour after drinking began.
According to one finding, if you drink any alcohol on an empty stomach, it can compare with getting it intravenously.To slow absorption down, you should drink it diluted or along with a rich, calorie-dense ingredient such as cream, as in Baileys or Irish coffee. Whisky also contains lots of congeners, which tend to form during the ageing process in oak casks. A study by the BMA found that as a result, Bourbon Whiskey is twice as likely to cause a hangover as the same amount of vodka.
HANGOVER SEVERITY: 8/10
White wine is made from the fermented juice of grapes stripped of their seeds and skins.
CALORIES: Around 130 calories per 175 ml glass; slightly more in sweeter wines.
PROS: American researchers found that grape flesh contains the chemicals tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, which help lower artery clogging LDL cholesterol.
CONS: It's the sulphites formed naturally or added to white wine as preservatives to stop it going brown which are the most likely cause of the 'white wine hangover' many people complain of. Sulphites also carry the risk of an allergic reaction which can worsen symptoms such as a headache, or asthma. White wines also wear away tooth enamel faster, making teeth more sensitive.
HANGOVER SEVERITY: 6/10
Red wine is made from fermented grape juice - but unlike white wine, thethe skin and pips are included. It's then left to mature for a minimum of three years, during which pigments from the skins leech out and colour the wine red.
Red wine can cause a worse hangover than white wine because it contains methanol, a second type of alcohol that lingers in your body the next day.
CALORIES: Around 120 calories in a standard glass - it's slightly lower in sugar content than white wine.
PROS: Contains more reservatrol - a plant anti-oxidant - than white wine. This helps to prevent blood clots and reduce inflammation, which is now considered to play a key role in heart disease. Also, the pips and skins used in red wines contain tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, chemicals which help lower artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.
CONS: Red wine drinkers can get worse hangovers than beer or white wine drinkers. Because of the way it's made, red wine produces two types of alcohol - ethanol and methanol. The liver processes the ethanol part of the drink first and leaves methanol until last. As a result, it's likely to be floating around in the body for a lot longer than ethanol, giving you that familiar "morning after" feeling.
HANGOVER SEVERITY: 7/10
Low in alcohol, beer is the least dangerous to drink. Beer is made by fermenting barley. Hops are added for flavour and yeast to ferment the grains into sugar and alcohol.
CALORIES: It's the most calorie rich alcoholic beverage - just one pint contains between 170 and 200 calories, about the same as seven chocolate fingers biscuits.
PROS: Beer is the least dangerous to drink and makes you feel you drunk the slowest. It has the lowest alcohol content – between 3 and 6 per cent for lager, and up to 8 per cent for ale and stout. A pint also contains more than a quarter of an adult's recommended dose of Vitamin B folate, which stops the build-up of homocysteinea chemical linked to heart attacks.
CONS: Beer is high in compounds called purines, which boost the levels of uric acid in the blood, according to a study at Massachusetts General Hospital. This can form crystals in joints, leading to painful attacks of gout. The 12-year study found that drinking more than two beers a day doubled the risk. Meanwhile, research published in the International Journal of Cancer showed that one pint a day adds a 10 per cent risk of bowel cancer, while two pints a day increases the risk by 25 per cent.
HANGOVER SEVERITY: 4/10
Brandy is a spirit distilled from red wine. Fine brandies are aged for extra flavour in wooden casks. Hangover hell? Brandy contains high amounts of impurities.
CALORIES: Around 80 in every 35ml shot.
PROS: Because brandy is a distillation of red wine, it contains a high concentration of antioxidants which mop-up 'free radicals' which, it's claimed, can damage the body organs and tissues and lead to deadly diseases.
Australian scientists discovered that the antioxidants created during the distilling process mean that 30ml of good brandy would give the equivalent antioxidant hit of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C.
CONS: It could give you the worst headache of all, according to research at London's National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. This was closely followed by red wine, then rum, whisky and gin. Not only does brandy contain at least 40 per cent alcohol, the high quality cask-aged variety is likely to have the highest amounts of congeners, which are formed during the lengthy storage and fermentation process. Brandy contains literally hundreds of different volatile compounds, which gives it the distinctive pleasant smell but also contributes to the hangover.
HANGOVER SEVERITY: 9/10
Champagne and sparkling wine are made in roughly the same way as wine - but then more yeast is added and it's left to ferment in the bottle a second time, producing carbon dioxide.
CALORIES: An average 175 ml glass of Champagne contains 133 calories, slightly more than a glass of white wine because syrup is added to improve taste.
PROS: The antioxidants in Champagne may help protect your brain against damage incurred during a stroke and against neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, according to a team of researchers from the University of Reading. They found that high levels antioxidants, called caffeic acid and tyrosol, helped protect brain cells from damage.
CONS: The bubbles speed up the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. And contrary to popular belief, Champagne won't lift your spirits - alcohol affects brain receptors in the same way, whatever its source.
Alcohol basically works in the same way in the brain receptors as Valium. It depresses brain activity and relieves anxiety. You might think you're in a good mood, but it's more likely the result of alcohol causing "disinhibition", making you more talkative and exhibitionist.
HANGOVER SEVERITY: 7/10
Wine is one of the few commodities that can improve with age but it can also rapidly deteriorate if kept in inadequate conditions. The three factors that have the most direct impact on a wine’s condition are light, humidity and temperature. A fourth consideration can be security, since wine can be considered a luxury good with value on the after-market. Here’s a lowdown on how to store wine to retain that perfect blend and taste.
Storage is an important consideration for any wine that is being kept for long-term aging. While most wine produced today is meant for near-term consumption (with much being consumed within 24 hours of purchase), there are certain situations in which it may be set aside for long-term storage. Historically, the long-term storage of wine was handled by wine merchants, but since the mid-20th century the task of handling and storing wine has increasingly fallen to consumers. Industries relating to specialty wine storage facilities and the construction of home-based wine cellars have emerged to cater to the storage needs of consumers.
Conditions affecting wine
In wine storage conditions, there are three factors that have the most pronounced affect on the wine: light, humidity and temperature. Direct light, whether it be sunlight or incandescent, can adversely react with phenolic compounds in the wine and create potential wine faults. Delicate, lightbodied white wines run the greatest risk from light exposure and are often packaged in darkly-tinted wine bottles that offer some protection from the light. Wines packaged in clear, light green and blue coloured bottles are the most vulnerable to light and may need extra precautions for storage. For example, the Champagne house of Louis Roederer uses cellophane wrap to protect its premium cuvee Cristal from light, the wine being packaged in a clear bottle. In the cellar, wines are stored in cardboard cartons or wooden crates to protect the wines from direct light.
Some degree of humidity is required in order to keep wines with cork enclosures from drying out. Even when wine bottles are stored on their sides, one side of the cork is still exposed to air. If the cork begins to dry out, it can allow oxygen to enter the bottle, filling the ullage space and possibly causing the wine to spoil or oxidise. Excessive humidity can also pose the risk of damaging wine labels, which may hinder identification or hurt potential resale value. Wine experts such as Jancis Robinson note that 75 per cent humidity is often cited as ideal, but there is very little significant research to definitively establish an optimal range. Concern about humidity is one of the primary reasons why wine experts such as Tom Stevenson recommends that wine should not be kept in a refrigerator since the refrigeration process often includes dehumidifying, which can quickly dry out corks.
Some wine experts debate the importance of humidity for proper wine storage. Famous wine writer Matt Kramer cites a French study which claimed that the relative humidity within a bottle is maintained at 100 per cent regardless of the closure used or the orientation of the bottle. However, Alexis Lichine contends that low humidity can still be detrimental to premium wine quality due to the risk of the cork drying out. As a way of maintaining optimal humidity, Lichine recommends spreading half an inch of gravel on the floor of a wine cellar and periodically sprinkling it with some water.
Wine is very susceptible to changes in temperature, with temperature control being an important consideration in wine storage. If the wine is exposed to too high a temperature (in excess of 77 °F (25 °C)) for long periods of time, it may become spoilt or ‘cooked’ and develop off flavours that taste raisiny or stewed. The exact length of time that a wine is at risk of exposure to high temperatures will vary depending on the wine, with some wines (such as Madeira which is exposed to high temperatures during its winemaking) being able to sustain exposure to high temperatures more easily than other, more delicate wines (such as Riesling). If the wine is exposed to temperatures that are too cold, the wine can freeze and expand, causing the cork to be pushed out; this will allow more oxygen to be exposed to the wine. Dramatic temperature swings (such as repeated transferring a wine from a warm room to a cool refrigerator) can also cause adverse chemical reactions in the wine that may lead to a variety of wine faults. Most experts, such as Jancis Robinson, recommend that wine be kept at constant temperatures between 50 and 59 °F (10 and 15 °C). Tom Stevenson speculates that 52 °F (11 °C) may be the most ideal temperature for storage and aging.
The storage condition of the bottled wine will influence a wine’s aging. Vibrations and heat fluctuations can hasten a wine’s deterioration and cause adverse effect to it. In general, a wine has a greater potential to develop complexity and a more aromatic bouquet if it is allowed to age slowly in a relatively cool environment. The lower the temperature, the more slowly a wine develops. On average, the rate of chemical reactions in wine doubles with each 18 °F (8 °C) increase in temperature. Wine expert Karen MacNeil, recommends keeping wine intended for aging in a cool area with a constant temperature around 55 °F (13 °C). Wine can be stored at temperatures as high as 69 °F (21 °C) without long-term negative effect. Professor Cornelius Ough of the University of California, Davis believes that wine can be exposed to temperatures as high as 120 °F (49 °C) for a few hours and not be damaged.
Orientation of the bottle
Most wine racks are designed to allow a wine to be stored on its side. The thinking behind this orientation is that the cork is more likely to stay moist and not dry out if it is kept in constant contact with the wine. Some wineries package their wines upside down in the box for much the same reason. Research in the late 1990s suggested that the ideal orientation for wine bottles is at a slight angle, rather than completely horizontal. This allows the cork to maintain partial contact with the wine in order to stay damp but also keeps the air bubble formed by a wine’s ullage at the top rather than in the middle of the bottle if the wine is lying on its side. Keeping the ullage near the top, it has been argued, allows for a slower and more gradual oxidation and maturation process. This is because the air bubble that is the ullage space expands and contracts depending on temperature fluctuation. When exposed to higher temperatures the bubble expands, and if the wine is tilted at an angle, this expansion will diffuse through the cork and not harm the wine. If the wine is completely on its side then this expansion will cause the bubble located in the middle of the bottle to push toward the cork, ejecting some wine in the process. When temperatures drop, the bubble contracts and forms a vacuum that brings more oxygen into the wine, speeding up the oxidation process.
Alternative wine closures
Storing wine that is bottled with alternative wine closures other than cork have many of the same considerations in regards to temperature and light sensitivity. While humidity and concerns about oxidation are not as pronounced, the relative recent popularity and increased usage of these closures have not given much opportunity for much research into the storage and aging potential of wines that use these closures.
Places to store wine
Since the end of the 20th century, there has been growth in industries relating to wine storage. Some wine connoisseurs may elect to store their wine at home in a dedicated room or closet. Other options involve purchases and rentals at off-site wine storage facilities that are specifically designed for the task. Some of these industries focus on the construction of home wine cellars and wine caves, small rooms or spaces in which to store wine. Others produce smaller wine accessories, such as racks and wine refrigerators. These appliances can feature adjustable temperature interfaces, two chambers for red and white wines, and materials which protect the wine from the sun and ambient environment.
Purists may cringe and baulk. But can they ignore the acceptance of champagne cocktails world over? The drink that is synonymous with French aristocracy and luxury, champagne together with its sparkling wine cousins were barely seen to be mixed with other ingredients and drink mixers.
History has witnessed both the highs and lows in the popularity of champagne cocktails. Presently, in India the trend has seemingly caught on, and is on its way up quite rapidly. Awareness is the primary factor to influence the growth. Indians have definitely grown more adventurous with their choice of drinks. The lovers of cocktail typically, would vouch that it adds more zing to the bubbly potion. The concoction serves as a great accompaniment to a relaxing Sunday brunch, or the perfect welcome drink to an enjoyable party.
Craig Edney, a UK-based bar consultant, with Hydromel, in an interview with Ambrosia gives an insight into this bourgeoning trend internationally. He says, “Champagne cocktails have always been popular as they are seen as glamorous and decadent, particularly for special occasions like weddings and birthdays.” He classifies the champagne cocktail in two broad groups. “There are two main varieties of champagne cocktails. First, there are those in which the predominant ingredient is champagne or some type of sparkling wine and served in a flute or champagne saucer, for example the classic champagne cocktail, comprising sugar, angostura bitters, cognac and of course champagne. Then there are cocktails where the champagne or sparkling wine is the finishing touch to the drink, such as the Russian Spring Punch containing vodka, cassis, lime juice, gomme, raspberry puree and finally champagne.”
As there are different varieties of champagnes (Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs) and sparkling wines available in the market, a question arises: What kinds of champagnes make the best cocktails? Edney informs, “For those cocktails that are predominantly champagne or sparkling wine (as I mentioned earlier) a good quality product, (is to be used) as the main ingredient, the overall taste of the drink will be determined by the sparkling wine used. As for drinks where the sparkling wine is not the main ingredient, the quality is not as important. Something a little less distinctive is best.”
One has to be careful while preparing this drink. Edney highlights some of the important measures. “Both of the varieties of drinks are made by combining the other ingredients, in whatever fashion are called for, and then pouring the champagne or sparkling wine slowly as it is likely that the other ingredients will cause the champagne to fizz up. This will avoid spillage and consequent waste. Ensure that all the ingredients are the freshest possible and that all the ingredients are of a comparable quality. There are some cases where the champagne needs to be layered on top of the drink. This can be done by pouring the champagne down an upturned bar spoon with the disc touching the surface of the drink as would be done when making something like, for instance a B52 cocktail.” (Please note, ‘B52’ is not a champagne cocktail but composed of coffee liqueur, Baileys Irish Cream, and Grand Marnier. The ingredients are poured in such a way one after the other that they separate into three distinctly visible layers, due to the relative densities of the ingredients. Edney used the term to explain how the specific kind of champagne cocktail is to be layered). He mentions that worldwide, champagne cocktails or cocktails made using other sparkling wines are very popular with women, although not exclusively, in the 18 to 30 age group.
There is a mention of champagne cocktails in the first book on bartending, ever published in America in 1862, called ‘How to Mix Drinks; or, the Bon Vivant’s Companion’. Back in the 1920s in Europe, this cocktail was found to be extremely popular among the ‘upper crust’. The classic champagne cocktail was preferred during the Civil War era in the US. It was also chosen by Esquire magazine as one of the top 10 cocktails of 1934. The original champagne cocktail was served in champagne saucers, modeled after French queen Marie Antoinette’s breasts. But they are rarely used now. Champagne served in champagne flutes is better as the shape of the flute doesn’t let the bubbles escape easily.
But in India it is only in recent times that the concoction has found more aficionados. Bangalore-based Aslam Gafoor (49) Chief Operating Officer, Weber Grills India and member of Bangalore Wine Club and Chaine des Rotisseurs, informs, in India, “There are plenty of champagne cocktails that Indians enjoy. Popular among those are, Bellini containing peach, Kir Royale with creme de cassis, Mimosa, Axis Kiss with amaretto and creme de cassis, Champagne Fizz with gin and lemon juice, Buck’s Fizz with orange juice.” Just like in other countries, in India too champagne cocktails are usually served as ‘welcome drinks’ or ‘celebration drinks’ and people move on to other drinks as the party progresses. “Champagne cocktails are a very popular choice on Valentine’s Day, something like plain champagne with strawberry has many takers here. Champagne cocktails are also usually liked by younger folks and particularly women,” informs Aslam.
Try out the following recipes of champagne cocktails. In the classic champagne cocktails, the bitters and brandy add warmth to the champagne. Good champagne contributes to the taste and flavour. In all champagne cocktails, champagnes are added last, right before serving for best results.
Ingredients of a Classic champagne cocktail includes one sugar cube, two to three Angostura bitters, a good quality champagne, 30 ml of brandy, orange slice for garnish, maraschino cherry for garnish.
Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute. Add the Angostura bitters. Then add the brandy. And fill the champagne flute with champagne. Finally, garnish with the orange slice and cherry. Another simple variation you might like to try out. Here goes. Add four drops of Angostura Bitters to a sugar cube in a champagne flute. Pour some brandy and top up with champagne. As you sip it slow and easy you will be able to taste a sensation changing from dry to sweet.
Kir Royal is another traditional favourite. Simply add champagne to crème de cassis, and get a luxurious and tantalizing aperitif. True to its name, Disco Fizz makes another exciting cocktail drink. An electric blue cocktail, the drink comprises blue curacao, elderflower cordial, pineapple juice and lemon juice in small measures all going in to a champagne flute. And finally, top up with champagne.
You don’t need a reason to party now, do you? Now next time don’t wait for an occasion to pop a bottle of bubbly and fill in your champagne flute. Just make sure you add some ingredients to double the fun.
Although there is some historical evidence suggesting that cork was used as a stopper about 2,000 years ago, its use became more prevalent with the introduction of glass bottles in the 17th century. In recent years, other alternatives such as capsules and plastic stoppers have been introduced as closures for wine bottles. However, cork still remains the principal closure of choice for premium wines. – Writes Rajiv Seth
Cork - an introduction
Cork is essentially a piece of bark from an oak tree known as cork oak, Quercus suber. The cork tree grows naturally in a region bordering the western Mediterranean Sea. The major cork producing countries include Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy in Europe; and Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia in Africa. Several efforts have been made to grow this species in other parts of the world; but, so far, the results have not been encouraging. Worldwide production of cork is estimated to be 3,075,000 tons. Of this amount, Portugal produces the lion's share (about 55%).
Why use Cork as a Wine closure
Cork is a unique substance and a long proven closure for wines. The cork possesses many remarkable qualities which make it an ideal stopper for wine bottles. Some of the important qualities include: compressibility, resilience, impermeability to liquids, low density, little tendency to rot, and a high coefficient of friction.
Cork is highly compressible. It can be compressed without causing significant lateral expansion. It is also very resilient. After compression, the cork can return to 85% of its original volume in about 20 minutes, and about 95% of its volume after 24 hours. During corking, a cylindrical cork 38 to 40 mm long and 23 to 25 mm in diameter is inserted in a bottle with a bore size of about 18 mm. In this situation, the cork diameter is reduced by 25% (from 24 mm to 18 mm) and the cork volume is reduced by 40 to 50%. Due to its elastic nature, the cork exerts a pressure of 1.5 to 3 kg/cm2 against the glass surface (in the neck of the bottle) and forms an excellent seal. The elastic property of the cork is due to the unique cell structure. As noted earlier, the tiny cork cells are filled with air and thus the tissue can be envisioned as layers of tiny air cushions grouped together. The cork is very light in density (0.12 to 0.25 g/cm3) and a little over 50% of the cork volume is air. When the cork is squeezed (as during corking), the air inside the cells is compressed. The compressed air inside the tiny cells exerts counter pressure which permits the cork tissue to expand and provide an effective seal. With prolonged compression, the gas inside the cells gradually permeates out and the resiliency of the cork is permanently lost; the cork is not as elastic as it was before compression. This phenomenon can be observed when a cork from an old bottle (10 to 15 years storage) is withdrawn.
The elastic property of the cork is influenced by its moisture content. The cork remains fairly elastic for insertion into the bottle within a moisture content range of 5 to 12%. But the moisture content is maintained around the 5 to 7% level in order to discourage microbial growth. Cork is practically impermeable to liquids. This is because the cork tissue is made of tightly packed cells; this leaves practically no room for liquid to pass. One millimeter thick cork tissue may have as much as 30 layers of cells. The waxy and suberous composition of the cell wall makes it even more difficult for liquid or gasses to pass.
Another unique and highly desirable property of cork is its high coefficient of friction. This means that it does not slide easily on smooth surfaces such as glass. The cut surface of the cork consists of broken cells that act like suction cups when they are in contact with the glass. Due to this tendency, the cork adheres tightly to the glass surface (this is what makes it hard to remove the cork from the bottle), and also assumes the shape of the neck of the bottle. In spite of small irregularities in the neck of the bottle, the cork fits well and provides an effective seal.
Cork is a very durable stopper. When in contact with wine, it does not readily degrade. In most cases, very little wine penetrates into the cork and few cork constituents leak into the wine (this assumes good cork). Occasionally, vanillin/woody odors may be imparted to the wine, but overall, it doesn't affect the wine flavor.
How Corks are made
As noted earlier, cork is produced from the bark of a cork oak tree. The cork tree is unique; in that, a careful removal of the bark does not harm the tree and secondly, after stripping the bark, a new bark is regenerated. Although the cork tree is a forest species, it does require some care and attention in order to produce high quality cork bark over a long period of time.
The stripping of the bark begins in summer, usually in July. After the bark is peeled off, the tree produces a reddish fluid which protects the mother bark. The fluid dries to a thin layer and by early autumn, new cork cells begin to form. The first stripping of the bark occurs when a young tree is about 15 to 30 years old and has attained a trunk diameter of 70 cm. The bark that is removed for the first time is known as virgin cork. Its structure is irregular, it is relatively hard (not supple), and is not useful for cork stopper production. This virgin cork is used for producing other cork-based materials.
After a period of about nine years from the first stripping, the bark is removed again. The cork bark removed for the second time is called second bark, and is still not considered good enough to produce cork stoppers. The cork bark that is removed in the third and subsequent stripping is called reproduction cork. Its texture is more uniform and it provides excellent material for producing cork stoppers. Usually the cork quality is considered best when a tree is about 50 years old. The tree will live and produce cork until it is 160 to 180 years old. But after about 100 years, the quality of the cork declines. The stripping of cork is done every nine years. This allows enough time for a tree to grow and produce good sized bark. Starting at 25 years, a tree will yield about 15 stripping.
The stripped bark, also called cork slabs or cork planks, is stacked in piles outdoors. This allows the cork slabs to season or cure. During this period, the sap from the bark dries off and the cork planks undergo weather-induced chemical changes. Following curing, the cork planks are subjected to a boiling process which cleans and disinfects them and also makes the cork planks softer and more flexible. This is important because it allows the semi-cylindrical cork planks to be made into flat slabs called cork board.
In the next step, the cork board is cut into strips. The width of the strip is slightly greater than the length of the cork. The strips are placed on their side and the cork is punched out perpendicular to that of the cork growth. This ensures that the lenticels are positioned on the side of the cork touching the glass when the cork is inserted in the bottle. This reduces the potential leakage of wine through the lenticels.
Cork punching requires great skill in order to maximize the quality and quantity of the corks produced. It is estimated that about 30% of the cork board is used in making cork stoppers. After punching, the corks are polished and the edges are trimmed, if needed. Corks with edges trimmed at 45° are called champerd corks. Some winemakers prefer champerd corks because champering makes it easier to insert the cork during corking. Corks used for fortified wines are made by gluing or binding the plastic top to the end of the cork. Such corks are referred to as T-corks.
After polishing, the corks are rinsed with water to remove dust and treated with a solution of calcium hypochlorite and oxalic acid, followed by a final rinse. The process bleaches and disinfects the cork surface. Since chlorine treatment can contribute to the formation of 2, 4, 6-trichloroanisol, a compound known for causing cork taint, an alternative treatment is preferred.
Instead of chemical treatments, some cork producers sterilize corks by exposing them to irradiation. The process is very effective in eliminating microorganisms such as molds and bacteria. Cobalt-60 isotope (radioactive cobalt) emits gamma rays which can penetrate deep into the cork. This achieves the destruction of harmful microbes both on the surface, as well as, inside the cork.
Following chemical sterilization, the corks are dried to bring the moisture content between 6 to 8%, and then graded. Based on the customer's request, the corks are branded and/or surface treated with silicon or paraffin. Coated corks are often used in high speed bottling. Finally, the corks are packaged in plastic bags containing sulfur dioxide and stored at a temperature of 15 to 20°C and 50 to 70% humidity.
Agglomerate cork or composition cork is another kind of cork used sometimes by the wine industry. It is important to note that the agglomerate cork has a low compressibility and is less elastic;
Champagne corks are a type of composition cork. They are larger than the corks used to stopper still table wines. The upper section of the cork is made of cork particles (like agglomerate cork) and the lower section has two cork disks glued to it. The lower end is in contact with the wine when the cork is inserted into the bottle. Champagne corks must be able to withstand high pressure (about six atmospheres). To achieve this, corks with larger diameters (31 mm instead of 24 mm) are used and they are compressed to a greater degree than table wine corks. For example, the regular corks when compressed are reduced in volume by 45 to 50%. In the case of champagne corks, the volume is reduced by 65%. This provides an effective seal and holds the wine in the bottle under high pressure. Large single piece corks are available for stoppering champagne bottles.
Cork Faults and Quality Control
Cork Defects - A defective cork can cause problems such as leaking. formation of deposits or sediment, and equally important, the development of cork taints. To prevent these problems the vintner should recognize faulty corks and avoid using them. Cork defects can be serious; that is, they can cause leakage and/or make cork insertion difficult. These are defined as critical defects. Other flaws may not be as problematic. They may be related to the appearance of the cork rather than the function. Such defects are considered noncritical. Some of the critical defects are given below.
1. Green wood - This is caused by immature cork cells. The flaw is considered critical if more than 50% of the cork length is made of green wood.
2. Poor cork ends - They are caused by holes, cracks, and/or fissures. If the hole or crack is over one-third the length of the cork, it is a serious flaw. The holes can also be caused by worms. Such corks should not be used.
3. Holes - The presence of any large holes (>2 mm) is considered a critical defect, especially if they are connected together over 50% of the cork length. The holes can be due to insect damage or a large number of lenticels.
4. Belly spots or cuts - These are surface depressions caused by the inner density of the cork or by poor cutting of the cork cylinder. The defect is critical when the spots occur over 50% of the cork's length.
5. Woody corks - This condition results when a cork is cut too close to the bark surface. If over 50% of the cork is woody, it is a serious flaw.
6. Chips, breaks and cracks - This kind of damage usually occurs during the processing of corks. A dry cork is also prone to chipping and cracking. Larger chipped areas or a crack on the cork surface is a serious defect.
7. Poor or improper surface coating - The cork surface is often coated with paraffin, waxes, silicon, and other polymer coatings. The purpose of surface treatment is to make dry corking and cork extraction easier, and also to improve impermeability. When the coating is done improperly, it can cause problems during corking or in forming an effective seal.
8. Dimensions not in accordance with designated size - Incorrect cutting can result in corks that are smaller than the intended size.
Other problems associated with corks are sediment and off odors. Cork dust can sometimes be a source of unsightly deposits. The dust is produced during processing and can be located in large lenticels. Usually coating the cork prevents the dust from getting into the wine.
Cork taint or must and moldy odors can sometimes be imparted to a wine by a defective cork. There are many compounds which are associated with corky (musty and moldy) odors. Most important of these compounds is 2, 4, 6-trichloroanisol. When this compound gets into the wine, it imparts an off odor. It should be noted that this compound can get into the wine from various other sources.
So that's it the Journey of cork immortal from Bark to Bottle, surviving the extreme summers, frequent fires and onslaughts of modern technology, with ever changing scientific perceptions.
Rajiv Seth is a wine educationist, Author and an expert in International Wine Legislation especially European Union. In 1987, he became the first Indian to be awarded a gold medal from WSET, London. He also writes for DelWine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Refreshingly easy to drink, this versatile, fruity, sparkling wine from the Veneto region of Northern Italy is now bubbling worldwide. Gaining acceptance as a less expensive alternative to Champagne, it is rapidly becoming the drink of choice for consumers seeking a fashionable, festive, sparkling wine which won’t break the budget.
Prosecco is both the name of the grape and wine, primarily grown in the hills from Conegliano and Valdobbiane,- the main areas of production in the Veneto region (just north of Venice). It is produced using the Charmat method whereby the secondary fermentation takes place in large steel vats. Contact with the yeast is brief which is why Prosecco is typically fresh, fruity and slightly aromatic.
In 2009 the Italian government recognized the distinctive geographic area of Coneglian and Valdobbiane by awarding it the prestigious DOCG status (Denominazione di Origine Controllata). The G stands for “Guaranteed” and basically ensures the winemakers must adhere to stricter guidelines than DOC wines. The primary difference is these wines must undergo an in-depth chemical analysis and evaluation of a tasting committee before they can be bottled. They are then are sealed with a numbered governmental seal across the cap or cork.
Considering there are only 41 DOCG regions in Italy compared to 300 DOC this is a noteworthy allocation and entitles Prosecco extra prestige and recognition as an exclusive sparkling wine in its own right.
This newly acquired status can only help worldwide sales of Prosecco which have already increased visibly according to Mondial Wine. In the UK alone, sales have doubled; Pierpaolo Petrassi Senior Product Development Manager for Italy at Tesco explains, “Prosecco is stylistically appropriate for UK consumers who are not looking for more structured, (usually) drier and more premium-priced Champagne.”. It is traditionally served without food and is fresh in style.
In America; “Prosecco is on fire and will continue to grow as consumers look for alternatives to high-priced Champagne,” says Leonardo LoCascio, president and CEO of Winebow Inc.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, consumption of Italian sparkling wines grew 14 percent, up to 16.7 million litres from 14.7 million litres the previous year. This growth includes other popular sparkling wines coming out of Italy, such as Oltrepo’Pavese, Asti Spumante and the prestigious Franciacorta. A crisp and elegant sparkling wine, it is often compared to Champagne, as it uses the same grape varieties and production method (methode Champenoise) where secondary fermentation takes place in bottles. Though lower in cost, Francicorta undergoes even stricter regulations than Champagne regarding maximum yield and maturation time. It is produced in much smaller quantities than Prosecco, but it is another of Italy’s sparkling wines gaining worldwide recognition and accolade.
It is not only the Americans and Europeans who are embracing Italian sparkling wines with such fervour, sales in Hong Kong (regarded as the Asian hub) recorded a dramatic rise of 81.2% in terms of value.
In December last year, Italian farmers' union Coldiretti said that exports of Italian sparkling wine would exceed domestic consumption for the first time. It said Prosecco was showing "dynamic" growth in foreign markets. Around 340m bottles of sparkling wine were produced in Italy in 2009, with around 160m bottles supporting the new Prosecco DOC and DOCG denominations.
Most commonly drunk on its own, Prosecco also makes for an enticing cocktail. Undoubtedly the most famous Prosecco based cocktail would be the Bellini, from the renowned “Harrys Bar in Venice”Frequented by the Genre of Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde and Henry Fonda, Harrys Bar has always been a destination for an artistic entourage.The Bellini cocktail was invented by its owner back in the 40’s andaccording to their Head Barman it still remains the most popular drink onthe menu – “perfect whatever the time, whatever the season”.
The Bellini is prepared with freshly squeezed white peach juice and prosecco, served in a chilled Champagne flute. The perfect end to a perfectday.
For the cork and corkscrew—the question of “chicken and egg” is an easy one. Exactly when or by whom the corkscrew was invented is unknown. But as corks became a more common way to cap containers, our beer or wine guzzling forefathers clearly needed a way to access the goods they had so wonderfully learned to seal.
The earliest reference to a corkscrew comes in 1681 where it is called a “steel worm used for the drawing of corks out of bottles.” The term “steel worm” was derived by gunsmiths, likely the first producers of corkscrews, who had crafted similar tools by the same name for cleaning the barrel of a musket.
It was not until the early 18th century, however, that corks were used for wine in the way in which we are currently accustomed. After some major technology breakthroughs in the glass blowing industry, craftsmen were able to shape bottles with long straight sides and skinny necks—a design that allowed later-day vintners to seal, and thus age, a bottle of wine.
While its task and form are simple, artisans have found many ways to decorate and shape the corkscrew throughout the millennia. Some disguise it, some keep it simple, and others pay tribute to various other hobbies or cultures.
curtesuy : http://www.ambrosiaindia.com
As one begins to build and design a wine cellar, one thing is often overlooked, amusingly…the wine bottles. Wine bottles come in many sizes and shapes: The 750 ml is your most common, but there are splits which are 1/4 the size of the normal, Magnums which are equal to 2 normal bottles, Jeroboams which are equal to 4 bottles, and Methuselahs (everyone’s favorite) which are equal to 8 bottles. So you can see how important it is to really think about what type of bottles you will plan to store.
Bordeaux wines from France have the normal 750ml appearance, and New World wines based on Bordeaux grape varieties do as well. Red wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot usually come in dark green Bordeaux bottles. White wines based on Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and dessert wines like Sauternes come in clear or light-green Bordeaux bottles. Italian wines like Chianti or Californian wines like Zinfandel may also use this bottle shape. What’s good about these wine bottles is they’re easy to store in a wine rack. You don’t need to use bulk storage and can therefore maximize storage capacity, which can be critical if you have a small storage space like a wine refrigerator or cabinet.
Burgundy wine bottles are elegant, slope-shouldered, dark-green, with a wide body. Traditional Burgundy grape varieties are Pinot Noir (red) and Chardonnay (white). New World producers of these grape varieties also use this same bottle shape. Other French wine-producing regions use a similar bottle, like the Loire Valley and the Rhone (grape variety – Syrah). However, the Rhone bottle is not quite as wide and the slope is more severe than a Burgundy bottle. In general, Bordeaux bottles are 3 inches in diameter, while Burgundy bottles are 3.5. Since most wine racks are designed for the former, Burgundy wine bottles can cause a lot of storage problems. If this is your wine preference consider the space of your wine cellar.
Champagne wine bottles, Turley, and Magnums can be very similar in appearance to Burgundy bottles. Like Burgundy bottles they are also 3.5 inches in diameter or more, but they are much thicker and heavier bottles, with big indentations in the bottom of the bottle. These bottles are designed to withstand 90 pounds per square inch of pressure, which is three times the pressure in a typical car tire. Champagne wine bottles have storage problems very similar to Burgundy bottles and the solutions are the same (either adding large format wine racks or using diamond bins or case bins). Again, consider your wine cellar space.
Always keep your bottles stored in wine racks that will keep your corks moist. Store your wines in a room which has a stable and consistent temperature and humidity level (70%), little to no vibrations, and obviously no odors (including stains, wood species, and even paint finishes).
Design is very important to each wine cellar but one should not overlook function as well. With the proper wine cellar design, you should be able to achieve your dream design with affordability and functionality as well.
Principal. Design & Cellar Concepts.
Joseph & Curtis Custom Wine Cellars & Humidors
We design, build, stock and manage.
Sustainability is the need of the hour and seeing the wine industry growing to a very large extent everyone wants to get into it. Being in this wine industry for such a long time has anyone seriously thought about getting organic and applying any of the bio-dynamic preparations especially belonging to a country – INDIA; where most of these applications have their origins from!!! These preparations include applying most of the natural resources from our mother nature with just a bit of modifications like we make our food.
My first day of work @ Burn Cottage vineyard (Central Otago, NZ)....Wow! Didn’t ever imagine I would do all this on a foreign land that too when I come from a country where all these activities are considered to be holy "My India" and carried out on a daily basis especially in the rural areas....Had just heard about sustainability, organic and bio-dynamic wine but never got a chance to work with one...SO here I am.....
Collecting cow dung every morning was bit of experience. I never thought of doing this on a foreign land that too when I come from a country where all these activities are considered to be holy and are daily activities in most of the Indian rural areas. Initially to my surprise I never thought that these foreigners would ever put their bare hands into this so called *** which is considered to be holy only in INDIA, but I was wrong. Every one of us got our bare hands into the collected cow dung every morning and treated it as normal dough to make it more consistent adding some basalt and egg shell pieces.
It’s made sure that this cow dung comes from the cows where they are kept in a very good environment...grazed naturally on the paddocks...all the cows here were from Scotland...Looked like pretty Eskimo Cows :P
The cow dung had to be fresh, with consistency, just like our chapatti flour dough...did u ever thought of selecting cow dung properties...so there we go....in bio-dynamic activities u need to be careful with all these points....
After collecting a few handful of cow dung we got them on to a sorting table where we sorted out the dung for any crap found in it. Just imagine the tiny dirty worms were not considered to be crap. They looked so disgusting, but yes they are very good to maintain the consistency of the cow dung. So just close your eyes and get on to the dung, put your soft hands into it to make it more consistent just like u do to your dough while preparing pizzas...don’t u ??? :P
After that this matter is filled into such brick made pits which are called the 'cow pat pits (CPP)'....after filling it in these pits they are to be mixed over a period of time and rotated just to keep it breathing and give it a mix at least twice a week so that it becomes consistent on all sides....after 5-6 months it actually turns itself into earthy matter and gives a very good earthy aroma which makes you very difficult to believe that this was actually fresh cow dung a few months ago....and it was surprisingly true to my eyes after seeing the samples of these....
There are a lot of bio-dynamic preps: like CPP, 500, 501, 502 - 507...out of these I got the opportunity to make the CPP, 504, 507, 501 and use the 500 as well...u must be imagining what crap I am saying about all these numbers...that’s d fun mate!!!
ok lets begin...:
CPP - cow pat pit
500 - In this the cow dung that I spoke before is filled in cow horns and buried under the ground for around 3 months and then the matter is used to mix in water or stinging nettle tea to sprinkle over the vineyard.
501 - Silica along with cow dung is filled just like 500 and buried under and then used.
502 - Yarrow flowers are fermented in deer's bladder.
503 - Chamomile flowers are just fermented in the soil and applied on compost
504 – That’s my favourite. I love the sting from the nettle. It’s like someone’s pinching you from within you whole night or just poking a needle on u...u should have seen my Vineyard Manager ‘Jared’ the way he handles the nettle...he doesn’t even get the sting now a days since he has have got so many. So 504 is basically about cutting the nettle plant into small pieces...just chop it down and put it in hot water and make a tea out of it...and just drink a sip!!! Hey I am just kidding, it’s now ready to sprinkle it on your vineyards :D
505 - Oak barrel pieces are fermented in the skull of a domestic animal preferably sheep as NZ's sheep population is 15times the population of human beings :P
506 - In this the dandelion flowers are fermented in a cow mesentery and then applied over...
507 - Valerian flowers look very pretty. Small white coloured ones. From the flowers, attempt is made only to take the petals from the entire flower and then crush them down in typical
Indian traditional way like you chop garlic and ginger and then fermented over a period of one week or so in a glass jar and then the juice is drained out and filled in empty bottles.
Sorry, but I do not have any personal experience about how they go about with the rest of the preps as I dint get to experience them with my own hands :P but yes I am sure they must be fun to prepare just like the others :)
In the alongside picture u can see a cement kind of structure where the nettle tea water is just flowing down and then revolving back and flowing down again just like a normal fountain water. This actually is creating a vortex as well as shape of 8 while its going down. The concept of vortex is actually very interesting to know about. Even I was amused to know it and it actually makes sense. Even while you mix the CPP or nettle tea u mix it in a way with a stick so that u create a vortex while u mixing it....it’s about absorbing all the energies of the universe that are around u...have u ever seen a galaxy picture??? The universe pic??
how it looks - like u r going into its vortex round n round n round....lots of star inside it....yes d same way looks d vortex of these solutions...so it is said that when u create a vortex it takes d energies from the universe and when u sprinkle it on the vineyard all these energies are transferred into them and help their growth....
You must be imagining why am I holding this cute little chicken in my hand...
No don’t worry I didn’t had it in my dinner...these are actually free range chickens which are on the entire vineyard...they help maintain the bio-dynamic and organic activities that we carry....whatever preps that we make and sprinkle on vineyard result in having nice earth worms inside the soil of the vineyard which keeps soil healthy...and also there are some ugly insects which may destroy the vine plants in some way or the other for example a orange ugly grass rub which take on the roots of the vine plants...so these chickens they actually feed on such little insects and help in keeping the soil healthy, wealthy and wise.
Sustainability, organic and bio-dynamics are huge concepts which can be applied on nature to keep it healthy and cannot be explained in one go. Here I would like to give you reference of a very good book "Grasp: The Nettle" By Peter Proctor and lot of his works in India. It has been seen that most of these practices still exist but none of them ever heard about applying them around the Indian wine industry. So, this is just a thought that I would like to share with each one of you. Hopefully I will be hearing someone from the Indian Wine Industry doing something like this very soon
Enjoy....Think Organic and be Sustainable!!!
When ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant, make sure you check the cork. Always make sure what is branded on the cork matches what is printed on the wine label.
About a year ago, I was having dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in New York. After I ordered off the wine list, the waiter opened the bottle somewhere out of sight. When he came back and started to pour the wine, I asked to see the cork. He looked at me and sarcastically said "Oh, you want to see the cork, do you? We‘ll then I guess I‘ll have to fish it out of the trash, because that‘s where I put it". He continued pouring, expecting me to drop the subject, but I quickly fired back "Well you gotta do what you gotta do. Now, get me the cork out of the trash, you might be able to find it next to your tip." A bit taken back, he left and came back 10 minutes later with a cork in a small cardboard gift box(which I still have) - a snotty move. The bottle must always be open in front of you, otherwise there is no way to know if it was a bottle opened earlier. Now Gordon Ramsay's restaurant is closed, the waiter never got his tip, but the cork lives on.
One of my pet peeves is cork sniffing, which is nothing more than a theatrical flourish!
The importance of cork sniffing to determine the quality of the wine is one of those often repeated wine myths, which, like most tales, spring from an arcane bit of truth. Sniffing the cork tells you nothing about the wine.
Only the most knowledgeable and highly trained specialists in the field of oenology can detect a possible taint on the cork - the effect of a cork mold - which could potentially affect a wine's taste, and then only sometimes. This is not a skill anyone other than such a wine expert can genuinely perform.
So, discounting the rare experts, if you're at a restaurant and the waiter or the server smells the cork, you're witnessing affectation in action. If you're at a dinner party, and your host sniffs the cork and actually makes a remark about how great the aroma is...you know better!
Most of us aren't conditioned to stop and look at wine, but it's the start of the fun. Pour a glass and take a moment to notice and admire the color.
Color can tell you a lot about the maturity or condition of a wine. If it's browned out, the wine could have been badly stored or it may be mature but past drinkability. White wine can fade, showing gradations of color. Fading - meaning the color pales out toward the edges - has a bad connotation and usually implies that the wine has lost its intensity.
Young healthy red wines, as a general rule, show a very deep purple or mulberry purple before they begin to mature. A common term people use for this stage of maturity is "ruby colored". As they age, many but not all red wines take on different hues, sometimes invoking words like "garnet" or "warm orange" at the rim. These are subtleties, but if a red wine is very yellow or brown at the rim, it's probably past its peak.
Most wine bottles are green, so you can't see the true wine color. There's a good reason to put red wine in green bottles: simply to protect it from the light. I don't think you'll ever see a bottle of red wine that's not in green glass. But the myriad variations of reds or whites stress the argument for only pouring wine into clear glasses, or if you choose to, into a clear glass decanter.
There are thousands of variations and depths of color related to wine. Red can be a deep red, as opaque and dark as a mahogany stain. There are rich, lush reds and the deep purple of a young wine. Some wines are so opaque, you can't see through them to the bottom of the glass. Others are light and clear.
The visual experience with white wine is totally different from that with reds. With whites, you look for depth, clarity, and shadings of color. Some whites are gold straw yellow, lemon yellow, or green tinged, others turn a pale gold or golden with age, depending on the wines and whether they are dry or sweet.
TIP: Once you've got at least a third of a glass of wine, don't hold it up to the light or at arm's distance in front of you. Instead, take your glass and tilt it slightly against a white surface or napkin. You'll see the real color. Shades of color extend from the middle of the glass to the rim when you tilt it, too.
Cognac - The Spirit of France
When the distillation of Cognac was an art almost two hundred years old, the makers began to age the brandy in barrels of Limousin oak which happened to be at hand. The result was Cognac as we know it now - Rajiv Seth.
France produces a wide variety of extraordinary spirits, liqueurs, fortified and sparking wines, catering to every drinker's choice and satisfaction. Foremost amongst these are its brandies distilled either from wine or fruits, and the premier among all these potables it indubitably, the Cognac. Unquestionably the best brandy in the world, it has always found a place in the ostentation of regal splendors.
The Cognac history traces itself back to almost 300 years, when a need arose to conservate and transport the soft wines of Charente in France which were enjoying a healthy export market as early as the 12th century. All had gone unperturbed till the coastal and channel waters of the Atlantic became tumultuous with war, thus delaying shipments and spoiling wines.
Al home also, the wine trade was burdened by domestic taxes and overproduction.
To allay these obstacles, an ingenious solution was sought of distilling the wine into a concentrate of low volume and high strength, so that the drinker would simply add water and reconvert the concentrate to wine.
This concentrate was brandy, the new taste of the connoisseurs, which the Dutch fostered in France. They came to La Rochelle for its salt trade, but being shrewd traders perceived the brandy preference in the cold northern countries, and being the domineers of sea trade had strong transportation facilities. Thus the local wine makers turned to distillation and within 60 yrs, around the turn of the sixteenth century brandy had largely replaced wine as a local product.
The French were not the pioneers of brandy making. Concentrated spirits of wine were used in Greece and Rome for antiseptic and anesthetic purposes. Spain and Italy made a kind of spirit very close to brandy as early as the 13th century. The French positioned their brandy as a communal drink thus differentiating it from its medicinal and appreciative identities.
The ingenuity of discovering Cognac was the work of Chevalier de la Croix Marion, who in the 17th century of distilling brandy twice that brought in it the irresistible flavors. Gradually in the 18th Century, Cognac Brandy and its reputation improved, which brought about the establishments of the grand Moguls of Cognac trade - Jean Martell came from Jersey in 1715, Richard Hennessey from Cork, Ireland in 1765 Thomas Hine from Dorset in 1775.
The golden era of the Cognac trade from 1750 AD onwards was marked between 1880-1890 AD with the phylloxera blight or the vine pestilence which ravaged masses and masses of vineyards.
The replanting and recreation of the vineyard changed Cognac slightly, but the reputed producing houses and the traditional art of distillation remains the same as in its hey day from 1750 - 1850.
The process of distillation forms the most important part of cognac making, and as if to symbolize a tribute to the discoveries of brandy and projecting a tryst of never deviating from the original taste which the pioneers thought of, the traditional pot-still - "alambac charentais" - unique to the cognac makers is still in use.
The Cognac birth-story begins in the vineyards of the Cognac region whose chalky soil and ideal climate are perfect for the cultivation of the "Folle Blanche" "Colombar" and "St. Emillion" white grape vines. These grapes would make very poor wine, low in alcohol and high in acidity. However, these two characteristics of the wine are ideal for distilling into Cognac.
The grape vineyards are divided into six distinct zones, defined by their varied climatic conditions and chalkiness of soil. The Zones start from "Champagnes" (hills) at the centre to the "Bois" (woodlands) at the perimeter. In terms of quality, "Grande-Champagne" zone comes topmost. Its soil is the chalkiest and its climate the most temperate, making the eventual produce the most mellow and delicate. Moving out wards we come to "Petite Champagne" whose wine is fractionally less subtle due to a slightly harder soil. (The word Champagne should not be confused with the Champagne sparkling wines from the Champagne region in France). Next comes the "Borderies", the "Fins Bois", "Bous Bois", and lastly the "Bois Ordinaires". Each of these last four has its own characteristics which plays its own part in the blending of may excellent cognacs.
The grapes are picked in the late autumn and go through four major transformations on their way becoming cognacs vinification, distillation, maturation and blending.
Vinification is gently pressing the grapes to avoid getting pectins and tannins in the wine which will coarsen the distilled spirit. The wine is fermented quickly and is now sent for distillation.
Cognac is double distilled in the pot still consisting of a brick furnace and a pure copper made boiler. The wine is turned to vapors by heat, condensed by cold, and is recollected as a liquid. Usually three batches of first distillations are needed to make up one final batch, which is divided into three parts: head, heart and tail; only the heart is selected.
Next comes maturation. The distilled wine is stored in casks made of special oak wood from the forests of Limousin for only this wood has the necessary size of grain and balance of tanin for perfect maturation. Here the cognac, now a child growing begins to develop its adolescent body color and aroma and loses some of its harshness.
By this time, the cognac has attained its bustling youth. Now comes the blending. Different crops of different ages and coloring or flavorings are added until the right mellow balance has been found. Sometimes a cognac may contain thirty different blends. Here the cellar Master's skill plays a very crucial role in creating specific cognac for the market.
Cognac-industry employees three distinct groups of peoples the vine growers and wine makers, the distillers and the blenders and the bottlers. Another group involved is the coopers who specialize in the cask-craft. Thousands of casks every year are needed for storing the wine and are expected to last upto forty or fifty years, making coopering a highly demanding and essential craft to the cognac industry.
The cognac-quality is strictly governed by The bureau national interprofessional du cognac that fixes the minimum age for cognac before it can be labelled. From April 1 of the year after the harvest, a cognac distilled in the winter months between October and the end of March is zero rated. The following April 1, it is rated one and so on upto the sixth year when it is rated five. After that everything is left to the honesty of the producers and the Bureau shrinks it's jurisdiction.
Different Cognac types vary according to the age of the various brandies that make them up. "Three Star" is three years old and is the standard Cognac sold in Britain and alone accounts for about 90 percent of the market. A "V.Q." and a "V.S.O.P." (very special Old Pale) contain brandies whose named "Extra" "X.O." "Napolean", "Grande Reserve" contain some very old brandies that can date back as 50 years or even more.
It is interesting that the letters on each Cognac label signifying its age stand for English and not for French words because of the traditional importance of the English Market.
The nearest rival to cognac is the historically old ARMAGNAC which traces itself back 200 years before Cognac, yet has always lived in the shadow of the great regent spirit. Cognac still outsells Armagnac by three bottles to one in France, owing to its scintillating flavor which is a direct derivation of the great geographical advantage which cognac enjoys over armagnac.
Thus at last, it remains to be seen whether cognac sustains its traditional excellence through and through.
- Rajiv Seth
Rajiv Seth became the first Indian in the year 1987 to receive a gold medal from wine and spirit education trust, London. Presently he is making continues efforts in educating the lab assistants of a number of wineries on procedures of micro vinification through his manuals.
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