Posted on Thursday, 26th November 2015
QUILON – INDIAN WINE EVENT
A guest post by ‘O&M’ *
We were thrilled to be invited to Quilon recently to take part in a press event showcasing Indian Wine, with the focus being on two particular vineyards, Grover Zampa and Sula.
Indian Wine is relatively unknown in our supermarket shelves or wine shops. India’s APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) is leading a brand promotion of Indian Wine to raise publicity in Europe and particularly in the United Kingdom.
Sula Vineyards, India’s largest producer, started off in the late 90s in Nashik, India’s largest grape-growing region. Over the years it has expanded to around 1,800 acres of plantations across Nashik and Dindori, the latter considered to be India’s most promising red wine region.
Grover Vineyards started off in the early 90s. Following a merger with Vallée de Vin in 2012, it became Grover Zampa Vineyards. The company has vineyards located in Nandi Hills and Nashik. It is considered to be the second largest wine producer in India and it has expanded from 100 to 400 acres since inception.
When enjoying spicy meals, we are used to ordering cold beer or white wine so, before trying either wine, we only expected the Sauvignon Blanc to pair well with the food. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see both wines hold their ground against the variety of canapés and dishes we tried throughout the evening.
The atmosphere at Quilon was great with fellow bloggers keen to try the showcased wines and with representatives from the vineyards keen to talk to us about their wine and hear our thoughts.
The Grover 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was a bright straw colour. On the nose, typical grassy scents however, on tasting, the wine was far more distinct with prominent fruit flavours of gooseberry and sweet grapefruit. The wine was sweeter than a typical varietal, but still crisp and refreshing – just right to accompany the sweet and spicy flavours that lay ahead.
The Sula 2014 Dindori Reserve Shiraz was a dark purple colour. On the nose, rich fruit and a subtle spice. Upon tasting, we found this to be very smooth, more depth to the berries and spices, nothing dominating but a long, balanced and complex finish.
We tried the wines first before any of the canapés and found both were very pleasant to enjoy by themselves. There was a great variety of bite sized canapés to set us off: aloo bonda (a deep fried spiced potato snack), curry leaf and lentil crusted fish, lotus stem chop, and delicious crab cakes, to name a few. These presented a broad range of flavours against which to test the wines and we were surprised by how little either wine changed, even when pitted against sweet, tangy chutney or spicy crunchy snacks.
Onto the mains. The prawn masala was marinated and cooked with onion, tomato, mustard, curry leaves and coconut masala. The prawns were succulent and meaty- it was almost upsetting that we had to share this dish with the rest of the table!
The roasted lamb was served in cubes with a dry rub surrounding each piece. The lamb was tender with a deep and aromatic spiced flavour.
The Manglorean chicken (Kori Gassi) was cooked in a sauce with finely ground spices. The sauce was a little bit grainy for our liking, and next to the prawns and the lamb dish, we felt the chicken was overshadowed.
For the sides, we had Crispy Okra, Vegetable Biryani, Potato and Cauliflower with crushed cashew nuts, and Malabar Paratha (thin layered bread cooked on a skillet).
Everything was fantastic. We loved the okra with a light batter tossed in onion, tomato and crushed pepper. Delightfully crispy and moreish. Everyone on the table agreed that this was some of the best they had tasted. The Malabar Paratha bread was also a nice variation from the usual rotis we are used to.
We perhaps felt that the Biriyani did not meet the standard of the other dishes but, given the show stoppers on display, perhaps it deliberately played a more subdued part in the composition of the meal.
For dessert we had a variation of a French classic: Chai Latte Crème Brûlée. It was delicious; the chai flavours whisking us back to the little cups served on the early morning train from Delhi to Agra.
The wine continued to complement the food. Being able to enjoy the spiced complexity of the red throughout was particularly impressive. These wines really are made for this type of cuisine. Anyone with any regard for Indian food should really try these next time they visit their local restaurant or get a takeaway. Or even better, come to Quilon and have the full experience. You won’t regret it!
*A guest post by ‘O&M’ – a husband and wife team brought together through their mutual and growing appreciation of food and travel. Their conversations revolve mostly around food and their trips abroad include walking itineraries to as many food venues as they can fit in. In their spare time they are slowly eating their way through London and the World before their metabolism takes notice.