An Indian hand behind wine at Obama dinner

first_imgThe wine laid out by Daniel Boulud for Obama fundraiser had come from an Indian sommelier.When US President Barack Obama addressed an LGBT fundraiser this past Thursday at the upper-crust New York restaurant, Daniel, one of the wines on the menu was Sandhi.It’s a wine no one had heard about, at least not in Big Apple, but when New York’s beloved chef, Daniel Boulud, lays it out for a showpiece event, it doesn’t need to spend big bucks on getting noticed. And the blogger who broke the news, Michael Steinberger of WineDiarist.com, said it all when he commented, “debuts don’t get much more auspicious than that.” Just in case you haven’t noticed, Sandhi is a Hindi word and it is so because its creator Raj Parry is from Kolkata.Parry’s career graph mirrors that of the new generation of successful Indian immigrants who have broken out of the techie-doctor stereotype.Rajat Parry from Kolkata is now the toast of New York.This ardent lover of Burgundy wines, who credits an uncle in England for stoking his passion for wine, studied hotel management at Manipal, went to the Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA!), apprenticed under one of America’s celebrated master sommeliers, Larry Stone (formerly of San Franciso’s famous Rubicon restaurant), became the wine director of the much-honoured Michael Mina group of 18 restaurants (it continues to be his first calling card), and opened a winery last year in Santa Barbara, California, with Charles Banks, a private funds manager and former owner of Screaming Eagle, home to the “cult cabernet” known for its 100-point scores and yearslong waiting list. Sporting a tonsured pate balanced by the one- dayer on his cheeks, Raj defines the label ‘Sandhi’ as ‘collaboration’, which is the essence of wine-making. “Sandhi,” says the man on his winery’s website, “represents a union essential to the production of wine: the collaboration between man, earth, and vine.The willing participation of all three elements is necessary to make great wine, and the winegrower must make this collaboration rich and nourishing for all involved. The young wine producer is most passionate about Pinot Noir, the unpredictable red wine grape made popular by the deliriously wacky romcom Sideways, so much so that he doesn’t allow any of it that has over 14 per cent alcohol to be served at RN74, the San Francisco restaurant whose wine list he presides over. It landed him in a controversy with Pinot Noir producers, but wine critics loved him. Unsurprisingly, Raj has been getting noticed by influential writers such as Jancis Robinson of Financial Times and Eric Asimov of the New York Times, which is not easy when you’re in a place teeming with young and innovative wine producers.Among the many things Raj has done, he has also written a book recounting his journey as a sommelier. In that, one of his memorable lines is, “Taste what’s in the glass, not what’s in your mind.” Every wine snob must remember these words.As Raj explained to his home country newspaper, Santa Barbara Independent, “It’s important to disregard labels and taste with your heart rather than your head.” Boulud must have done exactly that when he decided to put Sandhi on the Obama menu.Why wine lovers may lose BordeauxBordeaux is set to be overpriced and increase the distance between its wines and its drinkers.Anyone who’s been to France will know about the Gallic obsession with their August holiday – the country just slides into a state of suspended animation and the motorway leading out of Paris is forever clogged during that balmy month.So it’s very serious business when an iconic French industry – champagne – cancels the August holidays of everyone working in it because a long spell of warm weather has advanced the harvest time in the vineyards. This year, according to Decanter magazine, will see the earliest harvest in the recorded history of champagne (between August 16 and 22, instead of mid-September), beating the record set in 2003, when a heat wave swept through Europe.I have often pointed to the dramatic effects of global warming on European wine production. Grapes that are used to growing in a certain temperature – and chardonnay, the principal variety that goes into champagne, is genetically programmed for a cold climate – are being subjected to temperature variables they have never experienced before.In the case of champagne, the vines started flowering earlier than usual in the third week of May, and if you add 92 days – the average time over the past decade, reports Decanter , between flowering and the start of the harvest in the Champagne district – picking could start on 22 August.Some champagne houses, notably G. H. Mumm, are even looking at August 16 as the harvest date. Their logic: If August is warmer than usual, which it promises to be, the gap between flowering and picking may come down from 92 to 80 days.It’s the grapes on the vine that determine the quality of the wine we pick up from a store. Too much of the sun is not good news in Champagne.It’ll only reduce the acid and raise the sugar levels of the grapes, thereby disturbing the delicate balance that makes champagne dry and crispy on the palate – just the way the world loves it.Kiwi twist to Nashik bubblyBlemheim, New Zealand, and Nashik are miles apart – geographically and culturally. Yet Nashik is the new buzzword in this Kiwi town of 20,000 people, which is at the heart of New Zealand’s world-renowned wine region, Marlborough.What has brought Blenheim and Nashik in this cross-cultural marriage of skills is a sparkling wine project initiated by Moet Hennessy, the custodian of such formidable champagne brands as Krug, Ruinart and Dom Perignon. The team steering this project is the one that produces New Zealand’s most reputed wine label, Cloudy Bay. The high priest of this relationship is Cloudy Bay’s estate director, Ian Morden, a South African who grew up in Port Elizabeth and is married to an Australian – it could only happen in a ‘flat world’. This past March, Morden and his team were in Nashik to put together the first Moet Hennessy’s India sparkler, developed with grapes produced by the local farmers. The combination of grapes is very Indian – Chenin Blanc, 70 per cent (the grape variety, which grows effortlessly in Nashik, does not figure in the template set by Champagne for sparkling wines all over); Pinot Noir, 15 per cent (it’ll be a first for Nashik), and Chardonnay, 15 per cent. Nashik can hope finally to be taken seriously by the wine world.Indian wine in good companyWe’ve been making wine – some good but mostly bad and undrinkable – for quite some time, but India did not find a place among the 44 membernations of the OIV, the intergovernmental platform of the wine- making world.Six months back, reports IndianWineAcademy.com, India sought the membership of this ‘United Nations of Wine’ and it’s getting it real quick. OIV director general Federico Castellucci announced at the organisation’s just concluded 34th World Congress in Porto, Portugal, that India will be invited formally to become the 45th member nation on July 12.India must sit back and celebrate the international recognition of our status as a wine producing nation and our industry must take it as a sign that it has got to perform better to retain the respect of the world.advertisementadvertisementlast_img

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