A Poem about Wine Tasting

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I am a man who outside infrequently dines,
now off to a gentlemanly tasting of wines,
fine tailored suit, polished leather boot,
very well dressed, uncouth argument moot,
I reach there and everyone is simple
cargo shorts, noodle straps, freckles and pimple
laughter silly, cheeks red and mood light,
grass green, lovely sheen and weather bright,
“right this way sir!” I was ushered by the usher,
crisp suit, sophistication makes people a gusher,
wine and wine and this and that,
so many wines! Hit me with a bat!
merlot and pinot and Chardonnay and Blancs,
aliens in a bottles surrounded on both flanks,
look observedly how they drink,
learn quickly don’t appear a fink,
swiggity swirly sniff and sippity
just like us Indians sippity their tea,
cut the yakkity yak and drink thy wine
look like the lords and the gentlemen divine,
I take a glass and make it swirly
it shines red, shiny and pearly,
drink it down, but it’s in my teeth,
in my cheeks and in the roof and tongue beneath,
oaky and fruity and earthy and dry,
I cannot taste any of that, oh my god why?
I won’t give up and I will try and try and try,
until the flavors everyone sees I come by
oaky and fruity and oaky it is,
I did it and my mind is in a whizz
Oh lovely now I can talk wine
“what do you feel sir about that wine in hands thine?”
Oaky and fruity and wet and dry
loud conversations spirits high and spry
exchanging numbers and many smiles
impressed they are “are you from the British isles?”
Attention and friendship and wine and laughter
cheese and steak and Merlot after.

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Our Website is Ready! Hold On to Your Horses!

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After years of preparation, hard work, and fine tuning, we are another step ahead. Te website is set to go live on the 6th of this month! And we are very excited! The wine is ready too. But that is hardly relevant or sufficient if you want to sell it. There’s tons of work remaining AFTER you have the wine you are happy with. There’s kilometers of red tape to go through, distributors to woo, advertising, marketing, product design – the whole shebang. That’s when you realize that making and perfecting the wine you wanted to sell, however hard the work was, was just the first step. We celebrate the small steps – this time it’s the website. It’s one step ahead. Bottle labels are being prepared and efforts are on to make the product beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. Then there’s the real effort to woo customers. A good wine will sell itself – eventually, but that takes time. Then there’s the issue of making people aware of the benefits of drinking wine. When the whole thing is done and the bottles are lined up on a store’s cabinet, we hope people buy it because it looks good and love it because it tastes good. We carry the same philosophy with the website – we made it to reflect the happiness that lies inside the wine. And for people who are not in a store can glance and read about the wine. Then they can taste it and then fall in love.

Change of Seasons and a Respite

Pitter patter. And the drops fall, first ever so lightly, like a kiss from the lightest of lips. Then building up to a frenzy of a passionate outburst. People welcome this outburst. They will not stop on their vehicles. They will get drenched. They will breathe in the wet air and smile and laugh. They will seek shelter against the downpour but will not complain. There is a look of gratitude on their faces.

The rain played hide and seek for the past month like a very shy squirrel that will eat food off your hands but will not let you pet it. One day the rain will fall and then the sun will come up with its entire splendor. The ground that was wet will now vapor and fill everything with humidity. Clothes stick to the bodies in sweat. The air is thick and people pray for some more rain. Such is the allure of this season.

Blog Posts (Monsoon)

The summer is enjoyed well. Sun and holidays. Lovely days at the swimming pools or hill stations to cool off. Air conditioners and fans and coolers at full blast. Sunglasses and hats and floral umbrellas.

Then like a house guest who has outlived his welcome the sun isn’t missed anymore. Too much time has been spent in its golden glory. Give us the ambrosia of rain water. Give us a respite from this glare.

The rain god has heard and obliges. He fights with the sun god and wrestles. It is a tense battle and people gaze up at the sky and see the dark clouds forming and enveloping the sun and covering them in the cool shade. They cheer of the rain god. He loves it and fights even harder.

And like that one day, he covers the whole skyline with his darkest clouds. Heavy with the water of countless seas and oceans, the clouds are laden like breasts of the mother of a newborn child.

We are the children. It is like the mother’s milk. And she gives it to us. The clouds rip apart and waters fall. Children play in the puddles. Parents shout at them. Yet they play. Playfulness is seen around.

Raincoats are taken out of their deep summer slumber. Fans are no longer used. Air conditioners too. And the air is moist and cool and the sweat of summer is replaced with the water of monsoon. Raincoats and black umbrellas and waterproof mascaras.

The rain god has won and it knows people are happy.

Until they get tired of all the water, and then ask for some sun.

Then the gods will wrestle again.

A Few Questions About Wine – The Education Of Jiggy (Part 4)

“This is where the magic is done.” Charlie said as he led Jiggy through the vast expanse of the work floor of his winery.

Jiggy looked around wide-eyed. He didn’t expect it to be this big. He pointed this out to Charlie.

“We are not making country liquor. And we are making a reasonably large quantity.”

“Everything is so clean.” Jiggy muttered. Charlie heard it and smiled. You can always surprise us Indians with cleanliness.

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“It has to be. Even though the process by which wine is made is fermentation, everything that comes even in its proximity is sterile.”

“Why?” Jiggy asked.

“I will explain. When the juice is extracted from the fruit, that itself is sterilized first. This is to ensure no random yeast will ferment it. After that is done we add the yeast WE want, to the pulp. This is because the yeast we add, actually ferments it to the taste we like in the wine. In short the yeast is the catalyst.”

“What happens if you don’t sterilize the pulp or the juice?”

“Unwanted flavors. Random particles of yeast are flowing through the air as we speak. They help you make dosas and idlis and dhoklas. True. But all that tastes the same, regardless of which yeast you fermented it with. Wine is another matter altogether. You give a wine made with natural fermentation to an enthusiast, he will surely catch the doing, by just smelling the thing!”

“Just smelling?!”

“Yes. Also, the process is incredible delicate. The same juice to which we added the same yeast, which is kept to age for the same time, may not taste the same the next time. Even if the procedure is ditto. Even if it is machine made. It’s a very subtle art.”

Jiggy seemed to be in deep thought. Now they were walking past huge glass jars in which the pinkish red wine was stored. The bottom of these jars had solid sand-like layer. Jiggy pointed to it.

“What’s that?”

“That’s the wine I am making for myself. My little side-project?”

“Why is it all muddy in the bottom?”, Jiggy asked, peering at the glass jars.

“Well, when the yeast is done with the fermentation, the wine is not exactly clear. Some granules still remain, which is not good from an aesthetic view. So, we add clay. The sediments stick to the fine particles of clay and settle at the bottom.”

“Ah. You do this to fruit wine too?”

“No. Not with every wine. This is a process for this wine. Other wines have their unique processes.”

“Cool.”

Jiggy looked convinced, but also looked as if he was dying to ask something. Charlie, the astute, saw this.

“What is it?”

“Can I see the whole process, from start to end?”

“I am sorry Jiggy, but no. Trade secrets. Once we are a big name I will personally show you. Until then please. I have shown you quite a lot. No one has had a VIP tour like you have.”

“Cool. I didn’t think.”

“Hmm?”

“I never thought it was so much work.”

“It is, Jiggy. And so much more.”

Jiggy was so absorbed in thought, Charlie had to put his hand on Jiggy’s shoulders to lead him to their car and drive to their hotel. Jiggy looked out from the window the whole ride.

Charlie smiled and left Jiggy with his thoughts.

The Right Way – The Education Of Jiggy (Part 3)

Jiggy was enthralled. He always thought of alcohol as something that got you drunk. That was its motive and his motive too. The finer nuances of alcoholic beverages had always escaped him. How could he have missed all this?

Charlie again instructed him to take just a tiny slurp of his wine. No more.

Then Jiggy was instructed to keep that tiny amount of wine inside his mouth and swirl it for some time.

It tasted so different now! He could taste the spirit; he could taste the flavor of grapes and even some kind of wood.

drinking-wine

Charlie understood this and poured another sipful of wine into Jiggy’s glass.

“This time, do it even slower. After 10 or more sips you will know how much you have to take in to enjoy all the flavors in it.”

Jiggy only nodded and took another sip. He was transported into another world altogether.

The advice Charlie was giving was not so different from the advice his mom gave him when he was a child. His mom always scolded him because he crammed up too much food in his mouth, too quickly. She always instructed Jiggy to eat food in small morsels. She said that’s how food tastes great.

She also said that food should be chewed properly, that the teeth and saliva will breakdown the food and releases all the flavors, often missed due to hurried eating.

He always ignored that advice until he started earning well and went to gourmet restaurants. A single course in the five-course meal was so less! He was afraid he might end up hungry after eating that, five times over. The friend who had accompanied him had helped, and all his mom’s teachings came back flooding.

He enjoyed the food immensely. He realized there was much to this food that just looks or expense. It was a work of art.

Ditto with alcohol. He always drank to get drunk. He mixed carbonated drinks in his whiskey and vodka and rum. He drank beer too quickly, too much. He never understood the significance of aging a whiskey. Why did it matter? Every drink got him high in the end. That was the motive wasn’t it?

Now he realized it wasn’t so. There was more to drinking than just getting high and tipsy.

Now that he was swirling the lovely wine inside his mouth he could taste more than just strawberries. He could taste so many flavors. He could smell the spirit and more.

After he gulped down the last sip, Charlie put down the bottle on the table. They were sitting in the garden within the brewery premises. The sun was almost down and it left hues of bright orange and red scattered through the horizon.

“You drink some of this and then some of that.” Charlie said, gesturing to the wine first and then the sunset.

Jiggy nodded. He understood.

“I want to know how it is made. And the effort that goes into it.” Jiggy said.

“Of course.”, replied Charlie.

Ingrid Bergman’s Lips – The Education Of Jiggy (Part 2)

Jiggy got down from the car into the bright and green and fresh surroundings of Wai MIDC. It didn’t look like an industrial zone at all. There was too much green, and because industrialization automatically meant (in most minds) deforestation, the sight looked very strange to Jiggy. He was gestured to enter the factory where they manufactured the “first and finest” strawberry wine he had heard so much about.

He was escorted by the driver into the factory, where Charlie waited patiently for him. They shook hands firmly and measured each other up.

“Welcome to Wildberry Jiggy. I am Charlie.” Charlie said.

“Thank you Charlie, I am Jiggy.” said Jiggy, reintroducing himself. For no reason comprehensible.

Both walked into the factory where Charlie started explaining how wine was made, in detail. He took him to the place where they stored the fresh fruit. They walked into the temperature controlled room where fresh strawberries peeked from the top of the boxes they were held in. Jiggy salivated just at the sight of them. Maybe chai-biscuit isn’t the best tasting thing in the world. Maybe it holds far better surprises.

“Can I taste?” Jiggy asked.

“Of course! As much as you want!”

Jiggy contemplated taking a few of them and shoving them in his pockets, after he was done gorging on them, that is.

Picking up the signal as if he was the NSA, Charlie said,” Just as a gesture we will let you take a small box of them. Until them you are free to eat. “

Jiggy picked a full fruit from one of the cartons. It has the red shine so attractive; it seemed like the succulent red of a beautiful woman’s lips. Full lips.Strawberry-fruit-34914838-1600-1064

Jiggy bit into it and had to slurp to keep the juice in. ‘Strawberry or French kiss?’ thought Jiggy. The tang, the sweetness, felt so good. He realized how cheap the synthetic versions of the flavor, so omnipresent in the market nowadays, tasted like. This tasted like heaven. Or Ingrid Bergman’s lips.

The problem Jiggy realized is that all thought of gorging on it had disappeared from his mind. Fruit tasting like this should be treated with respect. Charlie saw the look of respect reflect from Jiggy’s face.

“You liked this?”

Jiggy nodded, like an innocent girl on her wedding night.

“Wait till you drink the wine. THAT’S the real deal.”

Chai-biscuit and Wine-shine – The Education of Jiggy (Part 1)

Yesterday, we had an interesting visitor. A thin man-boy, tall, fair and a shock of thick moustache, the kind that traps the froth from the top of a frappuccino. The kind of moustache boy-faced adults grow to look of legal adult age. Their defence against suspecting ushers in movie halls checking if the movie-goer is an adult or not. This man had a laid back attitude that comes with either heavy self-assurance, or a heavy bank balance.

The fellow was wearing black and white checkered pants under a tight floral shirt that accentuated his paunch, and those pointed leather shoes which could easily be used as murder weapons to stab a person to death. He also wore a thick bracelet of gold and a chain around his neck too. Our Unassuming Secretary went to greet him.

Unassuming Secretary : “Hello Mr. Jignesh Shah, welcome to Wildberry, my name is Sheetal.”

Self-assured Man: “I prefer to be called Jiggy. Nice to meet you too.”

Unassuming Secretary: “Sure Jiggy, our Marketing officer will be with you shortly. Can you wait in his cabin?”

The Unassuming Secretary escorted Mr. Shah to Marketing Officer’s cabin and gestured him to sit on the chair facing the Marketing Officer’s bigger chair.

Jiggy Shah: “Can I get some chai? And can you increase the AC?”

Unassuming Secretary: “Of course.” Jiggy Shah: “And some biskoot also…..gudday!”

Not-So-Unassuming-Now Secretary: “Sure sir.” Chai-Biskoot Mr. Shah did not look even close to sweating, but our sweet Secretary complied and called for a tea and turned up the AC in the cabin. Then she let the Marketing Officer know that the appointment was sitting in the cabin, where he was clearly checking out the interior design, the décor, touching things. Nodding in approval at some places, shaking his head in disapproval at some.

The Marketing Officer was now interested in meeting with the person even more now. Our Marketing Officer himself got the tea and Good Day biscuits for Mr. Shah. Mr. Shah’s handshake was enthusiastic, partly because of the tea and his favorite biscuits it seemed. He had the same look of glee in his eyes when a pubescent youngster lays his eyes on his first playboy centerfold.

Marketing Officer: “How may we be of service to you Mr. Shah?”

Jiggy Shah: “Please call me Jiggy.” Mr. Shah was relishing the tea-softened biscuits.

Jiggy Shah: “I want to know about the wine-shine you are making.”

Marketing Officer: “We are launching the finest and purest strawberry wine in India. But there are many winemakers in India, what interested you in us?”

Jiggy Shah: “Once I had straaberry kreem. I liked it. We go to Mahabalesswar a lot. I like hoarse riding too.”

Marketing Officer: “What about this wine would you like to know?”

Strawberry-cream Jiggy looked flummoxed by the question, not knowing what to ask, quite figuratively caught with his pants down, with a chai-biscuit in his hands. Marketing Officer understood and nodded. “Let’s start with the beginning.” And the education began…

The Holi-ness of Ours!

A sunny day at Mathura. This mischievous young lad, a little dark skinned, up for some high definition mischief, splashed blue gulal all over Radha, the most beautiful woman in Mathura. She was older to him, someone else’s wife. But it didn’t deter him.

Radha was taken aback. It was beyond a naughty gesture; it was against the social norm, an act of daredevil. A clamp that was usually shut tight deep inside our minds and kept the rush of earthy impulses in hold came undone. The otherwise shy Radha, picked up her flowing ghagara and ran away quickly only to come back with a long pichakari.

‘Balam pichakari/ Joh tune mujhe maari/ Toh seedhi sadhi chori/ Sharabi ho gayi.’

couple-playing-holi

She poured pink and pink and pink over Krishna. That’s her colour.

In the olden days people used to play with dry colours, but over the years things have become more chemical and,…kind of industrial. Colours are now brighter and sticky. One hours of Holi, followed by three hours in the bath, followed by one week of living life with a faint green face.

I hear Shruti say: Red signifies passion and fire. Blue stands for peace and heavenly living. Green symbolizes energy and nature. Yellow brings in warmness and joyfulness.

These are the colours generally used in the Holi, a festival symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. Don’t ask me how. That’s a long story involving one egoistic demon named Hirnyakashypu.
Also, previously restaurants didn’t use to allow the patrons who didn’t have a bath on the day of Holi. Time has changed. Now the super-confident patrons, hidden behind the two-inch layer of twenty colliding colours, take selfies to upload on FaceBook. And you, the cricket buff, haven’t you enjoyed how the team blue trounced the team maroon in the world cup yesterday?

Well, for us,the day went by tasting the new batch of Come On Charlie!, our new strawberry wine. Nowadays when we hold it in a wineglass against the light, it looks clearer and clearer with a rich golden hue promising a refined land of taste. We are very hopeful. I think, so should be you.

P’s SPA-cial Valentine

Couple

There are men who do not bother to celebrate the Valentine’s Day. Kind of stoics.‘Just like another day’, thy say. ‘What does it matter, what’s the difference does it make if it’s 14th or 15th’, they say. Boring, imbecile men!

There are a traditional few who make it a point to wish and take their lady love out for a dinner or for a long drive. ‘Let’s go to Prem’s, honey and drink Black Dog together’, they almost beg on their knees. Whoa! Mister! Hear yourself saying that. Black Dog is your favourite, not mine. You go and knock yourself out. What do I care?

Or they say, ‘Oh, honey, let’s drive all the way to Thosegad.There is this huge spring, let’s have an open air picnic there.’ The glee and enthusiasm on their faces may scare you. An open air picnic unlike an open air movie, is actually a work. Your responsibility is NOT to munch stale popcorn’s anymore but to make them. My name is P. I don’t fall for these traps.

‘So P,’ Vimal, Shruti’s husband, asked, ‘what a man could do to treat his lady love nicely on a Valentine’s Day?’

I said, ’Plenty.’

You wish to do something special for your girl? Then surprise her. And don’t make her work too hard. Sing, go dancing, cook, fly to Timbuktu, do dishes, buy expensive gifts… the list is endless.

Last time I went to Post 91 with friends. Man, what a place! Good food, red wine, Jazz, cherry on cake. Perfect!

This time, of course, I asked ‘M’ to make it really Spa-cial. You know, S-P-A-cial. Like SPA and Facial. Oh, it kind of puns! I didn’t notice it before. 😉

Now, don’t make those wired faces after hearing the word, Spa. ‘M’ did. It took me thirty seconds of tactical berating to make him smile again. Thank God, he was happy as a child. But people veer.

Men don’t know but they should sometimes escape from their prized macho world: the office, the cricket field and the realm of top notch performance and dog eats dog kind of world.And be a little self-indulgent. No! Buying electronic junks don’t ever count. That’s a hobby at best.

My friend Shruti is a big spender and tries to make others spend too, as if the revival of the economy depends solely on her. She suggested big, costly names. My ‘M’ is a little on the thrifty side and I don’t mind that. We kind of balance each other that way. So, he and I went to this Aroghya Spa, on a, ahem, ahem, one on one offer. All thanks to his breathtaking command on Google search.

Where we did all these detailed stuffs, like really detailed,but…wait, I can actuallyread you out from the brochure:

Relax – Vishudha
120 minutes:

“Spice scrub wrap and aromatherapy massage: This treatment begins with a deeply nourishing herbal scrub and heat-stimulating wrap with exotic spices, followed by an hour-long indulgent full-body massage. This energizing treatment relieves muscular tension and improves blood circulation.”

Spa

So, actually, we just lied down there and surrendered ourselves to their mercy and they did all kind of stuffs. Heavenly.

At night, ‘M’ blindfolded and took me to the window where he had arranged Italian dishes that he claimed he cooked himself, so proud of him!

cooking

With some soft music and dim lights, he opened my fold and fed me with a spoon from the dishes. Trust me when I say, I could have fainted. But I decided to wait out for the rest of the night.

Hello World!

Hello World! Is not what one is supposed to say when one is born in the virtual world, on www?  Then again, in the physical world, a newly born child doesn’t speak. It cries. The tender sound which could be a little harsh sometimes is the sign of its vitality. A healthy sign, people say. We are not newborns. We; the Founders, the Winemakers, the Marketers, the Distributors, the Plant Workers; even yours truly, the Blog writer, we are way past of our legal drinking age. But our conception is a newborn. India, the country of Beer Drinkers, Rum Drinkers, Whisky Drinkers, Feni Drinkers, Dawa Drinkers, Tadi Drinkers, Mahua Drinkers, and ubiquitous Country Liquor Drinkers, will produce the Purest and Finest Fruit Wine in the World. That’s the DREAM!

So, the next time you’re in a French Vineyard, or in an Italian one, looking at the acres of plantation, the sophisticated attached plant, the devotion of the wine making families and then wondering will this high art ever reach the Indian shore… well, you have set yourself up for a pleasant surprise.

And the surprises will be unfolded on the blog. And our journey too. And all the joy and the agony associated with it. We will laugh aloud with all of you sharing the good things of life and will cry openly in your midst in creative desperation. Is not cry a sign of vitality?

Hello World!