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A wine for all occasions

Order a Sav Blanc —it can last you through a meal. Stick to one of the New World Sav Blancs. Their grassiness and crispy acidity are balanced by just the right amount of fruitiness. This makes them ideal accompaniments to a multicourse meal.

Sourish Bhattacharyya | Print Edition: February 10, 2008

Sourish Bhattacharyya
Sourish Bhattacharyya
My favourite Sauvignon Blanc story is about a breakfast meeting I had over one from New Zealand—the country is rated today as the producer of some of stellar examples of this grassy white wine—with masala scrambled eggs and aloo paranthas.

It has been my ultimate hedonistic experience. The other time I broke hallowed wine rules, I did it with Pierre Lurton, the man who presides over the world’s most expensive dessert wine, Cháteau d’Yquem. Together, we had tandoori roti and butter chicken with a substantial helping from a bottle of d’Yquem 1980 that cost a fortune. Maybe the match worked like magic because the dessert wines of Sauternes, which is what a d’Yquem is, have Sauvignon Blanc, apart from Semillon, in them. The Sav Blanc’s acid lends d’Yquem the crispiness that prevents it from becoming cloyingly sweet.

It’s with great deliberation that I have chosen this week’s subject, because I believe Sauvignon Blanc (its roots are in the French words sauvage, wild, and blanc, white) is the best wine grape variety to grow in this country. Sula’s Rajeev Samant was the first to take this leap of faith. Now, even his most conservative old rival, Kapil Grover, has a Sav Blanc on his portfolio.

Among wine connoisseurs, it’s fashionable to describe a Sav Blanc as cat pee because of its muskiness. I haven’t tasted cat pee, so I am not an authority on the subject, but let me assure you that a Sav Blanc is best for our weather— you can have it chilled even on a balmy January afternoon in Delhi. And it is one white wine you can order as easily with dal makhni and kadhai chicken as with teppanyaki stir-fries and sosu yakisoba, the Japanese speciality spiked with Worcestershire sauce. It is one of the few wines that one can pair with sushi, one of the most wine-unfriendly dishes ever made (barring maybe idli-sambhar).

Often, I have had to confront people who follow wine columns and get pissed off when writers suggest different wine matches for different dishes. “How on earth can we order a different wine for each dish we have at a restaurant? The way our wine prices work, it’ll take just one meal to make us broke,” they say.

My solution is to order a Sav Blanc—it can last you through a meal. Stick to one of the New World Sav Blancs. Their grassiness and crispy acidity are balanced by just the right amount of fruitiness, making them ideal accompaniments to a multi-course meal. The smoky, gun flint flavour of Sancerre somehow doesn’t make it an ideal one-wine-fits-all accompaniment.

Normally, a red doesn’t go with many dishes, so, it may be a problem if your budget allows you just one bottle of wine to accompany your meal. A Chardonnay has been the preferred white wine for all occasions, but there’s a sense of ennui about it that prevents many people from ordering a bottle. Although the movement called Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) isn’t as strong as before because of luscious new styles unburdened by oak, but it’s still not the ultimate food wine.

That honour, I believe, belongs to Sauvignon Blanc.

—Sourish Bhattacharyya is Executive Editor, Mail Today

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