Some time back, I was in the throes of a stimulating discussion on the community wall. We were asked to name the country that makes the best wine—the question would’ve shocked wine snobs, but aren’t we lucky they are going out of business—and I was happy to discover that most regular people like us plumped for the Italians.
Italian wines are like their women—pleasing to the senses and with endless legs. Their long legs (which in wine terminology is synonymous with higher alcohol content), in fact, gave them the undeserved reputation of being good enough only for giving body to French wine in bad years.
Unlike the French, who make cerebral wines, the Italians make wines that are fresh, that go well with food and that can be drunk here and now without being intellectualised.
The other big thing about the Italians is that they offer consistent quality across price bands. So, you’ve the option of ordering a regular white like a Pinot Grigio or an inexpensive red, such as a Valpolicella (from the neighbourhood of Venice) or a Nero d’Avola (again from Sicily, my favourite Italian region).
When he was still new to India, Italian Ambassador Antonio Armellini couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw regular wines he could buy for a couple of euros back home, being priced at five-star hotels out of reach of people with regular incomes. Italians are bad at hyping up their wine prices and so they feel really at home when they come to India.
Hotels couldn’t care less. I remember how the manager of a fancy Indian restaurant at a five-star hotel had once gloated over the fact that his outlet sold the most number of Super Tuscans—really fine but high-priced Italian wines made in the Bordeaux style by mavericks like the Antinori brothers (Piero invented the Tignanello and Ludovico made the Ornellaia).
I know for a fact that a Super Tuscan doesn’t go well with barra kebabs or raan, unless of course you’re trying to impress your Japanese business partner. But chances are he may be better informed than you on wine matters and laughing as you go about burning your credit card with a Tignanello.
If I had that kind of money, I would order an Amarone, a heavenly wine produced in the neighbourhood of Venice—the one I like the most is produced in a piece of paradise owned by a man who traces his lineage back to Dante Alighieri, the medieval poet.
Now, in real life, we can’t have a different wine with each dish we order, so I’d suggest a Pinot Grigio or an Arneis (a delicious white wine from Piedmont). It’ll last you through the meal.
With pizzas, stick to a Chianti Classico, but if you’ve ordered lamb or pork chops, go for a Brunello di Montalcino, a robust red wine from a quaint little town overlooked by a 14th-century Medici fortress. Montalcino, by the way, receives more tourists each year than India. So much for Incredible India. What about Incredible Italy?
(Sourish Bhattacharyya is Executive Editor, Mail Today)