A World of Exotic Tastes: Oh, the Joys of Drinking Fine Wine!

Features Issue 31 Aug, 2010
Text by Shashi / Photo: Raj Bhai Suwal, ECS Media

Recently I had the fortune of meet ing a gentleman by the name of Robert. E. Desjardins, with whom I shared a similar passion for that little drink every once in a while and a delightful afternoon of sampling an array of wines - a savory spectrum of exquisite tastes and colors. Mr. Desjardins is the Director and part owner of Kilroy’s and his considerable knowledge and experience when it comes to wines quickly earned him my admiration and complete attention.

During the course of lunch, he revealed to me the reason for his inviting me over; which turns out was all a part of his personal mission to educate the people of Nepal and the younger generation in particular, in the joys of drinking and appreciating wine. Last year he organized a wine drinking festival at the Kilroys’s restaurant where a selection of quality wines was made available to its patrons at a very affordable price. He

advocates that good wine is not necessarily expensive. It is a beverage that should be enjoyed by all. By the end of our meeting, he had me agreeing with him. Needless to say, the festival was a success. He plans another one along similar lines this year too.

As most people are wont to do, while selecting wines, they equate quality with price – ‘the more expensive the wine, the better it is’. On the contrary, table wine or ‘everyday wine’ is equally good on many occasions and can prove to be good value for money. French wine, noted the world over, comes cheaper than say Australian or American wine as they are government subsidized. Moreover, they have strict Appelation contrôlée laws, which guarantee a wine’s origins, identity and quality. These laws lay down that the grapes from only a certain portion of a given vineyard in a particular year can be set apart to make wine that is bottled under the name of that particular house or brand. The wine made from the remaining grapes is bottled as table wine. This type of wine is thus significantly cheaper while being of a consistent quality.    

In Kathmandu, wine is available at most departmental stores and restaurants. While choosing one, what suits your pocket is important, but don’t let the price be your guide. It would be helpful if you decide beforehand the type of wine you want which would narrow down the choices. You can then either ask the storekeeper or someone who can recommend you a good bottle. If not, take the plunge; explore the wine world in all its diversity and find out what you like best. It is all a matter of personal taste and what appeals to you.

Before I go democratizing wine – drinking, there are connoisseurs who with their years of experience and training, have developed a superior sense of taste and can discern the more subtle and delicate tastes that many of us miss. Yet it is not an occupation exclusive to the elite alone; the only arbiter of good taste in wine is you and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Try different kinds of wines instead of just sticking to the well-known brands- there is a world of exotic tastes and variety out there just waiting to be discovered. With experience, you begin to recognize more flavors and voilà,  a whole bouquet of tongue tantalizing aromas and palatable sensations has been unleashed! It is no wonder then that the drink has such ardent lovers all over the world.

Wine being a natural fermentation of grapes, is a completely natural drink. It is reputedly good for one’s health, in moderation of course, and goes well with a variety of foods. The trick is to know what type of food goes well with what wine. The general rule is to go with the color. White wine goes well with white meat and red with red meat. Then again these rules can be bent and broken to one’s liking. The ‘marriage’ of food and wine as my host eloquently puts it, should be dictated by what you enjoy most with the foods you like best regardless of color. As the saying goes, you are only limited by your imagination.

An interesting thing about drinking wine with your food is that the right complements can result in exquisite and extraordinarily delectable tastes. For example I am not particularly fond of cheese. But when I tried some blue cheese (which I find absolutely revolting) with a glass of white wine suggested by Mr. Desjardins, I was pleasantly surprised. There are certain combinations, which go very well together as you will discover with experimentation. Usually, lighter wines go better with lighter flavored cheese and the same is true with robust wines, but mix and match and see what happens.

You can drink wine out of any glass, mug or tumbler so long as it holds it well. But to see, taste and smell it better, wine glasses are preferred. A wine glass should be clear and not too thick so that you can see and taste the wine without obstruction, the stem long enough so as to prevent handling the bowl which can raise the temperature of the wine and the body narrower towards the rim to facilitate channeling of the aroma into the receptors in the nasal cavity.

When is the right time to drink wine? If I could have my way, I’d drink wine at breakfast, lunch and dinner and in between too.  Am I going overboard? Try it and see for yourself.

Lunch with my knowledgeable host lasted about four hours and several glasses later, I left feeling a little heady but nonetheless considerably enlightened on a subject I hold close to my heart… and with peculiar sense of well being. The next time I need a drink, perhaps on a hot summer afternoon, believe me I love my chilled beer but I’d seriously consider a cold glass of clear white wine.

It is summer madness time and once again Kilroy’s of Kathmandu is organizing a summer wine festival, from June to the end of August, to enhance the knowledge of Nepalese, resident ex-pats and tourists about the newest offerings of inexpensive wines available in Nepal. This year there are seven white wines, six “Vins de Pays” from France, some made from 100% Sauvignon Grapes, 100% Chardonnay grapes and some blended grape varieties and just out of interest a white raspberry wine from the Makalu area of Nepal. There is a Rosé from the French “Pays Hérault” that is a master blending of four grape varieties and is a great summer sipping wine. As for the red wines there are eight varieties, seven “Vins de Pays”, some with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and 100% Merlot grapes as well as some masterfully blended wines and one Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina. Enjoy “Monsoon Madness”.